05 Mar VIDEO: Poverty 101 – The complexity of poverty
I feel like it’s half circumstance and half choice. You still have the ability to go out and go to school and go to work if that’s what you really want to do to pull yourself out of poverty. But as far as like being born into it, that’s kind of out of our hands.
My opinion, I don’t think it’s usually a choice but it definitely can be.
I think it’s all about your will to work, your determination sometimes.
Some people choose to stay in that life form and some people choose to seek help and seek the steps to getting out of it.
I think we need a lot of more people to lift people up and to walk with them through their situations, to get them out of poverty.
Does anything else, when you think about such a broad subject like poverty, but does anything else really stand out to you guys?
Well, I think one of the things that’s most important for all of us is to be humble. Particularly in the sense of recognizing how little we know. One of my favorite analogies, and I don’t think it was even used in this context was my old boss used to say, it’s like two blind men trying to describe an elephant. They’re each going to be able to describe for you what they’re feeling. Okay? But you combine those two descriptions and it’s going to look nothing like an elephant. And I think each of us, we know a little bit about poverty based on our experiences and our education, but it’s from far too complex of an issue for any of us to be able to say, I got a good grasp on it. I got it.
As a matter of fact, in my teaching, I tell people all the time, if you ever hear somebody, a political pundit or somebody on TV say poverty is caused by this. And they say, and they give you one thing, that’s the cause of the problem of poverty. I say, you can stop listening to them from that point forward because they have no idea what they’re talking about. Poverty is far too complex to boil it down to sound bites, to boil it down to one or two causes. And as a result, when we go into conversation about how to help people in generational poverty, we have to keep in mind how complex it is. And when we do, our responses are going to be complex. They’re going to be subtle. They’re not going to be simple and simple solutions don’t work. And we’re not going to be surprised by anything. But we’re not going to be surprised when something doesn’t work and we’re not going to be surprised when it does work. Oh, we might be a little pleasantly surprised when it does, but I have been reading and studying and living it.
I’ve been reading and studying about poverty, living among the urban poor for 25 years. And I’m only now beginning to feel like I even have the slightest inkling of what it’s like, what it’s all about and what the last 25 years have shown me is how little I know. And so many of them particularly, and it’s one of the challenges sometimes we face with our volunteers, particularly if they’re successful in a worldly way, because if they’re successful in a worldly way, then all I got to do is apply what I know from this business over here to these people that I’m mentoring in Shepherd, and they’re blown away when it doesn’t work. And they’re blown away when they are received with open arms as my little savior but it’s way, way too complex for that.
Yeah. I think while Tim you say is being humbled, I think it’s also as humble being humble and also being patient.
There are no quick fixes and it’s a long journey. And I think you have to learn to celebrate the little accomplishments. If it’s, oh, my mentee was able to finish the week strong at school, didn’t cut one class that week, you have to celebrate that. And if it means that, Hey, you’ve accomplished something, let’s go and have an ice cream cone or something. Don’t give them money, but just make sure there’s an incentive there. It could be just an ice cream cone, but I think you have to make sure that you understand coming into, similar to what you said earlier about empowering volunteers, you have to know the expectation is that it’s going to take time. There are no quick fixes. You have to be patient, long process, and whenever you can see some accomplishment, man, go ahead and celebrate it.
Celebrate them. They need to be affirmed on a regular basis because of all of the ills of poverty and how it affects people psychologically, you don’t know all the struggles and how it has been. It’s traumatic for a number of them, right, people that experienced poverty. So it’s important for them to know that they are important. And so you have to affirm them. You do it by celebrating those accomplishments, even the little ones.
Yeah. I remember a couple of years ago. I mean, well, I should say at one point in time, I really struggled with that issue. Particularly the sort of celebrations that the middle-class wouldn’t celebrate much like kindergarten graduation and sixth grade graduation. And I remember Dr. White, the superintendent of IPS schools, struggling with this a few years ago that the, the high school graduation celebrations were becoming this mad house, huge families standing up and applauding one kid who’s right across. And to many people in middle-class we expect a high school graduation is, well, it isn’t even the bare minimum of what we expect of our children. College degrees is the minimum and so we don’t even see high school graduation sometime. It’s something that really needs to be celebrated. But for people who come out of poverty, it does need to be celebrated because those small victories along the way, and it’s not been for many if it’s not a small victory.
But we have to though, but we also have to be careful that we don’t allow it to be thought of as the greatest thing that will ever happen.
Because yes, this is an important accomplishment for you to have achieved, but you need education beyond high school, whether it’s an apprenticeship in a trade, whether it’s a college, whether it’s military, they’re going to train you for some career. This is the start of your advanced education. And this is an important step, but it’s not the end. But when you were talking, I thought, whenever you do strategic planning with an organization, we’ve done a couple with Shepherd. One of the pieces of advice you always get is make sure you have small marks along the way that you can celebrate. And if we’re doing that for our organizations, why don’t we allow people to do it for their lives?
Because it keeps morale up.