Tag Archive: poor


last night the beautiful Val and Monkman and myself went to a homeless memorial service in town where a bunch of different organisations who work with homeless people, such as project home where will [who runs our alternative seminary classes] works to specifically remember those homeless or previously homeless people who had died in the last year – more than fifty names were read out at one part of the service which took place outside in the gentle rain…

at one point in the service a friend of the simple way played Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Streets of Philadelphia’, one of my favourite and most moving of songs, which has never felt so apt [actually being on the streets of philadelphia] and the words are as follows:

“I was bruised and battered and I couldn’t tell
What I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself
I saw my reflection in a window I didn’t know
My own face
Oh brother are you gonna leave me
Wastin´away
On the streets of philadelphia

I walked the avenue till my legs felt like stone
I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone
At night I could hear the blood in my veins
Black and whispering as the rain
On the streets of philadelphia

Ain’t no angel gonna greet me
Its just you and I my friend
My clothes don’t fit me no more
I walked a thousand miles
Just to slip the skin

The night has fallen, I’m lyin awake
I can feel myself fading away
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss
Or will we leave each other alone like this
On the streets of philadelphia.”

[Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/bruce+springsteen/streets+of+philadelphia_20025067.html%5D

Jesus said, “There will always be poor people among you” and I think we often receive that in a resigned way – oh well, Jesus said there’s always going to be poor people so why even bother trying to make a difference. But i think He was speaking prophetically, not so much about what has to be the case [we do have enough resources for everyone at this present time] but from a place of knowing the heart of man – because you are greedy and put yourself first and choose your comfort over someone elses need, as a result of that, there will always be poor people among you.

this blog has the word ‘poor’ in the title so it is not going to get as many hits as say my relationship blogs [how can I do MY relationships better?] and the people who made it down this far are most likely not the ones who need to read or be reminded of any of this stuff, except maybe a little, and maybe it’s that little which counts. i know i need to hear it [and i have chosen to live in a poor neighborhood and work with poor people] because there is still a lot that needs to change in my own life.

but standing in the rain last nite with a whole lot of homeless people from all diverse backgrounds [poverty is not racist] and walks of life, and the people who work with them, i was moved once again that we can NOT SETTLE FOR THE WAY THINGS ARE – where those who have keep piling up more and more while those who don’t are left to suffer alone… especially as the church… part of our mandate is to look after the least of these.

“The night has fallen, I’m lyin awake
I can feel myself fading away
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss
Or will we leave each other alone like this
On the streets of philadelphia.”

two nights ago val got a call from a guy from a local church who told her that some homeless people [who had been evicted along with the ‘Occupy Philly’ people this week] had moved under a nearby bridge and would we the Simple Way be wanting to do anything about it – i chatted to him and got the details and told him i would try go that evening…

something more prioritised came up that evening and i wasn’t able to go, but first thing the next morning Val and i drove to go and find them and i went in to go and assess the situation and see what was happening…

and i met Paul.

Paul chatted to me for maybe half an hour to an hour [while my beautiful wife Val waited patiently in the car, not wanting to interrupt the man moment – she was originally going to go shop while i chatted but decided to wait which was cool] and it was just the raddest time. starting off by saying they didn’t really need anything [a mind blow for me with homeless people with my general experience back home] but that they had most of their needs met [there were about twenty tents under the bridge and they had access to running water in a nearby laundromat that didn’t lock up and people keep on coming by and supplying food and more] but at the end i was able to offer some bedrolls and jackets which the Simple Way has had donated and i took them through last nite.

Paul handed me this letter which he had written and was hoping to have posted in a local newspaper [i found it online fortunately so didn’t have to write it again so it definitely got posted somewhere] and gave me permission to share it with you and i think it is just excellent and felt so privileged to have spent time with him and Joe who i met last nite and Val and i are hopefully going back tomorrow to join them for a Quaker type service:

“We are not here protesting or to make a statement, We’re homeless. We are sick of being forced to exist alone, sick of being told that shelters, which are not tolerable living facilities for sober people, are an adequate alternative to being “allowed”, by the government, to work, live and share together to create for ourselves, with much less help and expense than the government can do anything, opportunities to provide for ourselves that which our troubled economy cannot.

