Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “Live Under the Line”

Hope In An Age Of Hunger

Are we conforming to a culture of comfort at the expense of those in need in our City? Roger Wood shares what he’s personally grappling with post-Live Under The Line.
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“So what happens now? Another suitcase in another hall…” These are the lyrics from the chorus of the song sung by Eva, in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Don’t cry for me Argentina”.  These words sprang into my mind, as we came to the end of another attempt at Living Under The Line.

At our first attempt three years ago, my wife and I just about managed to keep to the R60 budget but the second year we failed!  This year I’m afraid we modified our target restricting ourselves to a modest breakfast and evening meal only and reflecting on how others cope when they have to manage on this amount daily.  But is it really about surviving the three day target?  If we are thinking this way we’re missing the point.

Prior to Living Under The Line, I had been helping a local NGO evaluate bursary application forms.  One of the requirements was that the applicants must be from a rural area and one of the points to consider was financial need.  Many of the applicants stated that they were living with Grandmother, as their parents had died. In addition there were often a couple of aunts and uncles living in the house as well as the additional siblings.

Grandmother was able to get a state pension of R1260 and child support subsidy for two children. That amounts to a total income of R1860.  If you do the maths, that works out to R10 per person per day.  These stories brought home to me the reality faced daily by so many in our country.

At the same time I had been re-reading the book, “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”, written by Ron Sider back in 1978. For me, the challenge of Living Under The Line was more of an opportunity to examine our own lifestyle.  I began to recognise that my wife and I have adopted a lifestyle similar to those in our community. We spend our money on: our home, food, clothes, possessions, entertainment, cars and holidays.

We have a greater affinity with the affluent rather than with the downtrodden and the oppressed. We have accepted a middle-class culture and have ignored Jesus’ radical teaching with regards to money and possessions. We have not even chosen to live simply, so that others may simply live.

People with money can always buy food. Hunger affects only the poor and as they usually live a long way from where we live, we are not always aware of their need.  What a tragic picture! Affluent Christian communities amassing wealth while millions of people hover on the edge of starvation.

Ron Sider sums up the first chapter of his book with these words:

“But if the Christ of the Scripture is our Lord, then we will refuse to be squeezed into the mould of our affluent, sinful culture.  In an Age of Hunger, Christians of necessity must be radical nonconformists.  But nonconformity is painful.  Only if we are thoroughly grounded in the scriptural view of possessions, wealth and poverty will we be capable of living an obedient lifestyle.”

What do you think?

-Roger Wood is a retired educator presently working as a volunteer with Common Good.  He and his wife, Jane, are members of the Common Ground Constantiaberg AM congregation.

P.S. Did you know yesterday was World Food Day? Here are some other interesting reads: “Beyond The Hunger Pangs” and “13 Million Reasons To Do Social Justice”

Beyond The Hunger Pangs

During the Live Under The Line challenge, the Common Ground Church base was buzzing with conversation as staff members traded recipes and shared their experiences. But what about a month later? Here are some post-LUTL staff reflections…

I’m trying to be more generous

156098_10151343760646281_797515950_n-001“After doing LUTL, I’m more aware of how I spend money on a daily basis. It’s incredible how all the little things we buy here and there add up and are often unnecessary luxuries—luxuries that most living in poverty cannot afford to have. I’ve tried to cut back on unnecessary spending and also limit my electricity usage to have more on hand for blessing others. During LUTL, I became quite grumpy and moody when I didn’t have enough to eat for the day. Now when I see someone begging who is quite aggressive or desperate, I understands that it might be just because they haven’t had enough to eat. It’s given me a greater heart of compassion and grace for people living in challenging situations.” – Lindsay Sherring, Common Good fundraising coordinator

I’m thinking, what else?

73017_457583527711_6000657_n-001“This year was my second time doing LUTL, and whilst the first time was about initial exposure and counting the rands and cents, this time was more about the unbelievable reality that 13 million South Africans live on R10 a day for ALL things. It made me realise how easy it is for me to pay R40 or R50 for a simple lunch – when that represents the entire amount one person living below the breadline has to live on for five days. The hard part is the next step. Contracting budgets is one response – but what else? It will be different for everyone, but there must be some kind of response.  But guilt cannot be the driving factor, otherwise our motives will be misplaced. It must start with seeing others the way God does – made in His image, and therefore deserving of dignity.” – Tim Hoffman, Common Good mobilise and equip programme manager

I have more compassion

901939_611366308891932_516021097_o-001“Around the office we chatted that it was almost impossible to live on R10 a day and remain healthy, both mentally and physically. I’m far more aware of people who are living on the street and I have more compassion for them and their situation. Now I take the time to talk to them, to be friendly and engage them in a conversation, rather than just giving them a nod or smile or ignoring them completely. I have tremendous respect for those who struggle on a daily basis to cope with life without adequate resources. I am truly blessed to have what I have and be in the situation I am, but I am also aware that anyone can end up in a desperate situation and that it is often not of their own making but because of life circumstances beyond their control.” – Moira Richards, Common Ground Church hospitality and redemption group coordinator

What about you? Has the Live Under The Line challenge impacted you in anyway?

