Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: No One is Above Poverty

Today, the Community College of Vermont is participating in Blog Action Day 2008. This annual nonprofit event aims to unite people around the world on one issue on the same day. This year's topic is poverty. Messages from several members of the CCV community will be posted here throughout the day. The following post is submitted by Kelsi Powers, a CCV student, Student Advisory Board representative for CCV Burlington and AmeriCorps volunteer.

Seven and a half months ago I walked into the local food shelf to volunteer my time. I thought I encompassed the very definition of a good Samaritan - young female, college student, AmeriCorps volunteer. It doesn't fill me with a sense of pride to admit that my first thoughts upon walking into the building was that not only did I have nothing in common with any of the people I'd be serving, but that I was better than them. I thought my education and my commitment to volunteering somehow placed me above everyone else. What I've come to realize through hard work, laughter, tears, frustration and satisfaction, is that I could not have been more wrong.

The stories have affected me the most. It’s easy to assume you’re better than someone else until you take the time to talk with them. Once the pathway of communication is open between two people you come to realize that you’re not that different. I heard the story of a woman who had been faithfully married to her husband of 50 years before he died. She sat in the chair across from me, tears in her eyes, not knowing how to pay her bills anymore. How easily I could relate to her sorrow, as I have lost too many loved ones in my life. I’ll see her time and again, in for her monthly groceries, and she is still as strong as ever, just trying to get by. I have also been moved by the middle-aged man, 19 years sober, who is down on his luck right now. The mother with bone marrow cancer who has to have her legs removed is trying to support her three children through these hard times.

I have come to realize that for every client that comes through the doors of the Food Shelf, their reasons for being there are pretty much the same. Through no fault of their own they have fallen into a patch of bad luck and need a little extra help to get by. I’m not better than any of these people. Having a college education doesn’t make me superior and it certainly doesn’t give me the right to walk around like I own the world. Some of the people I serve are educated, some of them are not. Some of them are black, some are white. Some are young and some are old. I see families and I see individuals. No matter what label is placed upon a person, we are all human and all deserve to be treated with the same amount of respect.

Despite not being proud of my first opinions, I am proud to admit that I was wrong. The learning that has taken place in the last few months far outweighs any other I've yet to experience. Here is what I have learned: Poverty has no simple definition and affects us all. Poverty is our neighbor, our tenant, our parents, our siblings, our coworkers, our loved ones, our grandparents, and our struggle. No one is above poverty and no one is a lesser person by being affected by it.

This too I have learned – we can all help put an end to poverty by volunteering, donating, or making or serving a meal. Before we can begin to alleviate this issue, however, we must first admit that it’s an issue, a big one, that doesn’t leave a single one of us untouched.

1 comment:

  1. Kelsi, this is an outstanding piece of work. I am very happy that you recognized this in yourself and that you turned your thoughts around.
    I am very proud of you for showing us where you were in your thinking and how you took a closer look and found the true meaning and satisfaction of volunteering because you care, and not that it makes you better than anyone else.
    It is my hopes that other individuals in your sphere of influence read your post and make the leap to a better understanding of what poverty is, and what it is not.
    Your Friend, Max