“No future story.” That was the message that continued to speak to me during the poverty workshop which I attended this week through my new job. The words gripped me, and my first thought was, “No! That’s not right!” The short sentence popped up on a slide, and was gone in a few seconds from my sight but not from my heart. “No future story” conveys a presumption that is deeply imbedded within generational poverty, which is a perceived inability to project toward and plan for the future. They are so wrapped up in the stressors of the moment, from struggling day to day to meet their immediate needs that they have no future story. There is something inherently wrong this presumption. For many of you reading this piece, you know exactly what I am referring to: We are all part of a larger story, a fairy tale, really, where there is a happy ending. My next thought was how can this larger story best be shared with those who have no hope? The answer I came up with is relationship. This relationship piece can be as small as it needs to be, or as immense as having a one to one with the creator of the universe.
I began to think about folks in twelve step recovery programs. The leading factors among those that are successful in attaining a break from their addictive, destructive behaviors can be found in the first three of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:
- We admitted we were powerless over (you fill in the blank) – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
These words came directly out of AAs “Big Book.” As a beginner in AA, I quickly saw usefulness in these steps that could be applied to many problems that are suffered by my fellow humans. I felt that everyone could benefit from a twelve step program, no matter the issue. The point is that we all have junk in our trunk that needs to be cleaned out. Dependency is not a bad word if it is used in conjunction with God.
When I sat in this poverty workshop and learned about these perceived truths from the desperately poor, I wondered if the first three steps of AA could be of use. AA is all about relationship. First, a person must get inside of the “rooms,” then develop a relationship with a person who has shared similar circumstances. What happens next is “larger” relationship: Learning that the world really doesn’t revolve around one’s self, and there is a larger inter-connected relationship with the God of the Universe who loves you. Many of us take pride in our self-sufficiency, but it is never enough. There comes a time in each of our lives, undoubtedly, when we must look outside of ourselves and depend on the God of the universe to carry us through. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich, poor, middle class, red, white or blue.
AA does a wonderful job of redirecting one’s vision to their higher power, thus connecting them to their role in the larger story, and it’s free. Generational poverty, I’ve learned, is not as easy to break out of as some might think… but within the constructs of relationship it is possible. Just sayin’.