Disparity and Romanticized Poverty

Karibe Hotel is a place of beauty, excellence, serenity and peace. There a illuminated fountains with ornate ceramic backgrounds. Solid stone flooring and large grand pillars. Well dressed workers with smiles on their faces and food around every corner. Even the tap water at this Hotel is safe, at least I hope it is.

Whitney and I spent a night and a day at this hotel celebrating our anniversary. She kept prodding my sullen face as my "rest time" consisted of reading Polman's "The Crisis Caravan." A short book about the well-intentioned disaster that is often humanitarian aid. I struggled as I sat by the pool on a comfortable leather bed surrounded by pillows, drink in hand, basking in the sun. Why do I deserve to sit here and receive the treatment of a king with thousands of malnourished faces and distended bellies only hundreds of feet away in the streets? Was I so special or did I achieve something so grand? The feelings floated around in my head and heart and only dissipated after a stern look from my beautiful wife that said, "We're paying a ton of money for this so you'd better get in this pool and start having fun with me!" I did.

But the reality remains. There is a vast disparity between the haves and the have nots and the only difference I can see is to whom and in what country you were born. It's not my fault I was born to a middle-upper income family in a wealthy nation. It's not their fault they were born in a tent city. So I ask again, if it is only due to my birth place, why should I receive the treatment of a king and they not? I imagine you might say, "Well, that's just how this world works." Or, "Jesus said, You will always have the poor with you." Really?! That's the answer. Come on. Needless to say I struggle with this reality and I don't expect to come to a happy conclusion and rest my conscience before I see the manifested Kingdom of God on the earth.

On another note. I find it intriguing that poverty is so easily romanticized and that the poor are people to receive only merciful love and tolerance. Some would say, "When I see these poor people in the streets, I see Jesus." Forgive me for being rash or too bold, but for many of the kids in Haiti... it is precisely this treatment that has turned some of these kids into little monsters. Is it really caring for these kids to constantly be dishing out gifts? A free coke, free food, free toys, free water, more free food and oh, sure, you can climb all over me and hit me and say mean things to me and yell at me and I will just sit here and see Jesus because you are so poor and your dad probably beat you and left you to die.  Yes... that was sarcastic and maybe too harsh.

But here is my heart. I love these little guys but I want them to have dignity. Dignity never comes through hand outs and a free pass to do anything you want. Love can sometimes be most captured in discipline. Not the discipline that births from a place of anger or insecurity but discipline that longs for wholeness, dignity and worth to be developed in the mind and heart of a child. A free handout teaches these kids that they need others to always help them that they can't stand or be strong on their own. Do they always have food and water? No. Do we want them to die? No. But if they always depend on you for food and water, will they always have you? Or will the short missions trip end? You will return home and tell of how the kids loved you so much and how poor they were. I am convinced of this, the worst type of poverty is not the one that makes someone live in the dirt but the one that corrupts the heart and the mind. The poverty that tells a person they can only survive by the giving hand of a white Westerner.

When I leave Haiti in a week and a half, I will have done little. But I know that the little I have done will have infused a few boys with dignity. I have demanded much from them and in doing so I believe they have seen that they are capable of much more than they thought before. They are not to be pitied, but to be pushed to see and envision their own destiny on their own two feet.


  1. thanks for that. it was inspiring, moving, and convicting. well put and well said. love you and can't wait to hear more of the things God has placed upon ur heart :)

  2. Very well said!!!!!! Empowering people is the greatest gift!!!! Seeing the beauty in a person and helping them to believe it for themselves and giving them the tools to take the steps! Very encouraged by your blog! (it is harder than handing out food and money it takes GREAT LOVE!)


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