Tuesday, Second Week of Advent
December 11, 2007

"Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him."
--Proverbs 14:31

Revelation, Reflection and Faith

I was working late one night in my office and had my daughter Sara with me. Sara's birthday had a been a few days earlier and there was still some cake left. I offered the cake to the person I was meeting with, as I didn't want it to go to waste. As the woman took the cake, she commented how her children would really love it. Because they were poor, she didn't often get a chance to do such things for them. Sara looked at her and asked, "Are you poor?" The woman replied, "Yes." Sara looked at her again because the woman was dressed nicely, and asked the question again. The answer was again the same.
Suddenly I realized that while I had talked about being poor, that my child had never "seen" poor. She couldn't balance what she heard with what she was seeing. It has often been said that for true understanding, we as adults must see things through the eyes of a child. I became keenly aware that I had some work to do. I needed to make sure that she not only sees with her eyes, but with her ears and with her heart.
 I can still vividly recall what it felt like being poor. The lack of choice, and the drive to rise above the have nots. I can recall standing in line at the county civic center to receive government surplus just so we could eat. I can remember when the police officers would ask the children about who was in the house with Mommy, only to report you to social services. I can remember when talking with those in authority meant the risk of betraying your family.  I remember vowing to never let my children experience that pain or to be made to feel less than. So I worked ten times harder to make sure they would never have to remember some of the things that I remember and sometimes still feel. But I never meant for them not to see.
I want the best for my children. I also want them to understand me, and the road I traveled. I want them to appreciate what they have and why. I don't want them to be poor, but I do want them to be able to "see" it, because if they don't, they won't see a part of me. They won't see the root of my work for them, and my faith in what they can be. So now I must let them "see" all of me through revelation, share my reflections, and show them why they also have faith in me. I believe seeing "poor" will keep us rich.
-- Phyllis Breland
Director of Opportunity Programs/ Director of ACCESS Pathways