Yes, I know that “Poor-a-phobia” is not a word, but I believe it is a sickness that exists within our society today. So I will name it and define it. “Poor-a-phobia” is the internalized fear of Poor People fueled by limited facts mixed with myths and stereotypes. “Poor-a-phobia” can be increased within Privileged People who are not in significant relationship with Poor People. Now some Privileged People may respond to this definition by saying, “Some of my best friends are Poor.” They may also say, “When I look at people, I don’t see Poor, I just see their heart or character.” These statements are no escape or solution to the sickness. They are hard to support when the more privileged you become the distance between You and the Poor increases. This can actually increase the sickness.

Speaking of sickness, an interesting thing occurred when I boarded a plane earlier today. A young Black woman with a natural hairstyle and wearing a hoodie cleared her throat. The older White woman next to her asked if she was sick. When the young Black woman replied, “No,” (without a West African accent by the way), the older White woman asked if she was sure. She wanted to know for sure whether or not she needed to switch seats. The young Black woman showed such grace and patience with the older White woman. Why was the older White woman so concerned? Now there is a growing fear of people we assume are from a Poor and African part of the world carrying sickness. “Poor-a-phobia” causes people to wonder why Black people who they perceived to be Poor and from Africa are coughing.  They show no fear when Privileged People cough or leave a public restroom in the airport without washing their hands. We also now have a fear of White Missionaries who hang out with Poor Africans. I am not stating that we shouldn’t take the Ebola crisis seriously. But why not use this time to rise up like never before to tackle the deep systemic connection between poverty and disease-based epidemics. Instead, the sickness increases.

“Poor-a-phobia” can also show up when we lock our car doors only when we enter into an under-resourced urban neighborhood. It’s not that locking our car doors is a bad idea. I just wonder why we don’t lock them as soon as we’re pulling out of the driveway no matter the location of our destination. As I’ve already defined though, “Poor-a-phobia” is not just the fear of Poor People, it is also about myths and stereotypes. We carry these lies about the Poor, especially those in the United States of America, including the Undocumented. We hear sound bites about how the Poor want the government to take care of them. About how the Undocumented are just coming into the US to take advantage of the welfare system. That Poor men are just making babies they don’t want to raise. And the news clips take over. We do not boast in the Poor and Undocumented People who are married, raising children, working multiple jobs, going to school, and serving as leaders in their churches. If we are going to tell the story of Poverty, let us tell the whole story based on actual relationships so that we might cure the sickness of “Poor-a-phobia.”

Ultimately, we cure the sickness of “Poor-a-phobia” by loving and believing in the great potential of the Poor. We must see the Poor the way Jesus Christ sees the Poor. We must interact with the Poor, the Marginalized, and the Outcast the same way Christ did. Christ had compassion for the Poor. Christ empowered the Poor. Christ lived as one of the Poor. So Christians must decide if we love the Poor. Either you love them or you don’t. Either you’ll empowerment them or you won’t. I desire to love the Poor more and more each day. The truth is I’m a product of the love, toil, mistakes, faith, endurance, suffering, and faith of Poor People. How could I ever fear that? Will you let the love of Christ spill over to the Poor in your life and cure your sickness?