Philadelphia has about 4,000 homeless people and 40,000 empty dwelling units, but, apparently, unless the wealthy can profit by our occupying these dwellings, they would rather see us alone, with our possessions if not stolen by regular criminals, ‘confiscated’ by police, since we have no place to store anything we can’t carry and are not allowed to congregate to watch one another’s belongings.

To have poverty forced upon us in the land of plenty, is no longer a viable solution, if in fact, it ever was.

I know how to grow food, build structures, build communities from the fragmented elements that current policy, make craftwork to supply cash for what it’s needed for, etc. My friends know how to do the things I don’t. Those who ‘have’ seem satisfied to make sure I don’t ‘have’ opportunity to gather to have a safe place to sleep, let alone organize to provide for our basic needs.

We need the use of at least one abandoned structure, if the law requires it to have water and electricity, the Obama administration provided $21 million dollars to help the homeless, this is a drop in the bucket.

We need an outdoor long term camping area, close enough to mass transit for us to meet medical, legal, pension and benefits and other needs, and large and separated enough to not disturb our neighbors and start to grow our own food and do art and craftwork, feed one another and see to one another’s daily needs.

In this sort of camp, people who get along can meet one another and we can help one another and be helped by those in the community who believe in, rather than merely preach, compassion, to get long term housing, use our varied skills to rehabilitate abandoned structures as we rehabilitate ourselves and work toward the caring, loving society that many believe we will make happen.

There are many caring people in Philadelphia, whose deeds as well as their words, demonstrate the belief that the present “crisis” is in fact and opportunity to create a land of “Liberty and Justice for All” rather than a land of “Just Us”.”

and coffee…

met some friends for coffee at the BP to celebrate the end of the week which has been interesting – quite a stressful time in terms of packing up the house and finishing off transcription work and trying to organise visas and a bunch of other stuff but i think that’s cool in a way – we don’t get to always choose when life happens to us – and while this live below the line week may have been largely insignificant in the bigger scheme of things i think that good came out of it for us – hopefully we have learnt to appreciate the little things and be more compassionate to people who have this situation thrust upon them as opposed to choosing it for themselves for a time period.

i guess today’s big lesson was that perseverance is easy when the end is in sight – if you know that 00:05 holds a cup of BP coffee for you then skipping the cup or so you would normally have during the day is no big deal at all and so today pretty much rushed by – yes it was quite a busy one on all fronts but we ate pretty well and finished big.

breakfast for me was two eggs on bread crusts [which i happen to dig] cos had to save the two slices for lunch [val didn’t have bread] and half an avo each so i stuck mine under the one fried egg – very yummy…

lunch was leftover noodle mix on snackwiches which was fairly decent…

supper was last two pork sausages well cooked as sausages [been chopped up rest of week] with rice and last of the beans/carrots and was really great – definitely ate enough food and the majority of it was not too bad [altho i think we killed lentils after just one meal – definitely pick rice or pap repeatedly over those]

so ja, with fasting or living below the line for a week it is made easier by the time frame – you choose when you want to do it and pick your structure/boundaries [just skip meals during day, just a daniel fast of fruit and veg only, absolutely nothing, how much money per day etc etc] and then do it for a time period and it’s over. for many people it’s not over.