P.S. Other great post-LUTL reads: “13 Million Reasons To Do Social Justice” and “Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow”

13 Million Reasons To Do Social Justice

Did Live Under The Line challenge or change the way you live in anyway? Eulogi Rheeder shares how living on R10 a day opened her eyes to the individuals behind the statistics.

A snapshot of Eulogi's groceries for the three day challenge

A snapshot of Eulogi’s groceries for the three day challenge

I’ve done Live Under The Line (LUTL) every year, but my hunger pangs always got the better of me and I usually gave up before the end of day one. This year, however, I was determined to complete the challenge or, at the very least, make it to the end of day two.

As I set out on the first day of the LUTL challenge, 9 September 2013, I asked God to freshly stir my heart for social justice in our City. Instead, He opened my eyes and gave me 13 million reasons to take Live Under The Line beyond the three days. Here’s my story…

Last year, my small group visited The Haven Night Shelter in Woodstock; our aim was to spend time and bless those who are vulnerable, in need and away from their loved ones. On the first night I met Diane*. She had come to South Africa from Malawi in the hope of creating a better life here. Instead, she found herself homeless, unemployed and at the mercy of others. I was touched by her story of bravery and her love for Christ, and how she didn’t allow her circumstances to dictate her zest for life.

My small group continued to visit the shelter every couple months and my friendship with Diane grew; she also started coming with us to Common Ground Innercity.

But soon enough ‘normal’ life – work, family, friends, church and other responsibilities – took over. And my friendship with Diane became secondary to the ‘more important’ stuff in my life. I would see her at church on Sundays and SMS her every other week, but my contact with her had become a social justice act without Jesus at the heart. In short, it was nothing more than just another task.

Fast forward to Wednesday, 11 September 2013, the final day of Live Under The Line. I had made it and was just a few hours away from finishing the challenge. Many of us were talking about what we would eat once we are allowed to break the R10 a day bank: Big Macs, a Vida cappuccino, a bacon croissant, Speckled Eggs… the list went on and on. As I was excitedly thinking about what I was most looking forward to eating again, Diane’s face popped up in my mind.

Although my heart had made the connection that Live Under the Line was recognising and identifying with how 13 million South African’s live every day, my eyes were starting to see the faces, stories, hopes and hurt behind the statistic – it was people like Diane.

Suddenly LUTL was no longer about the food, the money and the hard-hitting stat, but about the people; the 13 million individuals. This thought challenged me to think, how was I going to take LUTL with me into the rest of the year? How was I going to live social justice with the heart of Jesus for the other 362 days?

In John 13:34, Jesus instructs us to love one another just as He loved us. When I read this scripture on the afternoon of 11 September, I knew that this is how I (and you) can take Live Under The Line with me (us) every day: if I truly loved Diane, like Jesus loved me, she would be my friend; we’d have a real relationship; and Diane wouldn’t be just another tick on my social justice to-do list.

So, in the month since LUTL, I’ve freshly approached my friendship with Diane, based on John 13:34. We visit each other at our homes, we’ve gone for picnics and braais, and we encourage each other with scriptures. She’s told me about growing up in Malawi and I’ve shared stories from my teen years. I’m now purposefully spending time with her; not because I feel this is what I need to do, but because I’ve gotten to know Diane, and truly love her and call her my friend.

Diane and I come from very different backgrounds and very different circumstances, yet we meet each other in the middle because we love each other like Jesus loves us.

LUTL has not only allowed me to look at social justice with fresh eyes, but also challenged me that it’s not about what I do for social justice, but about how I do it.

So, how are you doing social justice?

*Name has been changed

– Eulogi is the communications manager at Common Good and a member of the Common Ground Church InnerCity congregation.

P.S. Some more LUTL feedback and reflections: “Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow” and “Have You Heard Of LUTLing?

Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow

What answer will you give when asked by a future generation, “You knew and what did you do?” George Draper shares his post-LUTL reflections with us.

