Monday, February 27th, 2012
“When we think about our society’s health, we are only as healthy as the least healthy among us. In truth, I don’t think I fully recognized that until I found myself around those who struggle everyday because of poverty.
“At the time, I was teaching at American University, and wanted my students to work with those in need. I wanted them to see that the most important thing we can do as humans is to connect with one another. While I had talked a lot about these things, something changed when I found myself in the apartments of some of our most vulnerable. There were three or four or five people living there with nothing. I saw 18-year-old parents and 30-something grandparents who had nothing, but a chair or a television. The cycle of poverty was just so clear to me.
“I had my ‘Aha!’ moment when I realized that we could do better. I did a lot of prayer, and realized that no one should live so much worse off than the person around the corner. I admit, I brought a healthy dose of naivete and idealism to my thinking. All of the people in my circle told me to work for a non-profit rather than start my own. For me, that was not going to provide the impact I wanted. I wanted to build an organization based on the fundamental desire to connect in order to end poverty.
“A Wider Circle is a grassroots, people-powered non-profit working to help those in need. We provide educational services and have a free furniture showroom. We serve in a way where we can say yes to everyone. It doesn’t matter what part of town you are from. The region is filled with people who lived in D.C. last week, and now they are forced to live somewhere else because of eviction or they are looking for better shelters.
“When we help a family in poverty, we are really helping ourselves. As humans, we don’t just stop at the edge of our fingertips. We continue on. We are as connected as trees that share the same root system. As a society, we should all focus on that.
“When people have things, they can exhale. They can put their kids in beds and lie down. Many people don’t even have beds. When you lie on the floor, that is not much of a break. When you can get people to the first rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people can start thinking about the other pieces. I want the people we are serving to live a human life. Poverty is a loss of life, both physically through some side effect of poverty or the loss of potential.
“I would encourage all of us to take whatever angst we have about people who are different from us and just peel it away. When we are born, we love people. In the eyes of a child, we want to learn and be near those around us. We should live more in that childlike way. That is where the solutions will come. Let’s forget about what separates us, and focus on the similarities. We are not going end poverty by building a service for people. We are going to end poverty when those who need help and those who can provide help come together.”