It’s difficult to understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. When we experience how life is lived by others our own perspective and understanding increases.
In 2009 I went for a drive. I had no idea where I would go, but I was headed east in my 1987 Buick Skylark that would shut down if I pressed the accelerate too hard or too quickly. I had lived a semi-luxurious lifestyle in my young adult life; earning a good salary, living in nice homes, and enjoying nice dinners. But I had this urge to meet and spend time with people living on the streets, to hear the stories of people all too often neglected by our society.
I didn’t have a motive of some type of “humanitarian relief” agenda, I simply wanted to gain experience of how life is lived in a way that I had yet to experience. Furthermore, I didn’t have much by way of personal funds to give monetarily. I traveled through Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee, stopping in cities along the way to simply go find people to talk to. What I discovered change my own perspective on why people are homeless, and what they truly need.
I had always thought that really helping the poor meant giving them food or a shelter for the night, but I quickly realized that all people living within the circumstances of sleeping on the streets wanted was someone to listen, recognize them, and see them as an equally valuable human being. Food and shelter certainly didn’t hurt, but I learned that the physical aspects of giving aid must come from a personal connection or relationship with people who need help in obtaining access to life’s most vital needs.
I think that far too much of humanitarian aid is given by organizations and philanthropists who see what they are doing more as a job they do for a good purpose or cause, without truly understanding those we mean to help. But in order to truly help someone we must understand them, know them, and see things from their perspective. It is often the case that to see things from another’s perspective, we have to live as they live and experience what they experience.
In 2005 I remember coming to the conclusion that one of my primary goals in this life was simply to understand. I wanted to understand as many perspectives of people as possible, in order to gain a deeper understanding of life and why our human world is the way that it is. At the age of 19, the problems of poverty confounded my mind. I couldn’t understand why so much of the planet was subjected to such living conditions, while we have so many resources available. I couldn’t understand why churches squabbled over theological differences, while the poor were suffering on their doorsteps. I couldn’t understand why some had so much more than they could ever use or enjoy, while so many lacked the very resources needed to live at all.
I knew there must be a solution.
The solution to the problems we face as a planet begin in a place undefinable with human language; although, I will do my best to illustrate my thoughts using these symbolic representations we call letters and words.
Love, I believe is something much more than the four letters comprising it could ever could truly encapsulate or evoke. Love is a force which binds together all of humanity; initiating compassion, generosity, and liberation within each of our hearts. A community that fully knows generosity does not know poverty.