Photo Credit: ºNit Soto via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ºNit Soto via Compfight cc

Have you heard of the ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’ shrub? The plant gets its name because its blooms come out deep purple, fade to lilac, and finally to white before they wilt. Recently, while looking after my grandsons, my thoughts drifted to their future and the future of our country, especially in a post-Mandela scenario. It struck me how this plant is a picture of three generations.

My grandsons represent the fresh generation full of colour and promise with us grandparents at the other, more faded, end. I now see ‘Yesterday’ as my generation – the one which conceived and implemented the apartheid system. ‘Today’ is my children’s generation born into the period of transition but still benefiting from apartheid’s lingering unequal distribution. ‘Tomorrow’ is my grandchildren’s generation born after 1994 with no real understanding of the past.

The freedom of 1994 meant different things to different people. For the ‘have-nots’, freedom meant being equal and the  possibility of ‘having’. For whites who struggled with being part of an unjust society, it was freedom from feeling guilty about being white. And some equated freedom with a ‘take what you can get’ open season.

“Freedom” now is a system badly flawed and certainly not what people sacrificed and died for. The reality is that the struggle isn’t over – it just looks different. The time has come to fan into flame our dormant passion and compassion – and to intentionally do something to make a difference.

My son once asked me about the apartheid era: ‘You knew and what did you do?’ My answer was to serve as a medical doctor working in rural and other underdeveloped areas. It was during this season of our life as a family that I realized that making a real difference would include not only health care but also doing something about poverty, education, income generation, housing and paying a livable wage to those I employed. Always acknowledging and treating people with respect was a given.

Recently, this took on an unusual form. I was looking after someone’s home and the domestic helper came in while I was there. Having made some plunger coffee I offered her a cup. She accepted and remarked that now she knew what the thing she’d had to wash so many times previously (i.e. the plunger) was actually used for. This simple offer and a chat was a way for me to make her feel ‘seen’ and appreciated.

What does a biblical perspective on this look like? Isaiah 58:6-12 gives an idea.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them…?”

God wants our service to go beyond our own personal spiritual growth to acts of kindness, charity, justice and generosity. True fasting is more than what we don’t eat; it is pleasing God by applying his Word to our society

These were the Scriptures Jesus knew and used. However, he took them to a new level of action. A generation before Jesus, a well-known Rabbi called Hillel was asked to summarize the Law while standing on one leg. His answer? ‘Whatever is hateful to you don’t do to your fellow.’ Jesus was asked a similar question. His answer stood on two legs: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart… The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’”. Hillel came with the minimum requirement. Jesus came with the maximum.

God’s focus on the poor, the widow, the orphaned and the foreigner hasn’t changed. Nor have the needs of this world, if anything they’ve increased. The Live Under The Line challenge was intended to raise our awareness of these issues. In our home we learnt a lot about how people living under the poverty line (‘them’) live in comparison to how we normally live (‘us’). It would be sad, no indeed wrong, if it remained ‘them’ and ‘us’. So what can we do?

It can be daunting to think of the depth of the need and inequality in our country, but a good place to start is by thinking of those people you can reach out to in your everyday space. Remember the biblical principle of gleaning where the one that has much deliberately leaves some for others less fortunate to collect. Why not apply this principle to the people you come into contact with every day?

Remember that one day – ‘tomorrow’ – the question will come in some form or other: ‘You knew and what did you do?’

 – George is a retired medical doctor and serves on the leadership team of the Common Ground Church Rondebosch AM congregation with his wife, Bev.

P.S. Interested in finding out more about the biblical concept of gleaning? We recommend reading, “What is Urban Gleaning?” by Caroline Powell

What have you been grappling with in the weeks since having done the Live Under The Line challenge?

Have you heard of lutling?

Probably not, but if you’re intrigued, read on. Christine Martin van Wyk explains her experience of ‘lutling’ and why she and her husband are going to do it again.

Christine and her husband Simon took part in the three-day Live Under The Line challenge

Christine and her husband Simon took part in the three-day Live Under The Line challenge

lutl·ing [lah-ti-ling]

verb 1. the act of a person or thing that eats food to the value of ZAR10 or less per day with the express purpose of identifying with the 13 million people in South Africa who live below the poverty line. Usage: “Would you like a granola bar?” “A granola bar is R7.50 and I’m lutling. That’s three quarters of my daily allowance.’’

Did you ‘lutl’ last week?

Congratulations are not necessarily in order, for the simple reason that living under the line for three days is not really a triumph. I spent a large proportion of my three days dreaming about my meal at midnight on Wednesday. My hunger pangs mingled with the uncomfortable reality that the 13 million people who live under the line every day of the year, and who I was trying to empathize with, didn’t have that meal to look forward to.

