Is "poverty" relative? And should my response be according to what I know? I know what real poverty looks like from working in Haïti. And yet I have to constantly listen (from politicians, the media, etc.) about poverty in my country, which I consider an insult to the "real" poor (no dole, no unemployment benefits (especially for folks who don't really want to work), no unlimited running (hot and cold) potable water!, no 24/7 electricity, no real roof over their head or so much food that they need to diet). All of that we have—the "only prayer" to get most of this—is to fill out a form at city hall.
To me it's just incredible by what standards "poverty" is defined in my country—and for what it's being used and abused. I personally have a hard time with financially supporting local folks "in their distress" and, therefore, prefer to help out, where I know there is real distress. Our social "enterprises" (Red Cross, etc.) pay their people 13 monthly salaries for 10 months of work, with 6 weeks paid vacation, including generous maternal/paternal long-term leave. This is taken from the donations given to help those in distress. It's a do-gooder economic racket, in my opinion—a modern misuse of those in real distress.
Am I too subjective when it comes to my choices to help? — a brother in Europe
Guest reply 1: Mmmm, great question. Poverty is so much more than material poverty. People in the Philippines or Nepal, for example, are materially poor, but rich in ways people in the Western world are not. Someone in Germany may not be as materially poor as someone in Bolivia, but they probably are much poorer in other ways (loneliness for example, or spiritual poverty).
I have seen abject poverty in the US. In many ways, it is much worse than material poverty in Zambia. At least in Zambia, community still exists. Yes, poverty is relative. Material poverty, that is. — a sister in Asia
Guest reply 2: Material poverty is relative, but relational poverty isn't. If we focus on the material aspects of poverty and ignore its root, which is relational, this easily leads to the concerns raised by the brother in Europe. In my opinion, poverty is not relative if a relational aspect is used to measure it, and with this measure we won’t be comparing poverty or having angst about helping others. or the pay of full-time staff.
If we see poverty as a relational responsibility to be addressed, this will prevent the material aspects of poverty from creating walls that prevent us from helping others. It will free us to think more constructively about ways to help. We won’t be looking at how to help by the amount of material means we need to provide but by the heart of doing something—no matter how small or big the material need. — a brother in North America