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We Said, He Said

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Is Carlos really poor?

If we were to ask my friend, Carlos (described in a previous blog [1]) his thoughts on poverty or asked him to identify the poor people in his community, chances are his answer would be quite different from our own. Whereas we might conclude that Carlos and his family are “poor,” he may not see himself that way at all.

Different Definitions

Carlos might define “poor” with vastly different criteria. Rather than income or possessions, he may look to quality of life as the standard. He might say that his neighbor, Juanito, is the poor one in the community. Juanito has a problem with alcohol and he has all kinds of health problems resulting from his drinking habit. He tells us that Juanito had a good farm and a good family, but he lost most of that years ago to his drinking and health problems.

Abundant Blessings

Maybe Carlos would then tell us how great his life and family are and how blessed he is. When he talked about his children, he would smile (with a few missing teeth) but eagerly tell us how smart his daughter is and how well his son plays the local favorite sport. He might talk about some times that are hard (especially when the school year starts and he has expenses for tuitions, uniforms, and school supplies). But he also would say that, somehow, he and Carlita always were able to pay the bills and keep the kids in school.

Perception is Paramount

From an outsider’s perspective and from our biased view of what poverty is and isn’t, we might have seen Carlos as a person with meager resources and opportunities, in other words a “poor” person. But if we took time to talk to him and understand his perspective, it’s likely that, while the global definition of poverty might apply to him and his family, they may not agree. And maybe, just maybe, their self-perception might be more important than how you, I, or any expert may see them.

Here’s a biblical truth that we must remember when working with anyone. All people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Before we begin categorizing people according to our own biases, perhaps we should take the time to see them through God’s eyes, looking for the person(s) He created them to be and the potential He has placed in their hearts and lives.

Other posts in this series: