August 31, 2011

Top 10 Things I've Learned from the Poor . . . So Far (Day 40 - August 31, 2011)

It would be very easy for me to start belly aching about the rain, how the temperature hasn't risen today since it reached the overnight low (6C), how the day lingers on when one just wants to stay warm  . . . but I'm not going to do it!  (Well, except for that little snippet . . . :P )

Instead, I've been thinking about the various things I've learned from those in poverty situations over the last dozen years through my experience with CAUSE Canada, my writings and research, and the last 40 days living in a tent.

Here are the . . .

(Drum roll please . . .)

TOP 10 THINGS I'VE LEARNED FROM THE POOR (. . . SO FAR)

10.    We can, and should, appreciate what we have . . . whether that be a lot or a little.   Strangely, I find those in poverty are better at this than those with a lot of stuff.

9.    What true generosity looks like.  Giving a large amount when that amount is only a small portion of what you have is not as generous as giving everything that you have, even if "everything" is not very much.  I was invited to a feast in West Africa where I later found out that our hosts emptied their cupboards to feed us, and they were absolutely joyous in doing so!  (For sure we reciprocated their generosity, but they did so with no expectation of such . . . just faith that their needs would be met the next day.)

8.   Food is first and foremost fuel for our bodies.  While many of us like to have "fun" with food, we must always remember that doing so is an incredible blessing of abundance.

7.   It doesn't take much to make a world of difference in the life of someone who has very little.  I've seen, and experienced, how much a warm blanket improves one's standard of living.  I've seen women who literally have 4 (or more) additional working hours in their day because a single pipe is installed to carry water to the front of their home.  I've seen, and felt, the difference that a warm smile and big hug can make to someone.  And, I could go on and on . . .

6.   We live in a world of grey . . . not black and white.   There are as many different stories and reasons as to why someone finds themselves in lack as there are people in lack . . . and it is NEVER one-sided where the person in poverty is entirely in the wrong (and, in fact, wrong-doing on their part is often not even a factor).  We can't pigeon-hole people . . . every person is unique and a child of God.

5.   The importance of faith, especially for those with little resources.  I've found that faith is often stronger amongst those who are in poverty as faith may be the only thing they have left.  It's so much easier for those with an abundance of resources to look to themselves as the alpha and omega of their lives, from which it is not a long journey to losing some of the precious guidance that faith provides.

4.   The poor are just like the non-poor on the inside . . . we are the same, we are one.  There are smart poor people, and not-so-smart poor people . . . there are funny poor people, and not-so-funny poor people . . . there are shy poor people, and not-so-shy poor people . . . poor people have problems and joys, too . . . poor people want their kids to be healthy and happy, too . . . etc.

3.   Community and relationships are much more important in places where the standard of living is low.   This may be too much of a generalization, but it has been my experience so far.  People in poorer countries in which I have travelled seem to want to deal with people first and business second, whereas that is often the opposite in industrialized countries.  A friend of mine in the relief and development community adopted this as a guiding principle for his organization . . ."People are more important than projects."

2.   Hard work alone does not guarantee success.  Some of the hardest working people I have ever met are poor.  It is important for the non-impoverished to recognize that in addition to hard work, our success is also attributable to other factors.  Perhaps some luck?  Being in a place with opportunities?  Being healthy in body, mind, and spirit?  Getting a helping hand when needed?  Recognizing this allows us to take the easy step of blessing the lives of others out of a sense of our own blessings.

And the number one thing I have learned from the poor (. . . so far) . . .

1.   We have lots to learn from those in poverty.   It was upon learning this, which wasn't hard . . . all I had to do is listen and observe . . .  that I was able to learn all of the above and so much more.  It's plain wrong, and a trap, to think that simply because someone comes from a place of resource abundance that they know more than those who may need some help.


So . . . are there some things that you have learned from those in poverty that you would like to share?  I would love to hear from you by leaving a comment below.


Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.

The Truth is Beyond What You See

The 2nd of 5 videos featuring an interview with Deb Runnalls, Street Level Manager with The Mustard Seed . . . a ministry serving the street homeless for over 25 years.


For more information about The Mustard Seed and its programs, please visit www.theseed.ca.


Want to see the first video?  CLICK HERE . . . "Panhandlers, Street Homeless & The Mustard Seed"



Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.

