On a recent walk through my home town, I noticed a group of women standing outside a house, looking as though they'd just learned of a death. A man stood at the side of a Duke Energy truck talking to a Duke employee who appeared apologetic. While I can't be sure, my guess is that the Duke Energy employee was just doing his job, turning off service to a house where the bill was long over due.
In these days when the line between poverty and wealth is growing longer, I have no doubt that people who have never had their electricity turned off have no point of reference for those who have suffered this event. Survival is a passionate response to going without something. Faced with not having enough food, money, or electricity provides opportunity for creativity. Those lucky enough to feel full when they leave a table, who never worry that they can't pay their bills, who can look their children in the face and know with confidence that they can provide for them; that is a population that I invite to experience crossing the poverty line.
I imagine people who live in abundance shedding all their trappings to live among the poor, if only for a month. To truly understand poverty it must be lived to a place of discomfort. An afternoon at a soup kitchen or handing out food at the Free Store isn't the same as seeing the world through the eyes of lack. Learning where the free meals are, learning where to get a sandwich, learning where to lay your head at night are critical resources the the poor can find. Can you?
From my warm perch in my home, my cupboards stocked I remember once more, the days when I was very young. My mother worked hard as a single parent. She rarely made ends meet, and more than once entertained us in candle light because the utilities had been turned off. She often put on shows, imitating Red Skelton or Victor Borge pounding the table, and setting her dentures at the tip of her mouth, setting her glasses at the end of her nose, and mussing her hair. We laughed, knowing full well that we didn't have the warm glow of lamplight. Still, we could laugh. It isn't always an option.