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Its been two weeks now: Pink tights. Black tights. Black and blue stripped tights. Red sash, blue sash, green belt, pink belt. Red leggings. Gray leggings. No leggings, jeans! Its hard to be original when you wear the same thing everyday. BUT I WILL WEAR SOMETHING NEW! Even though its really the same thing everyday.

Today my Little Black Dress (LBD) was puked on by a baby. All down the side of it, into my TOMS. And I sighed, smiled, and gave the baby back to her mommy with a shrug. Who really cares? I don’t have a choice. Because this is what I wear. This LBD is my shell. And as I’ve discovered in the last two weeks, that a shell is really just a shell. Yesterday it was frosting. The day before, food spilled on the front. Then the week before it was bed bugs! Really? Yes.

So. Inhumanely. Gross.

But I just washed it again that night, and put it on again the next day. I am probably the only one who cares about my shell.

So what am I even talking about? I’ve been taking on the challenge of only wearing one LBD for a month. February, the short month.

One month. One dress. One cause.

So what am I doing, again?

The basic idea is that you wear the same main article of clothing everyday. I actually believed I might convince a few people to join with me. I convinced my dad. That wasn’t what I was hoping for, but hey, I’ll take what I can get! His crisp black dress shirt and all!

I’ve also been wearing a ridiculous button too, which says what I am doing (hopefully to make it more obvious). Then when I get a chance I share about my motives with those I talk with. I have a fundraising page set up to give money to organizations who are are doing humanitarian development and providing relief aid in the Horn of Africa, South Sudan and the Sahel where food crises are stealing lives on so many levels. I’d love to raise $2000! Why $2000? Because it is more than the $500 I think I could raise. But its less than the $5000 my friends at Convoy of Hope will work with me specifically for this fundraiser.

You see, I like dreaming big, but not too big. Its still realistic. If all my Facebook friends donated only $5 (an amount I know we can all probably sacrifice) we would be well over my goal.

There is Hurt

It was easy to choose hunger as a cause because I believe that someday it will be the epitaph of extreme poverty. It is estimated that there is just shy of a billion hungry people in our world, about a 7th of our population. It seems so unfair that I have many different choices of things to wear while hundreds of millions of people still don’t even have enough to eat. Ya, I know the hungry live all over the world. But famines, and large clusters of hungry people, the physically hopeless stretching for hundreds of miles… that is just wrong. It should not be.

Yes, we can blame their hunger on very reasonable culprits that we should pay attention to. We even often blame the hungry themselves. But who does that help? Last I checked, condemnation was the devil’s game. Because casting blame only justifies indifference. It doesn’t breed grace, mercy and love. I want those pretty things to live in me. I realize it isn’t poetic or hypothetical– its just true: my money, our money, can lit.er.al.ly save lives.

And by not buying new clothing, I can give some money away.

By wearing the same dress, in a small way I can relate to the poor.

I was asked the other day what the big deal was about wearing the same dress everyday. I thought it was a good question. What’s the big deal?

Really, I don’t think it is a big deal. But it is counter-cultural. Honestly, everyone has been telling me that they would do the same thing if it was just their favorite shirt, pants, boots, bright red hairstyle. Which I think is great. So far, they haven’t joined me yet, but maybe they will. I don’t think we don’t really mind wearing the same stuff, especially if we like it. But we do mind committing to the same stuff. To limiting our options. To willingly removing choice.

And that is what being poor is like. It is having no choice.

I do realize there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes the poor make bad decisions, choosing to be poor. But next time you see someone who is poor, before judging them, ask them their story. Seek to understand them. You might be surprised.

But really, especially in the developing world, the poor have almost no choice.  These governments, if not already volatile, have some choice. They can choose to be corrupt, at war, affecting the people. Humanitarian aid has a choice of what to pour money into- is it fostering dependence on the Rich World? Or is it helping them get on their two feet? But when there is no food/water/education to start with, work that only provides for 60% of your daily rations, little to no means to save or get credit, and wolfs preying on these most vulnerable… little to no choice. What would you choose? Choose to move to the city and live in the slums? Where is your hope for a job there? Maybe you’ll find work in a grueling factory making phone parts? But maybe a miracle stranger will loan you $25 to help you buy a basket of produce to sell down the street, or free you from slavery. Maybe then you can have a choice.

I know we don’t normally talk about it, but this is the life of the poor: a life of no opportunity.

And it breaks my heart. I want people to know it breaks my heart. And I am the first to be guilty, judging my fellow Americans because it is not breaking their hearts.

And then there is Hope

I am pretty sure that the gospel I believe in includes hope. Hands down, most importantly, the hope of a relationship with God. And the Bible, (the basis of what I believe is truth) indicates that it is the rich who are poor, because we don’t think we need help. And the poor are the ones who will be blessed, because they realize all they have is God.

But many of the Poor World have never even heard of this hope.

Then many who have heard of this hope, have not been exposed to living the principles of this hope. The principles that can bring blessing, while still on earth.

Typically we don’t share our hope with those who live far away, the ones who need it so desperately. Just because they live far away from us, why do we ignore their need for the same hope we hold? Hope through a life-changing word. Through a glass of water, through a bag of seeds, and through the technology that allows workers to produce more grain. Hope displayed by not ignoring any injustice we hear of; not turning a blind eye to corruption. Hope, which comes in the form of a bar of soap and the basic principles of hygiene that we’ve been so blessed to learn since childhood. Am I wrong in saying that this is a task that would honor God? To bring wholeness to those without wholeness? In all aspects- both spiritual and physical?

And by sharing the hope we have within us, we are transformed to be a people who love. Actually love. Care. Whom push away indifference, even when it doesn’t seem to affect our lives?

This is what I hope for. When I wear this little black dress, daily, this is my white flag I raise. I surrender. I surrender to the fact I am not perfect and I don’t always “get it.” I confess I am angered by the indifference of my fellow Americans. And I surrender by saying I don’t know what to do, but I am going to try to make a fashion show out of the same stupid piece of cloth so everyone I am in contact with will know something about me:

My heart breaks for the poor. For the mother who has to decide which of her children to feed the last handful of grain to. For the injustice of it all. And I want to do at least something, even if its really nothing much of anything. Right now, this act is my hope.

My original goals were to raise both awareness and funds to help those in extreme poverty. But, regardless if I achieve those goals, I’m aware that this project has been changing me. I see that I am becoming free to be more generous and loving. And those then shape me to become a better advocate for those who need hope.

Ideas for Action:

1.) Considering doing the Little Black Dress project with me (or, a little black shirt, or maybe just a boring scarf) next month.

-Check out the post Action: Little Black Dress Pt. 2 (The How) to see to pull this off logistically.

2.) Consider joint fundraising with this project page or donating here to give help to hose on the brink of starvation: http://www.crowdrise.com/littleblackdress2012

3.) Ask God to show you where your indifference has caused you to turn a blind eye to those whom He loves and how you should respond.

 

“But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help- how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.” 1 John 3:17-18

Consider reading more from the Action: Little Black Dress series: the original Action: Little Black Dress, Action: Little Black Dress Pt. 2 (The How), Average Action, 29 Days in a Little Black Dress.

Resources:

Bread for the World. (2012). Hunger and Poverty Stats. Retrieved on February 19, 2012 from http://www.bread.org/hunger/global/facts.html