Taking the poor with us is a mind frame, a way of operating that keeps those in need in the forefront of our thoughts. Ideally, it will prevent us from consuming to excess, help us appreciate what we have, and motivate us to give from our hearts to alleviate the plight of the poor throughout the world.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Probably among the best advice possible for living a simple life. First and foremost, reduce consumption. Do I really need that latte? Can I make myself a cup of tea at home? Can I fast in solidarity with the poor and offer my caffeine deprivation to the Lord? We must strive to buy only what we truly need, and not simply whatever we want. What about the things we already own? Let's reuse them as much as possible. Tear up old t-shirts and use them as rags. Repair the scuff on that shoe and use it for another season. Borrow a party dress or a suit from a neighbor and give them one of ours in return. There's lots of life in our current possessions, if we get creative with them. And when something is no longer usable or used, we can give it to Goodwill or to our parish. Both HP and Dell offer free recycling for their old computers, printers and scanners (Dell will also recycle other brands for a small fee.) The Salvation Army takes old furniture. Almost anything can be given away with Freecycle. There's plenty of opportunities to give, if we just look for them.
We need to be informed as to the impact our decisions can have. Look into fair trade and support companies that engage in profit-sharing with the workers who manufacture their goods. Boycott companies whose practices oppress the poor or fail to fairly compensate them. We should always know where our purchases come from, and what it took to bring them to our doors. Conscientious Consuming has a good overview of the principles of responsible buying. Perhaps the company we shop with is on the National Labor Committee's watchdog list. Before buying anything, google the company to see whether they conduct ethical business practices, and what their policy is towards the global market. Get informed, stay informed, act on the information.
The problem of poverty is man made. It must be solved by man.
That means us.
Those of us who by the grace of God were born into a free country and given the opportunities to receive an education and provide for our families are in a position of power and responsibility. We are the stewards, the leaders. Our actions can perpetuate the disparity between rich and poor, or we can help alleviate it.
When we accept that our good fortune requires us to give back, we accept our responsibility. From there, we must act on it. Some good sites to begin the journey of discovery are the Fair Trade Federation, Institute for Policy Studies, and the Center for Economic and Social Justice.
On a more personal level, we must be responsible stewards of what we have been given. That means first and foremost staying out of debt. Always live within our means, never trap ourselves into a cycle of unpaid bills and credit. Invest for our future, secure our children's education, plan for our retirement. Keep a cushion of money for medical bills or unforeseen emergencies. We can't help others if our own financial situation is a mess.
Perhaps the most important step of all. We know that God answers prayer. As our loving Father, He wants all good things for us, His children. We can turn to Him for guidance, help, and support. Pray every day for the poor, but pray too for the rich. Pray that we may change our hearts and be generous, sympathetic, compassionate and brave.
Pray for miracles.