August 30, 2011

Revealing a Secret (Day 39 - August 30, 2011)

I've been keeping a secret from you, and I've just decided that I should come clean.  However, before I tell you what it is, I need you to know that there is a point to this sharing . . . I'm not looking for pity or sympathy or anything like that.   Okay?  Okay.

Here it is . . . I've been receiving communications, usually anonymous, that I consider to be "hate mail".  Thankfully, there have only been a handful so far, but I know there will be more.  For some reason, there is a portion of the population that is either so angry, so disturbed, or so otherwise aligned that it makes sense to them to attack another person.

I should make it perfectly clear that I do not have any difficulty with people expressing different opinions, and fully expect that many people will disagree with me.  In this regard, I have had some wonderful exchanges with people . . . wonderful in the sense that they were respectful and civil even if we did not see eye to eye.

I know . . . you're dying to find out . . . "What sort of hate mail . . . What did they say?"  I'd be curious, too.  While I don't want to dignify them by repeating exactly what they said, I can tell you a little about them.  Some of the ones with nicer language called me a "complete idiot", "misguided", an "absolute joke" and my personal favourite . . . "a twit" (. . . we don't use this one very much anymore).  The harsher ones included suggesting that I am delusional, under the influence of Evil, and doing this project totally for the money.  Silly me, I hadn't realized there was a lot of money in poverty.  Oh . . . and I must not forget (although I would like to) . . . I was the victim of a Twitter attack that was one of the most vulgar, profanity-filled things I have ever read.  Interestingly, the five "attacks" were spread through different medium . . . two e-mail, one Twitter, one print media, and one blog comment.

I believe we can learn from every experience if we are open to it.  For one thing, I've learned some new swear words, to be sure.  And, I've also learned that poverty is God's wrath on people, which is why more people who are not of the Judeo-Christian fold are in poverty. (NOT!! NOT!! NOT!!  But that is what I was told by one person.)  But seriously, I have learned that you have to develop a tough skin to put yourself "out there" as there are people who will take shots at you.

It's this learning that leads me to having shared this with you.  I had thought to keep my mouth shut because I mistakenly thought it had nothing to do with me experiencing an element of poverty.   However, it then occured to me that it has EVERYTHING to do with the poverty experience.  For absolutely no fault of theirs, homeless people experience prejudice, discrimination, and abuse simply for being.  Homeless people, particularly those on the street who are interacting more with mainstream society, get insulted and treated as something less than human all the time.

As I said, I don't want you to feel sorry for me or anything because a handful of people with problems decided to send some daggers my direction.  I'm a big boy and, while it does hurt when it happens, I can shake it off.  Besides it happens far more to others.  But there is something I would like you to do.  Regard those who are in poverty, whether that be homeless or otherwise, as your equal.  In other words, SEE the person inside and not their situation.  Perhaps that means giving a warm smile . . . not crossing the street to avoid them . . . helping an organization dealing with the poor . . . or actively standing up and saying that abuse of any kind will not be tolerated anywhere anytime to anyone.

Hey!! I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.

August 29, 2011

School Daze (Day 38 - August 29, 2011)

Today was the first day back in school for my kids . . . Jenna into Grade 7 and Ben into Grade 11.  And, I'm a little bummed.  Not about them going to school, but because I wasn't able to play a very active role in it with them this year.  Partly because they are getting older, and partly because of living outside with self-imposed parameters on me.  Actually, I've got a lot of thoughts and ideas swirling in my head . . . a school daze, you might say.

My first thoughts were of my kids, and how proud I am of them being able to do more things for themselves.  As you would expect of a 12 year old, Jenna is able to get herself completely ready, lunch packed, and off to the bus stop.  While it is good she doesn't need our help as much anymore, I always liked walking her into school on the first day and getting her to where she needed to go.  And, Ben . . . well he not only gets himself ready but can now drive himself (and his buddies) to school.  All of that said, I did miss being part of the preparation this morning.

I imagine that there are homeless people on the streets, or in refugee camps, or otherwise separated from their families who are especially missing their kids on days when they see other kids or pass a school.  As for me, I think it would eat me alive .  If I didn't suffer from poor mental health alreI think that being away from my kids would drive me into depression or cause me to lose my hold on reality.  That's just a lot to deal with in addition to having to work to simply survive each day.

