The Poor People’s Campaign for Moral Reconstruction is a Poor People’s Moral Movement. It is motivated and led, not by experts or politicians, but rather by people who themselves KNOW poverty, up close and personal…Folks who KNOW that something is wrong, that poverty is an evil which hurts, and that the only way to make the immediate and deeply rooted pain stop for all of us is to face it, to know it, to study it. And, most importantly, they are people who are prepared together to push back against poverty and against the rich people who personally condone it, and whose laws, systems and structures perpetrate it.
HOW do we know? We study poverty through stories. Her stories, His stories, Our stories. Our lives tell stories — stories that are our truths, our “data,” our evidence. I mean the stories we hear from our families, our friends, our “people”, and from our own selves when we talk to ourselves about what we KNOW happened, not LIES other people told us to confuse us, or because they so much wished their world had been different, or because the pain of their stories was just too hard to face.
My own stories first emerged at night when as a child I lay in bed telling myself what I KNEW was really true… In the dark, I needed to warn myself, to explain to myself, at least, about what I thought was happening in my world, and why what Mother and others around me were saying wasn’t true, couldn’t be right. Somehow those corrective stories helped keep me going. And still do. (Even though I’ve had to learn that they too may not be the only truth, that I need to keep revising them so I don’t fool myself either).
So what does it mean that this Poor People’s Campaign is a Movement built on the TRUE stories Poor People tell? And, indeed, what do we think makes a good story? It is one that is true, and yet still bravely open to constant evolution based on others’ different ways of explaining things, as we share more stories. It is one that sounds true because it is clear, with understandable words, explained clearly AND checked out against other stories, and other kinds of data.. It may begin with “once upon a time:” in a particular place, far away or familiar. Or it may start with an example, a story about something or some things that happened to me…”Let me tell you about a time when this happened, then that happened, and then something else happened next.”
When somebody tells us a Good Story we go back with them, We feel something of what they were feeling that thereby helps us to connect, to learn, to want to know more, to ask questions. We want to tell our stories; about what we learned, or about what it might mean. We ask, why did a particular story happen the way it did? What other stories does it prompt us to recall? To want to share? To want to understand more deeply?
By hearing ourselves tell our stories we, in turn, help ourselves not feel so alone, Not be so alone, to figure out a next step, or two, or a next question to ask. A next person to talk with…To discover that Hope which us allows to keep on keeping on.
SOON, in Massachusetts and across the US, we will be to creating Poor People’s Campaign Storyteller Teams who will gather stories from the people most impacted by poverty in ways that explain and justify our Movement. Check it out.