“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Today is the United Nations International Day of Peace. Strangely enough, the world doesn’t feel very peaceful. It feels upended and disrupted.
Just four days ago, UNICEF and Save the Children published a report. It is the first of what will be many reports analyzing the economic and social impacts of the global pandemic. The report noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed 150 million children into the experience of multidimensional poverty. This multidimensional poverty is about not having access to adequate water, food, education, healthcare, housing, and sanitation. The 150 million represents a 15% increase in the number of children living in a deep experience of poverty. The UNICEF report is a call to action. It is a clarion to everyone.
Living in the experience of poverty has dramatic impacts on cognition, brain development, and life-course attainment. Poverty as a station, as a place where people find themselves in a day-to-day struggle and strife, is about more than the absence of resources. It is a loss of hope. It is a dehumanizing experience that strips away basic dignity. It is a form of violence.
Living in the experience of poverty can make a person feel like they have become the object of another’s compassion – rather than the subject of their future. Many years ago, a mentor said to me, “one day you will find yourself spending more time in meetings with a suit and tie. You will wonder if you are doing anything to help. You will feel removed from the work of serving others. When this happens – you know you are making a difference.”
It took me a long time to understand this statement. Then one day I realized, the people we are called to be in community with – they don’t want us to objectify them or pity them, they want us to help them find a pathway to a future. They want us to walk with them to a place beyond the experience of poverty.
Today is the International Day of Peace, and the best way I can see to build a world of peace is through helping people find their futures, their dreams – their lives beyond the experience of poverty. Join us in building a world that assures every child, every family – has access to hope!