The poverty will end in a dance of uniqueness

May 3, 2009

I was holding space this weekend for the exploration of poverty and abundance. In a beautiful retreat center nestled in the hills of Montecito, with a view on gorgeous, sprawling mansions on the slopes below, with the ocean beyond, with mountains reaching up to the sky, I learned that 45% of the population of Los Angeles can not pay their bills and buy food all in the same month. There I learned that in some urban neighborhoods, within 15 miles radius, there are 45 active gangs. There I learned about neighborhoods with 100% poverty rate, neighborhoods where shooting on streets is an everyday occurrence. Among the old oak trees, tall pines, beautifully manicured lawns and rose gardens, I learned that there are african women who are sold into slavery to rich families. When those families chance to come to Los Angeles for vacation those women will sometimes manage to escape from the hotel and find their way to a shelter that can offer them help. “How?” I wondered. “How do they do it? They don’t speak english, they’ve been kept in captivity ever since they left their african villages. How do they manage?” “And what now?” I asked myself when I learned of all those things. What now? It is too much to ignore, it is to large to simply turn around and say: not my problem, not my life, not my reality. It is my reality. Those things happen in the same world I live in, in the same society I live in. What does it mean? What does it mean about my life? What does it mean about the life I live that when I “flip the coin” I see people dying, starving, suffering? What do I do with this knowledge? And then I heard a lady speak. A lady who created and runs a place that helps homeless people, poor people, helpless people. She said: “when I look at a man who lived on streets, at a drug addict, at a gang member, I don’t see a broken, worthless trash. I see a hero, I see a survivor. I see a man who endured and survived more than most of us could ever handle. I see a man who lived through hardships that most of us could not even conceive of, and I see him here, still here, alive. I see a survivor, I see courage and strength, I see a hero. And when I see a hero in this man he looks in my eyes and sees the hero in himself. When I see the courage and strength in him, he sees himself as strong and courageous and he changes his life, he opens, he creates miracles.” There were stories that I heard this weekend, stories of a young navaho kid who, after running away from the reservation to escape from alcohol and drugs, was living in Los Angeles, on the streets. Without money, without any chance of getting a job looking as he did, with his neck and arms covered in tattoos, he begun to draw and paint and is now a full time art student. Stories of homeless drug users who discovered their passion for writing and became published authors. Story of a woman who lived as a drug addict, homeless, on streets, often raped, bitten up, abused, starved. She now has a home, a family and masters degree in computer science. There were other stories that I remembered, a story of a young girl who spent 5 years of World War II in Ravensbrück, german concentration camp. She walked back from Germany to Poland, to Warsaw that was a ruin of a city, and became a well known artist, painter and sculptor. Of a man who escaped from Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp and became a famous polish actor. And how about a story of a polish kid who came to America with nothing but a bag of clothes and became a designer and an artist? I know those people, I’ve met those people, I heard stories of those people. And it occurred to me, sometime during this weekend, that those people had nothing. No money, no possessions, no jobs, no carriers, no connections, no power. But they did have themselves. They had who they were and that was enough, that was more than enough. With what they had, with having themselves, they created extraordinary lives. Having themselves they have impacted lives of hundreds and thousands of others. And I realized that this is the answer, this is my answer to all that I heard about poverty and lack. The answer is: there are no such things as poverty and lack because each of us has who we are. Living in a society, being a part of society that considers money, possessions, power, to be the most important, I see and hear and experience, over and over again, that who we are is enough, that who we are is more than enough, that who we are is so much that it is limitless, boundless. That having nothing but ourselves there are no limits to what we can create. That without money, without a house, without a job, there is no end and no limit to abundance for all of us, for every single person on the planet, because every single person on the planet has themselves. And I thought that if I see myself and everyone, every single person I will ever meet, as a beautiful, courageous and powerful being, then they will see themselves as such. If I look at everyone and see the treasure, the power, the beauty in them, they will see it in themselves and they will open and change their lives, just like the navaho kid did, just like the homeless woman did. And I thought that when we all relate to ourselves and to every single person we ever meet as to an amazing, creative and powerful being, then we will realize the abundance of who we are, the unlimited potential of what we can create, and we will open and change our lives. We will create miracles. When we do that the poverty will become impossible, when we do that the world will change into a paradise – in a dance of uniqueness.

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