I’ve been reading Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland. We’re doing a book club over at High Calling Blogs, and this first selection has really gotten me thinking about the insidious nature of poverty, and about how a few simple things can make a real difference.
What has struck me lately is how we all end up with little attitudes and beliefs that keep us ‘poor’ in one way or another. In the second chapter of his book, Strickland points out that despite the fact that they lived in a dangerous ghetto, his mother refused to let their surroundings become a part of who they were. You can come from a place and not be of that place. Where you live, what you do for a living, how much you own…these things do not have to become who you are. Strickland writes of his mother’s take on life…” ‘Just because we’re poor,’ she’d say, ‘we don’t have to live like defeated people’.”
What makes poverty so hard to rise out of? Certainly there are many economical and social reasons why it’s such a struggle. But Bill Strickland has found two very powerful antidotes to poverty and personal defeat: Beauty and Hope.
There’s not much beauty in life in the ghetto. Buildings are crumbling, paint peeling, rust encrusts everything once shiny and weeds grow through every crack. It becomes a downward spiral…the worse things look, the less people are inclined to look after them. You develop tunnel vision, you don’t see the ugliness because you become immune to it.
We are creatures designed to love beauty! To be deprived of it does something to the soul, takes away some piece of life and leaves you longing. Strickland’s mother seemed to know this intuitively, and fought hard to keep beauty in her household. He tells of weekends spent scrubbing their wood floors, on hands and knees. Scrubbing with a brush, buffing with a rag, and polishing with floor wax each week. A task he hated…and yet, the gleaming floors in their house spoke of possibilities. Told them that they were worth beauty. And that made a difference.
How do you find hope in a seemingly hopeless situation? Strickland’s book has made me rethink some assumptions I’ve had. I always thought that reversing hopelessness was like turning around the Queen Mary….a huge undertaking that would take many years and perhaps a team of experts. And yet, Strickland found hope as a teen that turned his life around in a few short months. He discovered that he enjoyed…and was good at…pottery. This simple addition to his life was the turning point for him, in a matter of months he had found direction, confidence, and hope for a future he hadn’t seen before. A few short months, a simple lump of clay…that’s all it took.
These thoughts are turning around in my mind. Strickland’s own past, and his amazing success turning people’s lives around with a program based simply on beauty and hope have proven that perhaps it’s not as hard as I thought to turn things around. Perhaps we could make a huge difference, just doing little things to infuse beauty and hope into the lives of those around us. It’s an exciting thought!
And although they are little things, I’ve already changed a few things in my own life because of this book. I’ve become more aware of the things (both literal and figurative) cluttering up our life as a family that have become part of the landscape and go by unnoticed, and I’ve started to clean them up. I’ve made a point to bring more beauty into our home, and to give the children a little extra leeway to pursue their hopeful plans (the existence of the kids’ Rattery is probably in part due to my reading this book!). And I’ve scrubbed all our scared old wood floors with a brush and hot water scented with Geranium cleanser, and waxed them with two layers of floor wax.
It does make a difference!
Join us in our discussion over at High Calling Blogs! It’s never too late to read the book with us, or just come over and leave a comment or two. There are more posts on chapter two over at L.L.’s Seedlings in Stone and Laura’s Wellblog.