The Common Good

Poverty 101: A Poem

A note from the poet: Two years ago, our church opened its doors and began serving meals to our community. The immense and overwhelming feelings I felt scared me and so I penned them in this poem. Working with the poor among us has been eye-opening and has really pushed me to re-evaluate my thinking and life, for which I am immensely grateful.

~ The Rev. Dr. Martha FrizLanger
 

Poverty 101

by Martha FrizLanger


I hate poverty
and I blame the poor
with their unclean bodies
their stale sweat smell
their tabacco breath
their rotting teeth
their unkempt clothes
their self inflicted tattoos
their unshaved chins
their lack of manners
their constant need

I hate poverty
and I blame my mom
with her tapes in my head
saying, "Go anyway
Do what is right
Put on the mask
Smile and engage
Start conversation
Control your thoughts
Sit at their table
'til it comes naturally"

I hate poverty
and I blame myself
as I judge on the inside
and feign interest outside
as I secretly mock
and puff up my righteousness
as I believe deep down
I'm above, they're below
as I look at the clock
and hope this encounter will end soon
as I lie, lie, lie

I hate poverty
and now I blame her---
the one across the table---
who claims she recognizes me
"Aren't you your mother's daughter?
Isn't she my cousin?"
How can I sit here
at the table of judgment
when the woman sharing bread
is my kin
offering me hospitality?

I hate poverty
and I blame you, Jesus
as you bless the poor
and invite me in
and wash my feet
and offer me bread
and look at me
when I deny you
"No, I don't know him."
or ask
"Am I my brother's keeper?"

I hate poverty

The Rev. Dr. Martha FrizLanger is pastor of Dale Presbyterian Church in Dale, Indiana.

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