What is poverty?

I had just returned to the house to start making a fire to cook dinner when Liza arrived. Tall and lanky, I noticed she was wearing her school uniform even though it was a Saturday. That usually means a child doesn’t have any other clothing. I didn’t know this girl very well; she is one of the children Tsungirirai started to help after Arden and I moved back to the U.S.

On this particular day, she lingered at the orphan care center until she could catch me alone. I invited her in, gave her a piece of fruit, and braced myself for another heartbreaking story of need that would leave me feeling helpless. But she wasn’t looking at me. Instead she was looking down at her trembling legs. She finally took a deep breath and quietly told me that school was really hard for her. I assumed she wasn’t getting good grades, but Liza didn’t say anything about her grades; instead she covered her face with her hands and started to cry. I moved closer to her, and put my hand on her knee. Finally she blurted, “The children all tease me at school . . . They call me poor girl.”

I sat waiting, still expectant. Poor girl? That’s it? I have to admit that my first reaction was almost to laugh.

I pictured all of all the children I had seen over the past few days. About half of them arrived with no shoes on their feet, all of them talked about not having enough food at home, and most of them listed school supplies as one of their greatest needs. How could they tell this sweet girl that she was poor when they were all more desperate than I could even imagine being? But I guess kids are kids, and even in Zimbabwe, they try to stay on top by bringing others down. I was dumbfounded.

Then I remembered what Craig, one of our boarding school scholars, once told me. Apparently, his mother reprimanded him for saying he was poor. She insisted that he is very, very wealthy because he has a strong brain, and that for him to call himself poor is to be unappreciative of the education he has been given. I found his mother’s wisdom refreshing, and very true. And luckily, so did Liza.

-written by Liz (C4C board member)

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