Poverty is Relative – Part 2

Supper at Mae Saraing © tkbeyond

I really don't get the idea of the 1% vs the 99%. The idea that only 1% of the population in America holds all the wealth is ludicrous, let alone patently untrue. The US is an example of a broad middle class society enjoying prosperity even in the midst of an economic crisis. In MOTROW, the disparity between wealth and poverty is far more noticeable than in the US. Think about world travel. Just a few decades ago traveling internationally was only a dream for the average person—something reserved for millionaires. Now, many people travel outside the US as if it's the norm, not an exception. The idea of the 99% is a sham, a deception—pure self-aborbed hypocrisy.

There are literally millions of people in MOTROW who live very simple lives on very low incomes, even non-existent incomes. I don't mean those in desperate situations. One family out of these millions recently moved back to the area we've lived and worked in for the past 20+ years. They are Bible college graduates, but their family backgrounds are very different. The husband's family would be considered poor in American standards, but here they are in the lower level of the middle class. Ryan's wife was a paralegal, but left her job for Bible college, where she met Ryan. They were classmates, but she had already finished secular college, and was proficient in English. Maricel's family had a hard time understanding her choice to leave a good paying job for Bible college.

Ryan and Maricel are staying near us (Dumaguete City) because of uncertainty getting to a hospital when it comes time to deliver their second child. There's a war going on in their place. It's not a big war, like in Afghanistan, but there's bombs and bullets, and a curfew limiting safe movement at night. They live in a predominantly Muslim area—intentionally. They are a family shining the light of Jesus (Isa al-Masih) to those living nearby. They've undergone specialized training for this, and had also lived in the Davao area where she taught the children in a muslim village, and Ryan was welcomed by the local imam. The imam and the people saw their genuine faith.

As we talked about things in general with their current life, they remarked on how expensive things are here. They live on a very small budget. In fact, when they need vegetables, they go out in the garden or (family) farm area and pick it. Bartering is common rather than exchanging money for food. Their life is very simple. It would qualify as poverty-level in most any scale. But that's where they plan to return once their second child is born. I asked, "even if the war is going on?" They said yes, because that's where they believe God has directed.

For the time being, Ryan is helping us with our garden and trees at Rainbow—without pay. He asked if he could help us (and we need it) because he wants to do something useful and productive. As they shared all of this with me, I couldn't help thinking about all the people protesting in several cities—wanting the rich to share with them. Whatever you're opinion about these protests, it is a guaranteed right in the US to protest and challenge the status quo. In some ways it's what sets America apart from many other countries—the guaranteed freedom to do so. But I also wonder if even a portion of those protesting reinvested their energy and time into something useful for others, how valuable it could be.

You've heard the saying, "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." That's what I see with this young family—they're looking for how they can be a part of the solution rather than complaining about what is unfair. I see their life and it humbles me. I can be pretty good at complaining and pointing out injustice. Will what they do change the world—yes—one person at a time. That's more than I can say for the Occupy protests, and the attempt by Congress and our President in resolving our present debt crisis—or those of us watching it all take place.

I have no idea where I rank in regards to wealth, but I know it's not near the top. On the other hand, I'm far wealthier than MOTROW in many ways. Real wealth is knowing people like Ryan and Maricel, and having them as friends. I'd rather share life with people like them than any of the wealth of Wall St. How about you?