Of course, there are many poor kids in other parts of the world who wish they could go to school, but their families just cannot afford it.  These families need their kids to work in the fields or do vital chores, and education is often a luxury beyond their grasp.  Unfortunately, this also perpetuates the poverty cycle as education is one of the greatest catalysts to improving one's standard of living.  Fortunately, there are organizations like CAUSE Canada (www.causekids.ca) that have programs to get kids into school in places like Sierra Leone, West Africa where it can be a considerable challenge for families.


And, for poor kids in Canada and other countries where education is universal, going back to school can be very stressful if your family doesn't have enough to eat.  Once again, thankfully, there are organizations that work to fill this gap and provide lunches to kids with none.  Shockingly, last school year Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids (www.brownbaggingit.org) provided over 600,000 lunches to kids in need in one of the most affluent cities in North America.  This food not only nourishes the body, but allows the kids to learn better.

Okay . . . I'm not as bummed any more.  I am so blessed that my kids can go to school and have enough to eat.  Now, we just need to keep doing what we're doing (and perhaps a little bit more) to make sure kids everywhere in the world are just as blessed.



By the way, if you haven't already done so, check out the new video I posted from my interview with The Mustard Seed  ("Panhandlers, Street People & The Mustard Seed").



Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.

Panhandlers, Street People & The Mustard Seed

The following is the first in a series of 5 videos that share an interview with Deb Runnalls, Street Level Manager for The Mustard Seed . . . a ministry that has been working with street homeless for over 25 years. Over the course of this project, I shall be providing several interviews with people from various organization at the "front lines" of poverty in its various forms.

I hope you find this interview with Deb as interesting and informative as I did. And, of course, a big thanks to The Mustard Seed for their participation in this endeavour!


For more information about The Mustard Seed and its programs, please visit www.theseed.ca.



Hey!! I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.

August 27, 2011

This, That, and The Other Thing (Day 36 - August 27, 2011)

That Poverty Guy (Sean Krausert)
Day 36 - Hairy & 223 lbs
First of all . . . THIS.  Since starting this project 5 weeks ago, I've officially lost weight equivalent to a hefty newborn baby . . . 10 lbs.  Hey . . . why are some of you shaking your head at my comparison?  If I had told you that Ms. So and So had just given birth to a 10 lb baby you would be all, "Wow!  Omagosh!!  Zomagoodness!!!".   How about we try that again . . . I've now lost 10 lbs since living in a tent.  There that's better.  After all, that's the same size as an incredibly obese chihuahua.  (I see those heads are shaking again!)

It's been a different sort of week regarding food and exercise.  I've had a lot more exercise due to my bottle picking day and having to head into to town multiple times for various reasons.  However, I've also had opportunity to royally pig out on two occasions.  One of them was an invite to a smorgasbord full of sausage, hash brown potato casserole and scrambled eggs.  The other wasn't really pigging out per se but there were some plates of cheese that I tucked into pretty well.  A guy's gotta eat when he can!!

Secondly . . . THAT.  I should give you an update on my pocket cash situation.  I believe that at last report I had about $10 and change.  Well, I ate that.  I became famished when I was out and about one day and so I bought a submarine sandwich and a drink.   Then, I gathered $7.30 worth of bottles.  And I ate that, too!  As you'll recall from my bottle picking blog . . . a milkshake and a hot dog (Cotton Pickin' Bottle Pickin').  But, fear not dear reader!  I was paid for looking after animals.  The actual amount received was $170 ($10 per day x 17 days) . . . but like most homeless people the biggest chunk of that went towards care for my family.  (Yes, most homeless people are in a family situation . . . refugees, those living in urban slums, and those having lost homes due to natural disaster.)  So, at present, I have $20 . . . and feeling rich.

Finally . . . THE OTHER THING.  I had a wonderful stroke of good luck this morning.  As you will recall, I received a special lunch from Mrs. Poverty Guy a couple of weeks back in exchange for me mowing the lawn, fixing the screen door, and washing the outside windows.  The first two items were done right away, but there was a delay on the window washing until this morning.  However, after finishing the windows, there was still plenty of warm, relatively clean, SOAPY water left in the bucket.  Sooooo . . . I washed my laundry in it!  It was the first time my clothes had touched soap in over 36 days.  I likey!!

Remember everyone . . . it's the little things that can bring a smile to someone who has very little and make a world of difference in their lives.  The $20 and warm, soapy water certainly did the trick for me.   For someone else it might be some warm clothes or a blanket, a pipe bringing water to their home, a safe wood burning stove, a micro-loan . . . or even a hug.


Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.

August 26, 2011

Really . . . What Does IT Look Like? (Day 35 - August 26, 2011)

That Poverty Guy pondering
an image in his mind.


Most people have an image in their mind
of what poverty looks like. 

I know . . . because people tell me about it.





Invariably, as I walk down the street or sit in a coffee shop or blog/post/tweet, someone will stop and tell me what I am doing wrong with how I am being "homeless" (. . . using that term loosely because I'm not trying to imitate homelessness . . . since you can't).  They're not trying to be negative.  Quite the opposite, they're just trying to help me do it right.  And here I was not even knowing there was a right way to be homeless! 
Who knew?
If I gather up all of the advice and comments from people as to what it looks like to be in poverty or to be homeless, the picture resembles what one would consider a "street bum".  You know . . . the filthy guy sitting on the sidewalk with one hand out and the other hand on a bag with a bottle in it.  That guy, according to my advisers, definitely doesn't live in a tent, doesn't have access to a bathroom, and doesn't see his family.  That guy isn't supposed to have anything and is supposed to be miserable all the time.  And often, it is believed by more than a few, that guy deserves his life because he has made his bed (if he had one) and now he must lie in it.  To be honest, I sure am glad I'm not "that guy" . . . and I'm certainly not trying to be.

The fact is that the vast majority of those who are in poverty situations, a large number of whom are homeless, are NOT "that guy" either.  People are surprised when I share with them that most homeless in the world actually DO live in tents (or some other form of rudimentary or temporary shelter) . . . in refugee camps or urban slums . . . and they have their families with them.  I think all of us, me included, have to constantly keep our minds open as to what poverty looks like because only then will we truly see it, and truly be able to help.  We have to look past the circumstance, past the stigma, and see the person like you or me that needs some help.  When we do, we will see that poverty actually has billions of faces.

Let's try something . . . no, no, no . . . it won't hurt and there is no karaoke involved.  I want you to take three slow deep breaths, and with each slow exhale release all of your previous thoughts or preconceptions about what poverty looks like.  (STOP!  Don't read further until you've done the three breaths . . . )  Now, let's reinvent our image of what poverty and homelessness looks like . . .

The poor and homeless . . .

. . . is the woman with a battered face and broken spirit living in a relative's basement with her young kids.

. . . is the family trying to rebuild their lives after their village and everything they had was washed away by a tsunami.

. . . is the old man with his entire clan living in a refugee camp fleeing conflict or drought.

. . . is the young man on the street who has no family or friends and had nowhere to turn when depression overtook him.

. . . is the First Nation Canadian youth who "has a home" but must sleep in shifts with the 20 others who "have a home" with him, while not having access to clean water or electricity.

. . . is the grandmother living in a decrepit hut open to the elements (and critters!) who is the sole provider of her orphaned grandchildren whose parents died from AIDS.

. . . is the family of six living in the slums of a sprawling mega-city, and whose shelter is a few pieces of corrugated metal crudely attached to form a shanty enclosure.

. . . is the girl who was sexually abused in her childhood, and ran away from home only to land on the street selling her body.

. . . is the man whose "brain broke" with the sudden death of his wife and two kids, and wanders the streets talking to them.

. . . is the young 10 year old African boy, with a gaunt face, yellowing eyes, and loose teeth who begs in the street for something, anything, to sustain him that day.

. . . is the alcoholic or addict, whose addiction has burned bridges with family and caused him or her to lose everything.

. . . is the single mom who can't earn enough to make ends meet and must "couch surf" from friend to friend with her kids in tow.

. . . is ________________________________  (fill in the blank because the above only covers a portion of the poverty situations out there).


And guess what?  None of the above are doing homeless right.  Why?  Because there is nothing right about being poor and homeless.

However . . . through each of us doing just a little bit more than we currently are (especially raising our voices to our community leaders and elected officials) . . . poverty and homelessness CAN be eliminated.


Hey!! I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.



August 25, 2011

The Battle of the Tweet (Day 34 - August 25, 2011)

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be involved in a debate on Twitter.  The debate, a head to head clash of ideas, occurred between myself, That Poverty Guy, and someone who I've never met, Other Fellow.  It was not an easy exchange as each of us had strong opinions, and yet I valued it because it was a genuine sharing of ideas.  Neither of us walked away convinced of the virtues of the other perspective, but I believe we each left better informed and with some things to think about.  It is a conversation that we must not be afraid to have . . . and, in fact, we must relish the opportunity as it it through civil dialogue that understanding increases, awareness flourishes, and positive change happens.

