Work: Alleviating poverty and the danger of false identity

Idleness is debilitating.

MoHI welding program - Photo Credit: Ryan Barnett
MoHI welding program – Photo Credit: Ryan Barnett

Father, husband, shows up at a construction site, waiting for the day’s assignment. No work for the day, he wanders back into the streets, unable to provide for his family that day. What options does that leave? Targeting items of the wealthier, gang involvement, alcoholism and more. Of course, this is not the only factor. There are systems around him – economic, social, political, that play a part in his story.

Repeated generation after generation.

It’s been called a cycle. There is no easy exit – no straight line to follow directions out of.

And so, it’s into the cycle we go – and many others – to find a point to grab onto and wrestle with, loosening the ease before another generation repeats the same story.

Bead work training
MoHI Bead work training program

The opportunity to work is one point we have grabbed onto. Access to small amounts of capital and basic basic financial services – the ability to save, training in a marketable skill. Attacking the thief of idleness through work.

With work, Father, husband finds something to accomplish, and a way to provide. Dignity. Mother, wife, finds value in services that can better the community rather than play on their vices. Dignity.

But today, we wake up and find ourselves in a different environment. Several friends cannot go to work because the federal government has termed their jobs un-essential. Our situation is different – support raising requires a different set of scheduled events. For those of us without an “8-5,” it is all too easy to feel a different pull…

I should be doing something more. 

Anxiety begins to build when there is not a pile of things scheduled to do – projects that need to be completed.

Is this idleness? Or is this an unhealthy pressure from something different?

This world – the first-world, operates on constant movement and submission to chronos.

To work, to perform, in quest of success. Recognition. To please, and to impress. Until there is nothing left to give.

Even in the world of working against poverty, a pressure builds to succeed.

No matter how hard you have worked – at the end of the day what do you have to show for it? Often, in Kenya, there was very little “productivity” we could show at the end of the day. One thing a day was enough to be proud of. This is not laziness – this is all of the factors that play into getting something accomplished. The four meetings that need to take place to have everyone on board before a decision is made – the cultural importance of the group. The things that come up while those meetings are supposed to take place – the inability to control outside circumstances – life keeps going on in the world outside – the world we are here to work for. 


The issue is not work itself, but the way we define ourselves by our work – or lack of.

How often initial meetings begin with the question – “What do you do?”

Somehow, somewhere, we have developed this idea that our worth is intrinsically tied to what we do.

Which slowly, over time, tears away at the same dignity we praise to build up.

Both worlds ache for lack of freedom. Freedom that lifts Father, husband from turning to drink and releases Mother, wife from choosing shame.

Freedom that breathes on the over-worked and says simply, “You are the beloved.”

Breath that breathes kairos into our chronos, and tells us that God is nearer than we think.

And, as we pause to catch a whisper of this breath, washes over us with the identity that we can never find in work.

Before we can leave our homes searching for income for the day, or before we can lift a finger to turn on the computer, We are loved.

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