Today I saw a scrawny 14-year-old boy hand over three dollars at the gas station. He wasn't buying chocolate or chips. Instead, his mum was standing outside in the forecourt, watching for her son's nod, poised with the petrol pump in her hand, ready to shoot a few moments worth of gas just to get them those few extra miles down the road.
It took me a moment to piece the situation together, as I casually handed over my own eftpos card to pay for a full tank of gas. It dawned on me that the mother was too ashamed to step inside the kiosk to hand over her last measly dollars. Instead, she made her young son pass over those three single gold coins on their behalf.
Shake off your complacency
Think about it â what does three dollars really mean to you? Is it literally the last piece of coin you have to pay for meals for the next week? Or would you drop your purse in a food store and not even bother to bend over to search for the 'shrapnel'?
While some of us have lived on what we have seen as a tight budget at some stage â whether we were a University student, or on a low-paid first wage â have we really given thought to those living in our neighbourhood where a tight budget is their everyday reality?
What is it really like to be living hand-to-mouth in a first world country? What's it like to live with the shame of not being able to provide for your family? To have the stress of wondering quite literally where the next meal will come from, where you'll forfeit your own dinner if it means you'd be able to feed your own family. Where you're so ashamed of your own situation that you'll send your son to face that embarrassment. Where you'll take out loans from unscrupulous loan sharks with crazy rates just to fend the wolf from the door today.
Seeing that young boy in the petrol station shook me out of my complacency. You see, in my daily professional environment and living in a nice part of town by the ocean, interacting with poverty isn't my everyday currency.
Yes, I might be addicted to my news app on my phone, and I'm aware of displacement, rape, murder and brutality around the world, but it's typically the stories from overseas that capture my attention. I usually skim over that article on the housing crisis in New Zealand or poverty rates in our city.
These personal stories of the family down the road are glossed over â if these people live in New Zealand, their poverty doesn't really compare to that of those overseas, right?
Homelessness doesn't really live on our streets... people can't be poor if they live in our area (they have clothes on their backs)... and we trust that there is a system in place to support them if they are truly in need. I wonder if these become our truths even in the Church.
Charity begins at home
I've been asking God to show me what breaks his heart â and that it would break my heart. I hadn't expected this story to do that. I'd thought God was going to send me to Cambodia, or South Africa, to work with street children in Brazil ... Instead he chose to remind me there's always need right in front of us â and he called me to be the person he needs to make a change in someone else's life.
According to an excellent article in this month's New Zealand Geographic Magazine (March/April 2015 issue), more than 30,000 New Zealanders lack a proper home, and we now have a situation in this country that's been coined the 'hidden homeless'. The writer raises an interesting point about individualism â how we as a society are becoming less concerned about the needs of our own community, instead it's about what we need.
Have we become detached and apathetic as a Church? Perhaps we even give to local charities, but we never make time to practically do anything to help our nation.
Do we even know what the facts are? Are we hungry to find them? Do we sing 'Use me Lord' in church and then never do anything pro-active?
To be honest, I don't pretend that I did â and this moment's interaction of this young boy and his mum have startled me out of my comfortable place to get pro-active.
Let's not be a nation that is so outward focused (on other's countries around the world), that we are prepared to sit by and watch our neighbourhoods decline.
Yes, Jesus did say that we would always have the poor, but Luke also tells us that as Christians we the receive the Holy Spirit so we can rock into action â not just sit back and have a nice time at a Sunday service during worship: 'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.'
Originally from The Lake District in the UK, Amanda works in Publishing in Auckland and is passionate about seeing Christians bring salt and light into the media, arts and creative industries.
Amanda Robinson's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/amanda-robinson.html