The following is an actual transcript of the conversation but combining multiple tweets in a row together (as they were artificially separated due to the 140 character limit on Twitter):

IMPORTANT - Please keep in mind that Twitter requires short entries, and therefore grammar is terrible and some things may come across as terse when they are really not intended to be.

Other Fellow (“OF”) - I support the idea of helping those that need help. But a whole class of people has been created that simply live off others.

That Poverty Guy (“TPG”) - Respectfully, I think you are misinformed. Our system has so many cracks in it that we can fix. People don't want to be poor.

OF - The creation of the dependent class has ruined society. It crushes the spirit and drains the will of man to succeed or excel.

TPG - I think you have it backwards . . . the weaknesses in our society have created a dependent class.

OF - Many homeless are not able to support themselves, and this needs to be handled . . . not by Government but by Charity, Church, and Individuals. Humans will live up to or down to expectations, once they are told that government will provide they no longer strive.

TPG - I don't care if it's government, churches, individuals, or Santa Claus J that provides . . . people in need must be fed and cared for.

OF - I do HVAC, and donate time to the county for heating assistance. Funny the "poor" have big screen TVs and smart phones.

TPG - One shouldn't hold up a few examples as representing the whole. That becomes an excuse not to help, but not a very good reason.  You fail to understand that humans don't have equal opportunity or gifts to prosper. I've met lots of incredibly hardworking poor.

OF – Sorry, equal opportunity is not equal outcome. What do you call poor?

TPG - I'm not necessarily saying equal opportunity . . . just some compassion for those in need (often through no fault of their own).  Poor are the billions around the world whose basic human rights are not being met (food, shelter, health, education).

OF - None of what you listed is a right, they maybe needs or wants, but not rights.  Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness are rights. Pursuit is not guaranteed. Life, not a living.  Liberty, not enslavement to government.

TPG - Poverty's a trap, like jail for many. You can't have life without food. It's happiness that's not guaranteed, but the pursuit should be.   Are you saying that food, water, shelter, and health care are less important than freedom of speech or equality before the law?

OF - I'm saying that those are needs or wants not rights. No one has a right to have someone else pay for their health care.

TPG - That's a selfish, short-sighted view. I suppose you don't recognize the blessings you have are not entirely your own making.

OF -  4 nights per week away from my children. I bust ass and then watch people living off my taxes.  My wife and I put me through HVAC training on our own. All while working a full time job. Spent 2 years in night school.  I have worked since 14 years old officially. Mowed lawns and such before that. Single parent home mom worked 3 jobs.

TPG - There's no doubt you're hard working. But I've seen hard working people doing what they can to simply survive. And many people who are in need in our neck of the woods have mental illness, trauma, or other complicating factors. Be grateful.  Heaven forbid that something should happen to you, but you would be grateful if hardship fell upon you and you needed help.

OF - Social programs are simply about power. Create a dependent class then threaten that Republicans will take it away unless you vote for liberals that only give you enough to survive. It has played out throughout history.

TPG - I'm not American and so I wouldn't use those terms. That said, I think it is important that there is a social safety net.  Actually, if you look back into history, things have gotten better because of liberalization . . . which spawned our rights.

OF - Our rights were around long before liberalism. Rights are endowed by our Creator. Government cannot grant rights, only take away.
TPG - I agree. But we did not have those rights protected until liberalism. Speaking of our Creator . . . what about love thy neighbour?

OF - Not government’s place. Taking from earners to give to those that refuse to help themselves is Evil.

TPG - Once again, you are talking about only a small percentage of those in need. And, there are many rich that commit the same evil.

OF - What about covet not thy neighbor’s ass? Someone has wealth so we should take it and give it to others?

TPG - It's not about coveting, it's about justice. It's also about doing unto the least of our neighbours as we would ourselves.

OF – You have a strange idea of justice.

TPG - Yeah . . . I have a lot of strange ideas . . . like all people should eat, have shelter, get medicine when they are sick, etc.

OF - Whether they work for it or not?  We all should just stop working and everybody would be taken care of.

