My Experience with Poverty in America
Today on The Feed, Seth LeJeune shares about his experience working with impoverished communities across the US.
For the past two years, I have seen folks living in poverty in ways I would have never imagined when I was growing -up, but I know that what I saw doesn’t come close to the degree of poverty that many of our neighbors both in America and in places beyond our borders experience every day. After graduating from college, I spent a year in a remote section of Colorado working at a local homeless shelter and food pantry. The next year I served at a large food bank in the mountains of NC that distributed over 15 million pounds of food annually. The numbers, both nationally and in the state of North Carolina, are staggering.
Nationally, 1 in 6 Americans are food insecure.
In the state of North Carolina, 1 out of every 4 of our children is food insecure. Food insecurity is simply a way to measure the degree of hunger someone is feeling, which often correlates with a person's lack of resources.
Many times over the last few years, I have asked the question why in all its various forms. Why does she have to raise three children in a homeless shelter and try and work two jobs to barely survive while I was given everything I could have wanted growing up? Why does he have to choose between paying his utilities and putting food in the mouths of his children? Why does that elderly couple need food assistance? Is it because they barely make enough to cover the cost of their medication? As I alluded to, this question has many forms and answers, but it can also be incredibly paralyzing because it makes the questioner feel helpless.
While working at the food bank in NC, I attended a church dedicated to serving the homeless community in the area. When asked what I thought about their ministry, I was prompted to answer by saying that it is one of the best versions of the gospel that I have witnessed.
The homeless, the addicted, the spiritless, the greedy, the angry, and the joyful joined together to praise and learn of the God who loves all his children equally.
It was challenging, but incredibly convicting and beautiful. There are many hard questions to attempt to answer and mull over. There are many issues presented to us that seem unfathomable. I have come to believe that the Church’s response to the poor and hungry is to serve them. I often became disheartened by individuals who would simply write a check or volunteer at a food bank once a year. While those things are not inherently bad and many amazing organizations wouldn’t exist without money and volunteers, they can’t be substitutes for learning the name and washing the feet of someone living in poverty. Responses to poverty will never be perfect, but they must always be characterized by humility, love, and a keen desire to serve.
Seth LeJeune graduated from Appalachian State University in May of 2013. Since graduation, he has worked with nonprofit organizations focused on serving homeless communities in Colorado and North Carolina, and is now employed with a large-scale food bank in Winston-Salem, NC.