A few weeks ago, I found myself experiencing the life of extreme poverty and the life of extreme affluence in Charlotte… in just a matter of hours. 12 hours to be exact. From 7pm on a Wednesday night to 7am on a Thursday morning. I felt like I was living in two different cities. But I don’t. I live in the middle of ONE city….my beloved city of Charlotte….with my feet firmly planted between the haves and the have-nots.
I’m not so sure I’ve fully processed all of the chaos that happened in the first of those 12 hours. But I did process the extremes that I experienced at the bookends of those 12 hours and when I did, I cried. A lot. Ugly crying. REALLY.ugly.crying.
When I processed those extremes, my heart broke for how divided our city is. I know it. I live it. I’ve studied it. And I work in it on a daily basis. But something happened at the end of those 12 hours and I broke.
So let me tell you a little bit about those 12 hours that broke me….here’s how it started….
Chaos. The first five hours of those twelve was extreme chaos. My LifeGroup set out to help a family who lives on the west side of Charlotte with their housing situation. When we arrived to the house, neighbors from down the street were screaming and carrying-on in the front yard of the house where we were going to be serving that night. Earlier in the day, these same neighbors had tried to break down the door of that house – while there were FOUR children inside. Those children had grabbed axes and other weapons to protect themselves from potential invaders. Talk about traumatic. [Btw, if you’ve never heard of an ACE score…check this out: ACE Quiz.] The chaos that started days earlier….bled into the afternoon right before we arrived…and then carried on while we were at the house. With my LifeGroup members inside – helping the kids clean up a kitchen that looked like it had gone through World War III and feeding them dinner – I stood outside on the front porch and mediated [LOUDLY…..one might call it yelling] an argument between Mom and Dad. Over the next couple of hours, Mom and Dad had it out with each other and made a plan for Mom to take the kids to a friend’s house with her that night; the kids were fed, packed up their stuff for the next day at school, and then we dropped off Mom and some of the kids with that friend; and then, because there was such a need, we went and did laundry and homework at my house, two of my LG girls went and bought some school uniform stuff at Target and then we made it back over to the friend’s house right before midnight so that Mom and kids would be together and could get to school and work the next morning.
I’ve thought quite a bit about how God provided that night. He wanted our LifeGroup there……on that specific night….after all of the chaos from the week that bled into our time there. [We had been planning this night for two weeks….prior to the neighborhood chaos beginning.] He equipped us…..through previous experience and in the moment with the Holy Spirit. He provided the exact members of our LifeGroup whom He wanted pouring His love into this family. Our group that night was divinely appointed. When I was telling someone about the situation a few days ago….she said…you know, most people would have turned away and run. And, she’s right. But none of the women who were with me that night did that. This family is being attacked by Satan and our LifeGroup is part of the armor that God is providing this family. What an honor.
Ok….so here’s the other bookend to those 12 hours…..
Zen. The next morning I got up early to do a yoga class…..in one of the most affluent neighborhoods of Charlotte. Working out is one of my stress relievers – it is a gift from God that I am able to do it when and where I choose. I don’t typically go to this yoga studio. But, it had a class at the time that I wanted to go and was closer to my counselor’s office where I had an appointment later that morning. The yoga class was awesome. And, it was no accident that I was in this class, on this morning…. it enlightened my perspective.
I was surrounded by women who (likely) don’t work. I don’t begrudge these women for the positions within which they were born (or myself for being born to privilege), but I couldn’t stop thinking about how the rings that the women were wearing in the yoga class were worth more than the house we had spent cleaning the night before. And how there is so much to be done to help the poor.
[ICYMI: Charlotte is ranked dead last among other major cities in the US for upward mobility. It is harder to climb out of poverty in Charlotte than in any other major US metro area. Opportunity is not translating to those who live at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. If you want to know more, check out the study that ranked Charlotte last and Charlotte’s response in Leading on Opportunity. For a summary of all of this, see what For Charlotte has put together on Upward Mobility.]
As I was driving away from that yoga class, I broke. Not because of what happened the night before. Or because I feel guilt about having been born into privilege (which I do at times). But because of the incredible divide in our city and the lack of opportunity and resources for the people that I love so dearly….who live at the bottom rung of the mobility ladder.
If we are connected on social media, you know that I care a lot about social justice issues and that I love Jesus (and my family, friends and dog…… a LOT). God has molded my heart through experience, study and relationship with Him and opened my eyes to issues that are in front of me. What I’ve come to learn recently is that it’s not as simple as saying that upward mobility is a social justice issue. As I’ll expand on in the next few blogs…
- Social Justice is a matter of the heart.
- We do what we see modeled.
- Resilience building keeps us moving forward.
- A real community response has to be co-transformative.
- Boundaries are important. Even God has boundaries.
- God is on the MOVE, in a big way in Charlotte.
There will always be poor among us. Someone will always have more. God calls us to take care of the poor. It’s a consistent command throughout the Old and New Testaments. But, do we do it? Do you do it? Are you taking care of those who have less than you? Start thinking about it and pray for God to open your heart to the poor around you.