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My Life Before and After Poverty

Kendra Norris June 10, 2016


Never had I thought twice about the snack-cupboard in our kitchen. It was always well-stocked with my family's favorites: Oreos, Pringles, vanilla wafers, pretzel sticks, old-fashioned potato chips, Goldfish, and those delicious mint girl-scout cookies, just to name a few.

And yet, once or twice a week in our house, you would inevitably hear the sound of me shouting, "Mom! Come on! Why aren't there any sour cream and onion chips left? I hate Ruffles! There's NOTHING in this house to eat!" followed by the violent slamming of a cupboard door.

I can still hear my spoiled, ungrateful voice echoing through my head. That cupboard was full of food, and not just the necessities, but extra treats we were fortunate enough to enjoy whenever we wanted. Yet all I could see in that cupboard full of packaged treasures was what wasn't.

Fast forward a few years. I'm on my DTS outreach, and I'm living in a village in South Africa. I'm sleeping on a mattress on a dirt floor, bathing (if you could even call it that!) in a plastic tub about the size of the kitchen sink in my childhood home, hand-washing my clothes, and eating meals consisting of chicken heads and feet. Needless to say, there are no snack- cupboards in sight.


My team and I were there for two months of service. I had never experienced devastating poverty like that before -- miles upon miles of dilapidated shacks lined the streets. There was no hope of a better life in sight. Of course, as followers of Jesus, we were trying to be that hope; we went with the purpose of bringing light to people trapped in darkness, yet sometimes it felt more like we were struggling keep our heads and spirits above the fierce, dark, unrelenting tide of poverty. I didn't realize how much my outreach affected me until I returned home. I never imagined that a silly snack-cupboard would mark me for the rest of my life.

I walked back into my childhood home and breathed in the scent of the familiar farmhouse. Here, at last, with my DTS and South Africa behind me, my heart was at peace. Finally I could rest and forget about the heart-wrenching poverty.

I remember the exact moment when I walked up to the snack-cupboard. I planned to do what I always did whenever I felt bored or even remotely hungry: gaze at the rows upon rows of colorful snacks until I found the perfect one to satisfy my craving.

But no, this time was different. I felt my breathing stop, like someone had -- in the precise moment I opened the cupboard doors -- placed a weight upon my chest. I looked out at the bags, packages, and boxes, and I felt my heart start to sink. What was that feeling? Pain? It came from somewhere deep inside of me. I felt the tears well up and begin to spill over. Soon I was crying. Before I could question why, I was standing in front of the snack-cupboard bawling like a child.

It took days, weeks, and months to process those tears. Why did they come? Where had they come from? And why did I struggle to even look in that direction again for the following weeks? I believe that the extreme contrast between my home and those poor villages hit me harder than I had prepared myself for. Of course, there were many other first-world luxuries in my home that I was able to enjoy again, but God chose to specifically use that snack-cupboard to teach me something. The cupboard smacked me in the face, reminding me of my ungratefulness, my hard heart, my negative attitude, and my desire for more... and more…. and more, without a second thought of how much I had already been given.



So yes Lord, you can have those sour cream and onion chips. Take them, because now I recognize and acknowledge all that you've already given me, and I am thankful for the huge blessings I have in comparison to so many others. Thank you for showing me the two extremes, and for beginning the process of loosening the nasty grip greed had taken hold of me. As I go forward, please help me to never forget the lessons of gratitude you've taught me.

I will be forever grateful for the village streets of South Africa and for the Pennsylvanian snack-cupboards.

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