i’m convinced that giving people a fish is not the answer – teaching them to fish or linking them up with the fisherman or taking down the company that is polluting the water that the fish should be freely available in are all bigger options… however, in the times and moments and busyness when those things are not immediately possible, sometimes giving a man [woman or child] a fish is better than not giving them a fish [especially when your waistline is probly over-fished]

i’m glad we did it, it wasn’t all fun, but it wasn’t all not fun and it certainly was not horrible and i hope we remember and learn and thing and treat and consider…

day 4 of the live below the line saw a bit of a stodgy jungle oats breakfast [not enough water, oops] which was microwaved and very easy to make… bit of margarine type substance to give it some flavour…

lunch was leftover soup/stew val made the other day – very tasty and yum cos of all the good veg in it…

then supper was REALLY nice – roasted veg:sweet potato, carrots and leftover butternut and then two pork sausages sliced and fried to add for taste and it was really a winner meal, best all week i think

ate well today and pretty tasty stuff – getting a bit of a better hang of it – don’t know that i have any lessons that came out of it and if you haven’t yet i would go and read my friend lisa’s comments on the whole week’s experiment which i link to over here.

i guess actually the one thing that stood out today was the friend vibe – it’s been a theme this week that a bunch of people hear what we’re doing and are “cool, we’ll take you out to eat” which in the context of this week defeat’s the object a little bit, but the idea of community being so much more important if a bunch of individuals don’t have much because pooling a small amount for a larger amount of people always works better – i remember as a bachelor trying to cook meals for one and it gets quite expensive or wasteful, but when there are four of you say throwing your R12 into the pot, then if you did that for a whole week you could get really creative and everyone would have enough.

the second aspect was the idea of inviting people round to play a game and not being able to offer snacks, drinks etc – fortunately in tonite’s scenario the one guy brought food and so we weren’t going to make them not eat it for the sake of our challenge so the three of them partook [what a word] but the idea that if you are living in a poor context, inviting people around for a meal probably holds less ampedness because of what you can’t offer… you’d think that at least but in my experiences in Kayamandi and Umtata and Malawi and Botswana [when i went as a child] and the Spanish community i visited in the States when i was there it was always the opposite – those with nothing always offer so much – they always give of their best – they are always completely generous – i have experienced this so many times in so many ‘poor’ contexts that i know it to be true…

so ja, one day to go, hopefully we have learnt some stuff – definitely been made aware of a bunch of things and going to give the money we would normally have spent on food to someone who needs it a lot more than us which is great. i think it has been good. but what lisa wrote is true. it’s nothing compared to what can and should and needs to be done.

and we’re still alive, and muchly so…

i was in charge of supper duty and overestimated the amount of noodles we needed so we have a bunch of it left for tomorrow – green beans and a couple of carrots and two chopped up prok sausages [have 8 of those for the week visiting 4 different meals as our week’s meat, flip] and half an onion and half a packet of macaroni – and with only butter [well margarine, well actually something spread lite or something] as an additive it was difficult to give it taste but i did manage and it actually came out pretty good, my seconds [which was for some reason hotter than my firsts] tasted better cos it was hotter and val seemed to really enjoy it.

lunch was a sweet potato cut in half [one of the big mother ones] and microwave’d to the baked position and then butter [see above] and an avocado [the mielies we were going to have for lunch today were manky in the shops so val went for two avos instead – good call!] sliced and put inside it which was also very nice [given some spices and mayo i could really have turned that into a classic dish so may try that again sometime]

and then heading back to breakfast we had scrambled eggs on toast – three eggs, two toasts…

so substantial in terms of amount [especially with noodles left over and half of yesterdays ‘soup’stew as well and so the real question is did we learn anything today.

