A couple weekends ago I was in Waco with a couple Aggies for a poverty simulation hosted by Mission Waco. Having no first hand experience with poverty, I was eager to see life through another pair of eyes. A weekend is not enough time to fully understand, but I did catch a glimpse. And I also had a ton of fun. But c’mon! I always have a great time in Waco. Several new friends and I formed a coalition over the course of weekend sealed with a hand sign. Amie, Anna, Carol, and Ryan, I can’t wait ’til we hangout again. Drop by Mission Waco’s Poverty Simulation for more information. In the mean time, here are a couple stories from the weekend:
Thanks to an ‘accidental’ Friday afternoon nap, I couldn’t fall asleep that first night of ‘homelessness’. So I ventured out to explore America’s 17th poorest city, per capita, expecting to see a neighborhood filled with graffiti, single mothers, drugs, and underperforming schools. Yet, house after house glowed underneath the moonlight, and it felt as I walking among Waco’s wealthiest. The only sight of decay was the sidewalks, littered with glass and cracks, but I didn’t mind. The glass shimmered and the cracks reminded me of uneven hiking trails. So peaceful. Somewhere around 3 miles later, I called it quits, returning to my lovely ‘shack’ for 2.
The next morning, our group walked through the same area I wandered through just hours earlier, and the sunlight the reveal what the darkness hid. The vibrant colors had faded, siding had come loose, grass needed cutting, and that’s just on the outside. The dreamworld I had created vanished in the light of the overwhelming poverty. Later, we met several children, and I played a week’s worth of basketball and football in an afternoon. Leaving the kids was rough because didn’t know when each kid would receive the same affection. So young and with such promise. Each one has possesses a unique brilliance. If only they understood they could to escape. I wonder if anyone tells them it’s possible, not just babbling mere words, but really meaning it.
On Sunday, we went to a church that meets under I-35, appropriately called Church Under the Bridge. 1/8th of the worship band is a recovering drug addict with mental problems, who plays a guitar without strings while dancing around. The congregation is the same mixture of needy. Some need homes, some need food, and most need a friend. Some carry their needs in paper bags; others carry it in a Mercedes-Benz, but all needing love. I talked with 4 men, all homeless, and by talking, I mean they let me listen to their stories. What could I possibly say? During the conversation, I learned that all of them had been robbed and beaten, one within the last week, and a buddy just a few chairs over had several hundred dollars stolen by a group of teenagers only two days before. One had been stabbed several times in the chest, another openly confessed his dependency to alcohol, and another told about being run out of a small town in Maine, simply for ordering a hamburger and being black.
It rips at your heart. Why? WHY? It’s common to say that poverty is a choice, and some do choose it. But what does blame cure? Shouldn’t we ask how to help? For it’s in helping the poor that some strange happens. As I weakly try to help a brother, he helps me. My cold-heartedness melts into rivers of compassion. Yes, the ghettos of America are still a dark place, but there is hope for shadows only prove the Light.