Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve had a “heart for the poor.”
Well, as much as a five year old girl from affluent Ontario could have.
I distinctly remember seeing a World Vision ad on TV with poor, sick children from somewhere in the world I had never heard of, who were desperately in need of MY help. So, with my heartstrings pulled and my mom’s assistance, I set up a craft sale and lemonade stand and raised $25 to send across the world to help those sad and hungry children. I felt both proud and accomplished as I licked the envelope enclosed with the cheque, and sent it off to help the poor children.
Flash forward 11 years.
Last week, a few of us attended a workshop with speaker David Collins, a man with a compelling story and some great insight into the world of development from a spiritual perspective. Especially in light of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty observed Tuesday, I found Collins’ teaching on the roots of poverty particularly apropos. For me, it was one of those ‘aha’ moments of clarity that really put it all in perspective.
The essential point discussed was that the deepest root of poverty, in all of its manifestations, is never an action or an issue, but a belief. Most of us look at the symptoms of poverty and can come up with a multitude of likely causes: lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable health care, poor governance, discrimination, inadequate mental health resources – the list goes on in unending layers of causation. But David Collins would argue that none of these things are the true source of poverty. We can direct our attention to any of these problems and aim our solutions there, but these responses are limited in that they can only change what is above them on the chain of causation. There are deeper roots – not policies or social issues or economic factors, but beliefs, that will be left unaddressed. So if we want to create sustainable change, we have to address the root – by changing the beliefs at the heart of it all. This is a critical reorientation of the way we look at poverty and its causation, and therefore the way we look at solutions.