well i’m still battling a bit with my cough and throat so a pack of Halls or Strepsils would have been a nice additive – i know for val it’s coffee and so we’re already doing research on coffee places that will be open at 00:05 Friday night/Saturday morning ha ha – and yeah the drinks thing is a big one cos there is cold water and boiled water [which as i think i mentioned i used to drink a lot so i’m fine with that] and not much else – so all the extras really – chocolates [altho we don’t do a lot of that surprisingly enough], sweets [val loves sour sweets] popcorn [val LOVES popcorn] and so on… to go with the spices and cooking extras [mayo, chutney, tomato sauce etc etc]

so ja, kinda looked at that yesterday already so no huge revelation except the drinks and i guess the one thing that stands out in terms of the menu is the choosing – knowing what i know now i think i would have made some different decisions in terms of choice of food. val did a really amazing job figuring it all out but now that we’ve trodden that path i think we’d both ‘sacrifice’ lentils for something else [salt or sugar or a sachet of coffee maybe] and so the big realisation today is that when you don’t have much money, you don’t have much choice – we choose between the brands of coffee and cereal we want whereas a bunch of people have to choose not to have coffee or cereal or to find a staple cereal which will last the week or month [unsweetened etc etc]

so ja, it’s not fun, but it’s good, and it’s totally okay, it’s like we’re dying or suffering hugely or anything – have to remember that we chose to do this this week whereas many don’t get to make that choice

so today was a breakfast of 50g Jungle Oats each [slept over at my folks house and they had 50g sachets so less than the 150g between us we were meant to, but was enough] for breakfast [little bit of butter, no sugar, sigh]

then for lunch we feasted on a “soup” the beautiful val made altho it was more a stew than a soup with lentils, potato and butternut in and we had that with rice – could see if lentils was all i had to feast on every day then i might get tired fairly quickly altho they did kinda dominate the meal – but we were quite hungry by lunchtime and the meal we had was really amazing. and more than enough.

supper is happening in the backgound now and consists of a pork sausage each and a bean and carrot mix and some rice and should be equally yummy.

i ended last nite quite sick [have had throat for a while and some flu’ness threatening] and i guess today’s understanding of the poor is in line with that – i had friends on facebook suggesting all sorts of remedies and felt like it was kind of a cheat to go for them, but i did compromise and have a med lemon [just to try and combat the throat because we have a bunch of unpaid – but that’s another blog – work to do this week and i don’t want to get completely sick] but the realisation is that good health is another pretty much large choice/privilege/score of the rich.

if i have R12 per day and i have to choose between food and medication i would imagine food would win every day, also because i think medication of any type starts at a base level of around R12 and then jumps to R85 pretty quickly… you’re rich and you get the smallest hint of a sickness, you go to the doctor and pay a crapload for an antibiotic, or you duck into the chemist and grab a bottle of pills or into pick n pay like we normally would and overdose on orange juice to kill it before its set… a bottle of OJ going for R16 or R19 or above…

also if you are poor it is probably a lot easier to get sick [cos of living, eating and other conditions] and a lot harder to get better [lack of money for doctor visit, medication, vitamins etc]

and again the realisation that we are doing food and drink whereas if we were living on an average of R12 a day that that money would have had to have somehow covered rent and electricity and appliances, clothes, transportation, petrol, cellphones, calls, internet etc etc in terms of how we spent our day.

so this morning we had a third of a 500g portion of Jungle Oats between us with butter, no sugar [i whined!] and then for lunch we had two pieces of toast and a quarter of an avo each and then for supper we had two pieces of toast and an avo each [menu changed a little bit in terms of what’s on what day cos we came thru to cape town so had to adjust – same items just different days]

and i know it’s only been one day but what stood out for me today is that it was flippin boring and to some extent i imagine poor people have to put up with boring food… with R12 a day each for the week, we couldn’t even begin to consider coffee or tea or sugar or any of the twenty or so spices we have on our spice rack and so we are staying away from them – limiting all our consumingness to the things we were able to afford this week… and so gone are the choices of five different types of spread and so on. i imagine the poor find different ways of getting creative with what they have, but the kind of choices we take for granted are just not as available to them.

it’s only been one day. i’m hungry. i’d dig for a cup of coffee [just made me and tbV a nice cup of hot water – which i used to drink back in the day actually, was a long phase]. and realising that this thing, despite just starting, is not fun. oh wait, i guess that’s one of the point.

stay tuned for day 2…

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