“I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”
We hear this phrase frequently in the halls of M-POWER. At times it’s uttered by clients; but more often than not, it’s voiced by staff members or volunteers.
The unknown is a vulnerable place. To think you have the answers, only to be rocked to your core with what you “didn’t know you didn’t know” is something else. It’s an education in humility.
When I first began my tenure at M-POWER I was to be here only a short while. The Board of Directors hired me as the interim with the responsibility of keeping the seat warm, signing checks, and making sure the organization didn’t fall apart before they found a permanent Executive Director. More than ten years later I’m still here and still learning new things I didn’t know I didn’t know.
For starters, I had no idea how unique M-POWER’s program offerings were to the Birmingham community. When I came to M-POWER in 2004, the M-POWER Health Center was and remains the only completely free health clinic in Jefferson County. It took me six months to realize there truly were no other options for those without health insurance or adequate health coverage.
I also had no idea how huge the problem of illiteracy was in our community. The statistic from ten years ago still remains. An estimated 13% of adults read below a 5th grade level. That’s 90,000 of our neighbors who struggle with filling out job applications, reading work orders, helping children with homework, and reading the Bible on their own.
Beyond M-POWER’s programs, I didn’t really know what it meant to live in poverty. As a seminary student and someone interested in ethics, I had read countless books on the subject, to be sure. But books can make it easy to create a faceless cause, and at M-POWER, the faces and stories of our clients made the problem of poverty real. When you meet a woman who must choose to say with an abusive man or take her and her children to the streets it’s difficult to remain apathetic.
Ten years later I’m still receiving an education. I know that I don’t have a magic solution to end poverty for my neighbors, but God keeps using me, M-POWER, and our partners to help people develop the tools they need to have enough. Because ultimately that’s what God desires for his people: wholeness, health, enough.
I am thankful that Christ calls all of us to work to make that possible for our neighbors. May the spirit of humility be always present within us as the Lord works to teach us more of what we do not know.