This piece was first posted on the Compassion International Blog and was given the honor of being named in the Top 5 posts of 2015 on their site.
From the time you woke up this morning, how many steps did it take you for your first sip of clean water? For some of us it was less than 20 or perhaps less than 10? Many in the developing world spend hours finding water—-and hope that the water they find will be safe.
I understood global poverty for the first time when I encountered a village in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. I was there with a team of other Compassion Artists & Speakers invited to experience the Compassion center thriving in a small village church. I stood on a dirt road among generous people outside their small colorful homes. I looked on as they talked together, their eyes vibrant with joy, cooking chickens for our lunch and carefully arranging cut fruit on a platter as though preparing an exquisite feast. The communal life they live is rich with kindness and love. For this community, their needs were being met by their local church in partnership with sponsors around the world. Even as they faced the real challenges of poverty—-they lived as though they had enough. It was here that I learned that the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth, but enough.
I find myself in shopping malls and stores filling my cart with things I probably don’t really need. While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with wanting these things—-the problem comes when I believe I am entitled to everything that Amazon or Target has to offer me. I find myself insatiably curious about the newest greatest thing—-always hungry for more. I’m reminded that Jesus said I’ll never be full in the truest way if I think my hope can be purchased at the Apple Store.
How much is enough? What happens when our thirst for more gathers momentum and seems never to find its end? Do we replace our understanding of what we need with the things we want—-and lose touch with gratitude and contentment in our search for more?
A recent study published by Sarah Konrath, while at the University of Michigan, shows in her research that empathy as a behavior and value has declined by 40% in college students today when compared to students just 20 years ago. I believe the more empathetic a person is, the less entitled they are. When we begin to view all of life as a gift—-we can start to experience true fulfillment.
We are in need of the kind of real connections that help us build empathy and step outside of our shoes and into the shoes of another. Children need to be taught good core values as they develop and learn to care for others.
In response to this great need, Compassion International, in collaboration with the Fuller Youth Institute, created Step Into My Shoes™. Step Into My Shoes allows each of us to have a hands-on experience with poverty without leaving home—-no passport required.
I came upon Step Into My Shoes™ when I got home from the Dominican Republic and hoped to help families grow in their understanding of what enough was. After working with wealthy children in American churches most of my life, this became more than a passion— but a mission. I see first hand every day how disconnection, loneliness and entitlement are often the root cause of the levels of anxiety and apathy found in this generation. “How much is enough?” is the very question that we need to ask—-and that is the question this resource asks.
Children in developed countries grow up in families who experience a variety of economic realities. Whether rich, poor or in between, if you measure our lives against a global economy—- the western world is rich. Rich in opportunity, education, services, and clean water. Through hands on, multi-sensory activities, discussion and experiences—-families journey together through the stories of those we rarely encounter: a family living in extreme poverty. I’m sure you can imagine, when I found Step Into My Shoes I became their cheerleader long before my role was official.
Step Into My Shoes is a movement that involves you and I. Consider this an invitation into something great—-take the first step by going to www.stepintomyshoes.org so you can begin the journey with those you love. Our brothers and sisters who find themselves living in poverty have transformed my thirst for more—-we need them as much as they need us.