Being counted with the poor

We have been hanging with economically poor people for our whole teen and adult lives.

I went on many orphanages and dumps to visit people when I lived in Southern California.

I chose a nursing school on the East side of LA that staffed a hospital that took care of the poor. I remember cleaning all the maggots out of wounds and showering them with various insecticides before they were admitted onto the ward.

During this same time Andrew was hanging out with drunks in Australia. Filling a thermos of coffee and going out to hang with them.

Andrew and I met on a ship that brought really inexpensive educational books to poor countries in Central and Latin America. We slept in warm bunks and sailed away to the next port.

After having a couple of kids we lived in San Francisco. Almost at the corner of Haight-Ashbury, just as the area was being overcome with street kids after the death of Bob Marley. Sometimes we would sit with the street kids and hear their stories. We were counted as one of them by passers by and were spat upon.  People would look at me and my kids and shake their heads.  We ran a feeding program. Brought a big pot of soup and bread into the park and shared it with whoever was hungry. We went out onto the streets and invited the street kids into our home for a shower, a meal, a chat, a song, a conversation, a cuddle. We even shared some of their diseases. But we were still separated by the fact that we had a bed under a roof in a house where we paid rent. Granted it was just a couple of mattresses we strapped to the wall with a safety belt during the day so the kids had a place to play. We also shared the flat with 7 others. It was still something that set us apart. We sat on the streets during the day and went back to sleep under a roof. We were looking in from comfortable lives.

Now, we are counted with the poor.

We are downwardly mobile.

We live in a truck.

We are global nomads.

We are travellers.

This brings about certain problems. My kids don’t need a toilet to go pee. They all prefer to find a nice, private “shrubbery” to pee on. This is fine in Morocco. This is not fine in the United Kingdom. They eat lots of weird food but they are beginning to shun private plates and utensils. What does this mean? Well, for one thing we are having more and more difficulties hanging with the middle classes the more we hang with the poor. Not as someone who goes back to their apartment after but sleep side by side with the poor. It is out of choice, we are counted as poor. But what about our kids. For those that have eyes to see our kids stick out from the norm with their acts of generosity and inclusion. However, their inability and seeming ambivalence to typical social games can make them appear immature and weird. They are flexible and independent but Andrew and I get to bear the judgement of being bad parents when we give our kids freedom and responsibility and a voice that is alien to most kids.

We are counted with the poor. Are we doing the right thing? Are we being fair to our kids? As adults Andrew and I have a choice but are we plunging our kids into a strange existence and outlook on the world that can marginalize them. I am so proud of my kids and young adults (to see the joy and the pain look at Sam’s last 2 blog entries on his diary entry and coming home ). I really dont know how to raise kids differently. Are they going to get beaten up in a world that may never understand them? They are being counted with the poor and the marginalized.  I don’t know if I feel like a good parent right now.

We are counted with the poor. We are becoming less and less able to fit in to Western middle class. We share the shame.

We are counted with the poor. What are we learning? 
Inclusion and acceptance,

sacrificial generosity,



How to love and forgive complete strangers.

How not to judge.

How not to let anger take over when we feel injustice.

Shanti, shanti, shanti. Peace, peace, peace. Hope.



  • Michele R. on January 5, 2011

    Having 4 children and wanting to head out into the poorer areas / 3rd world missions, I wonder if I should wait until they are “grown” so they don’t have to be part of the craziness… Love this entry and know that God will bless us when we follow Him. THANKS!

    • admin on January 6, 2011

      I think there is no better or safer place in the world than part of the craziness. As a family all our steps seem to get crazier and crazier.

      At one point we moved into a cargo van and a small tent with our 4 kids. Our youngest, Hannah, was only 6 weeks old at the time. I am glad we didn’t wait.

      I think younger kids are easy to move about. If you do it right. You won’t be able to move around as fast, you will need to slow down and respect their pace. We needed to have the rhythm of a family which means slowing down to enjoy beauty in your surroundings and other people. We also have had to learn to “check-in” with our kids and allow them to be fellow decision makers. They have been exposed to deep sadness and otherworldly beauty from a small age. They have been exposed to drug addicts and extreme poverty from very young. They have sat on the laps of AIDS victims and told them stories with little girl joy. They have had profound effects on so many people. They have seen angels.

      Actually, I would think just the opposite about age. Don’t wait till they are too old because old habits and creature comfort expectations are hard to break.

      If you want to talk more please email or comment again.

  • Rosa on August 24, 2010

    dear mother! ( i met you as “the mother”, in Aourir, with Calin 😉 I have no kids but i can deeply understand you, i think..and just want to say one thing: your children will not get beaten by society, cause this world is changing, and we are thousands working on it, spreading the word around. The collective conscious is undergoing a beautiful awakening, which spreading faster and faster, more than any of us would have dream. Might be on grass roots level, right now, but believe, in different ways, some places much more stronger than others, this miracle is happening. So don’t be afraid, don’t hesitate. You are having your children the most wonderful experience of true Life, parents could get ever give. You are lucky, they are lucky, and will be not only fine in this world, but seeds of hope and true love for all surrounding them. Keep going and stay strong in the path of creativity, freedom and love. Rosa

  • whitney on August 24, 2010

    ooops… meant to omit for e runners as we are not at all… just finding our roots and exiting Babylonian slavery!!

  • whitney on August 24, 2010

    This has been a stream for me too… I now know more than ever that we are for runners and preparing our children to really SEE and HEAR… I want my kids to know what is real and really FEEL it in their hearts and bones… that life is precious… people are precious… the earth is precious… the idea of ownership is so new a concept really and foreign to our hearts… we are finding more and more people “marginilized” and ya know what… I am glad to be awake and exiting the matrix!!
    LOVE… you guys are RAD parents and I love you..

  • Joanna on August 14, 2010

    Who wants to be comfortable middle class anyway? Okay I do have a nice home but we live in an apartment with a right mixture of folks and we feel included by most of them, not bad for Brits who don’t speak the Latvian language yet. Two of my three kids have also grown up with a love for the poor, one would rather do children’s work with the poorer kids than those from comfortable middle class backgrounds because they are more fun.

    Keep on going! It will be worth it as you are already seeing. Great work!

  • mollycar on August 13, 2010

    I identify so much with what you have written My kids grew up in a poor area as we ran a soup kitchen and a half way house for addicts. Our home was open to all and sundry and an interesting collection of people stayed in our home. My children are all adults now, they are very comfortable with addicts, homeless people etc.They find it harder to relate to mainstream society. They enjoy shocking people with examples of their “scary” childhood. One piece of advice I would give you, be very very vigilent about your children’s safety. I was too trusting with some people.God protected my children on many occasions.It is a joy to see them serve God.
    Blessings to you and yours