A self-confessed foodie, I am far from bashful in declaring that food brings me a lot of joy. I love everything about it. I love buying food, I love baking wedding cakes. I love putting a meal down on the table and I especially love watching people bond over food. I spend the better part of Sunday planning a weekly menu for my husband and I. Ask my friends, ask my family. Ask my Weigh-less coach. I love food.

To give you a good idea of our Live Under The Line (LUTL) experience, I’m going to be interspersing this post with Tweets  from by husband’s Twitter account during the challenge. Here’s the first one:

“Tonight I ate an ungodly amount of pasta to try make up for the next 3 days. It’s all the fun of carbo loading but without the race. #lutl” ‏@simonstreep

The usual preparation went into lutling this year (third year running): the tears, the denial, the bargaining. The soya mince. And yet God had new things for me to learn.

Small things:

Packets are an unnecessary expense. As my husband and I clocked in an early shop at Checkers, with calculator in hand, we forgot to factor in the price of a plastic shopping bag, never mind the eco-friendly brown paper ones I usually use. We carried our instant noodles, tomatoes and bread in our arms. That was a first.

“Wife and I heading to Checkers for our #lutl shopping. Holding thumbs for some unrealistic specials. Whole chicken for R2.99? Can only hope.” ‏@simonstreep

When you have little, it means a lot. As we packed our boot with the groceries, I worried about the eggs. I mean, I usually give them a second thought, but never before have I actually been concerned for their well-being. But when those six medium non-free range eggs represent three breakfasts for two people, I worried.

Carelessness is a luxury. I cooked some butternut soup in advance and I left it out over night, because the pot was hot. It wasn’t ready for the fridge, and I often do this. But this time of all times, the milk I added (for the creaminess that is normally provided by my unaffordable yogurt) must have soured. My final LUTL dinner was a slice of bread with margarine and some sweet potatoes that a friend spared for me.

“Wife just phoned to say our butternut soup has fermented. But I had already finished a bowl. #fail #supper #lutl” ‏@simonstreep

My husband really does need me. That is all.

“I might need lessons in frying eggs again… #eggfail #breakfast #lutl” ‏@simonstreep

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“I spoke too soon. Tomorrow, my wife shall be on frying duty… #breakfast #fail #lutl” @simonstreep

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“My wife fried my egg this morning, hence why it actually ended up resembling an egg. #breakfast #win #lutl” ‏@simonstreep

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Big things:

Assuming others needs is dangerous. On Mondays, our church meets to pray. In light of LUTL, we had a few representatives from some of our Common Good partner organisations share with us the ways we could partner with them in prayer. I was struck by the common thread in their requests. They need people. They asked us to pray for people – for more volunteers to join their ranks and for existing volunteers who are working under challenging circumstances. An example, they asked us to pray for the teachers at a school where funding for a feeding programme has been lost. These teachers now have to choose seven children from their class of 45 who will receive a meal.

This really struck me.

My assumption has always been that organisations are under-funded, and while they certainly are, the request was for people to join their ranks. People are needed, our TIME is needed.

Moreover, giving financially to these organisations doesn’t exempt us from giving our time to them. Nor does giving our time let us off the hook of giving of our finances to organisations that are in need.

Being in need makes us vulnerable. Vulnerable to cold weather. Vulnerable to sin. It’s easy to be ungracious, impatient and downright grumpy when we’re hungry, when we’ve shared our slice of bread with a ‘starving’ spouse. It doesn’t excuse us for rudeness, or excuse genuine malice, but it explains and contextualizes the genuine struggle that a quarter of our country experiences.

When we see faces that look genuinely surly or disgruntled, we can be aware that it may be rooted in genuine vulnerability. Not hunger. Not a headache that cannot be medicated. Vulnerability. And our grace goes a long way for these faces and people.

God gives us more (grace). James 4:6. We are not above new lessons from our Heavenly Father. Having lived under the line twice before, I wondered what I would have to write about. Now I’m struggling to keep quiet. Just as a piece of scripture on different days will speak to us in varied ways, the same experience can yield brand new fruit. Fresh grace and tears for those who experience this struggle everyday of every month.

I’ll be lutling next year. Prepare yourself in advance, @simonstreep.

– Christine is the coordinator for the Common Ground Rondebosch AM congregation and embarked on the LUTL challenge with her husband, musician and writer, Simon van Wyk, who provided a running commentary of the LUTL challenge via his Twitter account.

So how did you find lutling this year?

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