Led by Paul Hanneman of the Urban Ministry Center and Wanda Anderson of Crisis Assistance Ministry, the seminar gave a framework for understanding the vastly different mindsets of people living in chronic poverty and those who are comfortably middle class. We wanted the people of Good Shepherd -- especially those who will work with Room In The Inn this winter -- to have an awareness of these issues.
I came away with more than awareness. Some of the best new insights:
- When middle class people think of food, they ask, "will it be good?" When people in poverty think of food, they ask, "will there be enough?"
- People in the middle class take hygeine for granted. Yet we pay a great deal for cleanliness: water, a place to have privacy, all the items needed to clean our clothes and our bodies. People in chronic poverty often do not have access to those items we deem essential.
- Morality is abstract. Survival is concrete. Chronic poverty is about survival.
- The role of men in poverty: lover & fighter. Not provider. The role of women in poverty: martry & rescuer.
- People in the middle class look to achievement as a measure of success or happiness. People in chronic poverty look to relationships instead.
Class matters. It really was a class that mattered.