Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What Do I Receive?

The opportunity to be with the 40 high school juniors of Youth Leadership Walker County each month is one of the great joys in life for me. They are eager to learn about their community and to develop their leadership skills. The meeting in December is always fun yet a true learning experience.

This was the problem given to them this month:  
Pretend you are a family of four and create a budget based on $1,580...about the amount a family at the poverty line brings in each month. 

After they grappled with that concept, they participated in the Poverty Simulation conducted by Alabama Possible.  I'm telling you, this was EYE-OPENING for our students!

They became a family of four, or three or six.... 

or in some cases a homeless person all by herself...

The simulation is designed to show the life of a distressed family over the course of a month. Students went through 15 minute "weeks" in which they had to work, pay bills and figure out how to make ends meet.  They had a few minutes in between each week to plan....

When the bell rang to "start" the week they did several things based on their scenario. 
Some went to school because they were children...

Some went to work and some paid bills or went to the local pawn shop to trade items for cash...

Some ended up in jail with "Sheriff Keene"

And some families were evicted because they did not pay their mortgage on time.

Regardless of the scenario students all agreed that living at the poverty level is no game. It is tough on families.  It is confusing.  It is scary. It's incredibly hard to work and make all the things happen that must happen in order to make a life for your family.  Our students gained a new appreciation for those in need and realized the hardships many of their friends at school go through daily.  

So many times when we talk about poverty we think about service.  Helping those in poverty becomes an act we perform, an event for an afternoon.  But is that really what community service is all about?

They discussed what it means to truly be a community servant.  Together, they decided that in order for service to work there has to be both "giving" and "receiving".  What is an act of kindness or service you have given to your community?  Answers come quick... 

getting an angel on the angel tree 

giving to a local charity 
buying supplies for those in need 

The harder questions seems to be, what is an act of kindness or service you have received from your community?  Many times we hear, "I haven't received anything".  The longer they sit, the more they remember.  

"My friend helped me with a math problem I was struggling with." 

"My church family cooked dinner for us when my mom was in the hospital."  

"My friend listened to me when I was struggling with something."

"A lady in front of me in the drive-thru line paid for my order.  I didn't even know her."

When we really begin to think about it, we all give and we all receive. Constantly. 

If we truly believe that, then community service becomes not an act we perform, but the very life in which we live.  

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