Thursday, December 5, 2013

What Dave Ramsey gets right about poverty

Recently, some of my kindest friends have posted an article that immediately caught my attention due to the name in the headline and the author.  The article, written by Rachel Held Evans, is entitled "What Dave Ramsey gets wrong about poverty."  Being that it was Christmastime and Dave has been top of mind for me and my family (I'll get to that in a minute), I clicked on over with an open mind 1) because although I follow Dave Ramsey's teaching, he's not Jesus, so he could have gotten it wrong and I wanted to be informed, 2) to see what he could have said that disparaged the poor--after all, as a former poor girl, I get all fired up about someone talking bad about the least of these.

courtesy of CNN's article mentioned, courtesy of Dave Ramsey
As I read, I was discouraged and encouraged at the same time.  I was discouraged because among other things, the title of the article didn't really match the article itself.  Rachel Held Evans wasn't really even addressing something Dave Ramsey said;  she was criticizing one of the many articles reposted on his website by Tim Corley. RHE's article would be more aptly titled "What Tim Corley gets wrong about poverty." But wait, who's Tim Corley?  I sure didn't know, and I beg to guess that many others don't either, that's why it was more likely to be read if Dave's name was interjected in the article since his postings during the Christmas season are getting heavy traffic from followers like myself who need a little inspiration to get wealthier this Christmas season.

Oh wait, scratch that, as a stay at home mom, I'm unlikely to get "wealthy" (which is what RHE insists DR followers are after) during the Christmas season since most of our money is leaving the house in the form of giving to causes (the public school system that needs more money during this time of year with fundraisers, events, deadlines, etc), paying higher bills (winter=more expensive), clothes for the kids since they apparently grew, etc.  Ugh, I digress...Obviously I'm not getting wealthy.  The REAL reason I perk up when I hear the "other" bearded man during this Christmas season is because no matter where I turn, I am barraged with deals, sales, MUST-HAVE "savings," that are effective in making me feel like I MUST buy stuff for my children, family, friends, self.  Gifts that "won't disappoint," sales that you "can't afford to miss," offer promising of acceptance and joy.  But Dave says "Don't believe that crap! [paraphrased]."

He offers advice budgeting to make sure that you don't overspend, tutorials on making gifts when that's all you can afford, guides to help you decorate with what you have---resources to help you use your own resources without tacking on debt and despair this holiday season.  But oh wait...did you see that?!?! Yep, there it is.
via Dave Ramsey's Facebook page

He "judged" the people using government assistance.  That's it. I'm done!

Oh, wait, I actually read the whole thing and it didn't judge anything.  It says that I can take initiative and prepare myself.  Who does he think he is?  We're barely scraping by here.  I've gotta hang on to what I have.  Oh, but I seem to recall someone else encouraging me to use my resources wisely no matter how meager they seem.  So Dave Ramsey & Jesus are on the same page when it comes to this. 

In addition to Dave Ramsey's encouragement to those in tough financial situations, the actual article that Tim Corley posted has some really good advice in it.  Maybe the title sucks, I'll let you decide, but telling people to eat less junk food, exercise, and listen to audio books (the three things RHE criticizes) is NOT WRONG people.  

Sure, poor people have less money to spend on healthy food and junk food is cheapers--BUT beans and rice, lentils and couscous, frozen veggies and Aldi produce are affordable.  How do I know?  Because I bought them with my food stamps---AND I lived in a "food dessert."   Does it get old?  Yep.  Do I feel like crap and get sick all the time when I eat the above food--nope.  I feel much better.  But what REALLY gets me about this article and others like it is that it makes the assumption that "poor" people aren't smart enough to get this.  The reality is, when people say, "Oh I'm sorry you're having to eat Cheetos for dinner, I understand" instead of saying "hey, let me teach you how to eat healthy on a budget" they too, are contributing to the problem. 

Thankfully, I had a mother that taught me to count price per ounce and to buy on sale and resources that taught me to cook with what I had so a quick, cheap meal didn't have to mean McDonalds or a bag of Skittles.  

Next point, exercise.  Whether its running to the bus stop or taking the stairs at work, every little bit counts.  Saying "poor people don't have time to exercise" is again, insulting.  We all have 24-hours in a day.  I've worked 2 jobs while going to school as a single mom.  I found time to exercise.  For me, it was jogging on the sidewalk with my baby in the stroller or dancing for 25 minutes in my living room while he watched and laughed at me hysterically.  Don't say "poor people can't."   Give encouragement instead, y'all!

Oh but, you know poor people can't listen to audiobooks.  Really?!?! Maybe they don't have an awesome library or used bookstore that sells stuff for super cheap or free like we do in my city.  Maybe there's no time for checking stuff out (there is).  Whatever.  When I hear this, I hear "poor people don't want to read audiobooks."  The reality is, they may not be a part of the "culture of poverty," but an article like Tim Corley's is saying exactly that.   I read his article and thought "here's some stuff that those with more resources value, but might not talk about---maybe some poor people could benefit from."   I didn't get "do these things and you'll be rich" and I doubt the other poor people thought that either--until someone told them that's what they should think.  

I will end my rant with my overall belief that God created us all equal.  We are born with gifts, talents, abilities, etc into an imperfect world where we must make choices that can either help or hurt us.  Dave Ramsey and others empower us to look at scripture to see how to make choices that align with the Bible so that we can make a positive impact in our lives---enabling us to give to others.  That's what he gets right. 

In parting, before you assume that I am "rich" like Dave Ramsey (who started his ministry after going bankrupt), I am not.  Some of us are born to single parents and have daddies that left us because they mentally chose to continue living in a cycle of poverty.  But that doesn't destine us to be in poverty the rest of our lives.  Thanks to biblical wisdom that encourages us to use whatever we have---however little that might be--we can be blessed by God's generous provision. God says that if we are wise with what we have, He will entrust us with more.  

Does that mean we'll be rich?  No, our lot is not always measured in wealth.  But we can be diligent and intentional with what we have and break out of the bondage of debt---as Dave Ramsey, so passionately teaches.  He provides resources that can help those who are in debt and influenced by consumerism and convenience, no matter how "rich" or "poor" they may be. 

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