When I was teaching at Grace Christian Academy, the 7th grade class played an economics game. Each student was given a piece of pie, a pencil, and a dollar.
Students A and B ate their pie. Student C cut his pie in half, selling one half to A and the other half to B for a dollar each. A ate the additional piece, and her only remaining resource was her pencil. B kept the additional piece and still had her pencil. C had no pie but had $3 and a pencil. When he decided he wanted to buy back his half slice from B, she sold it for the pencil. Then, it was time for an assignment which required the use of a pencil. C was without a pencil and had to buy his pencil back from B for $3. They all started with the same resources, but in the end, A and C each had a pencil, but B had a pencil and $3.
Some people manage resources better than others. Some are wiser and more visionary. Some people take more risks for greater rewards or greater losses. Sometimes a person is either in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time. Thus, simply throwing out resources, expecting people to be equal, isn't the solution. There will always be a stratification, but we can change our systems and processes, so people have a chance to succeed.
Poverty-Hope, Genuine Opportunity, and Accumulation
Jesus said we'd always have poverty. "Poor" is a relative term. I've seen shanty towns in Kenya and Mexico. To them, someone living in a trailer park is "rich." To a foster child whose parents prefer the drug trade over them, the child with loving parents is rich. To the father who hates his job but keeps it because it's the only job he's qualified for, the father who loves his job with sick leave, vacation time, insurance, and 401K is rich. The key is not making everyone the same but improving the system so if people want to change, they have access to resources which can facilitate the change.
The keys for addressing poverty are: Hope, Genuine Opportunity, and Accumulation.
Jennifer works 2 jobs. She works at a pizzeria while her daughter is at school. The boss is understanding and allows Jennifer's daughter to stay in the dining room when she's not in school. Jennifer moonlights in direct sales. Her husband works at a grocery store. They're making enough to get by, but...
They wonder if there are possibilities for something better. There are "now hiring" signs all over, but the jobs require certifications which Jennifer and her husbands do not have. Other people may be thriving, but Jennifer and her husband don't see that in their futures. No hope.
Jennifer's boss sees she's a reliable worker. She shows up on time and does the job correctly. She's well-liked by customers and co-workers. He believes that Jennifer could be a chef at one of the nicer restaurants in town, making more than he could pay, plus benefits. Even though he could lose one of his best workers, he tells her about the possibility. He even introduces her to one of the restaurant owners. Jennifer imagines herself as a chef with a white jacket and poofy hat. She now has hope.
Teach to fish, but also go after whoever's stealing their fish.
Jennifer wants to go back to school to study culinary arts. Several restaurants in the area are looking to hire trained chefs and future projections are promising. However, the nearest school is an hour away. Yes, they offer online classes, but Jennifer doesn't have reliable Internet access. Plus, she has to account for tuition, childcare, and time (she's currently working 2 jobs). If she attained her culinary arts degree...
She could work 1 job full time in her field, have adequate child care, and have time with her family. However, at this point, as wonderful as the opportunity is, it is unattainable. There's no pathway connecting her current situation to her desired situation. Not genuine opportunity.
The library has evening programs for children and Internet access. The librarian also let Jennifer know about an agency that provides back-to-school scholarships. Jennifer signs up for classes. While her children are enjoying library activities, she completes her schoolwork. She now has a genuine opportunity.
Help each other to climb higher rather than slide in the mud.
Jennifer earns her degree and works full time a local restaurant (with benefits). Jennifer discovers a good deal on a food truck. The restaurant owner helps her buy it and adjusts her schedule so she can take the truck to festivals. In time...
Jennifer's daughter is old enough to operate the food truck with her own crew, and Jennifer buys another food truck. Sometimes they go to the same festival with one or both trucks, and sometimes they go to different festivals. Jennifer is gaining collateral for herself and her daughter. Accumulation.
In addressing poverty, people need to know there is a possibility for a better life, AND they need a clear pathway for how to get there. Thirdly, they need to be able to gain assets (beyond simply gaining and consuming more resources). There are resources out there, but are they available? How do we connect resources to those who need them? Internet, Childcare, and Education (ICE).