TPG - Thanks for the smile . . . you know I'm not saying that. Hungry people get food because they are hungry. And, of course, we get people being as productive as possible, but it's not right to suggest "everyone for themselves".

OF - Justice is working your hands to the bone to have food taken from your table to feed those that will not help themselves?

TPG - Dramatic much? No, justice is ensuring all have some because that is simply the right thing.

OF - So I should work for those that won't?  Justice is keeping what you work for!

TPG - What about those who work hard and are still poor?  Where is their justice? What about those who lose due to hardship?

OF - Socialism (Liberalism) works until you run out of other people’s money.

TPG - Now that sounds like rhetoric. Without liberalism we would still be subject to absolute monarchs.

OF – In 2007, I fell from my garage roof and broke my back T12. Family assisted not government. Tax payers didn't have to pay for me.

TPG - I'm terribly sorry to hear about your accident. I'm very happy that you had a family to help. Some are not so lucky.

OF - Answer this . . . why should the few support the many?

TPG - I think that we should ensure that all have enough to survive. We'll leave survival of the fittest to the animals.

OF – And, as I said, those in need should be helped.  But liberals love having people dependent on government because that is votes.

TPG -  And, as I said, I don't care whether the help comes from government or somewhere else . . . as long as it comes.

OF - I don’t begrudge helping those that truly need help. But far too many are gaming the system.

TPG - I absolutely agree. But those "gaming" the system are only a small percentage of the impoverished in the world.

OF – True story. I'm standing in line at Giant Eagle a grocery store. I have basic items in my cart.  In front of me is a woman with a cart of luxury items , steak, shrimp, ribs, all name brand stuff. She paid with food stamps.

TPG - I hate it when a few make a bad name for the many. I would suggest we fix the system, not trash it because it can be abused.

OF - I was working in a body shop. A woman pulls up in a Cadillac, fur coat, jewellery; and asks where the welfare office is.

TPG - And you assumed it was for her? I don't think you should believe everything you think.

OF - We have become a nation of representation without taxation.

TPG - Warren Buffet would agree. I think one's voice should not be determined by the size of their wallet or their tax notice.

OF - How about the fact that if it doesn't cost you anything you will keep asking for more.  After all someone else is paying.

TPG - Meeting immediate needs by handouts is one thing, then we must ensure health and education so people can do for themselves.  I've enjoyed our real time conversation. I've got to go . . . any closing thoughts?

OF - Liberals believe that the few should support the many. That's how they gain power. The many become dependent on government.

TPG - My final thought - regardless of your political stripe - help others who need it. It's the right thing to do.


Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.

August 24, 2011

Cotton Pickin' Bottle Pickin' !! (Day 33 - August 24, 2011)

That Poverty Guy Picking Bottles (Reflection in a Car Window)
Hokey shmokey artichokey!!!  Today was the hardest . . . by far . . . that I have ever worked to earn $1.83 an hour.  You are correct my friend . . . today was bottle picking day.

Why bottle picking?  It's not uncommon for homeless people in Canada, the USA, and other developed nations to resort to things like panhandling, scavenging, bottle picking, or even crime when they have no other options.  So . . . not feeling particularly criminal today and not being a fan of panhandling . . . I thought I would give bottle picking a try.

First Find of the Day
$7.30 Baby!!
The Haul
Here's how the day went . . . I started at 10 AM, and found my first can in a gutter near my home at 10:06 AM.  On a natural high from this bounty, I made a beeline for the highway only to be disappointed.  I had expected to be wading through bottles based upon the advice I had received but found relatively slim pickings UNTIL I hit the mother load at a highway overpass.  I'm not sure if they were thrown from the overpass, or from the highway, or collected there because of wind . . . but one-third of my haul came from that 50 foot stretch.  I then went into town, and soon decided that no matter where you are if you look hard enough you will find a bottle close by. I checked garbage cans and dumpsters wherever I went (more on this below).  I went along the creek and made my way to the river . . . with the creek being much more "giving" than the river area (at least where I was at).  Finally, I combed some back alleys in the downtown area with moderate results.  In the end, I had a full black garbage bag and arrived at the depot at 1:56 PM . . . netting $7.30. 

30 Seconds Later It Was GONE
The deal was that I wasn't going to eat anything except what I could buy from my bottle picking earnings.  Thankfully, I was a able to buy a tasty lunch consisting of a creamsicle flavoured milkshake and a hot dog.

By the way, I have to tip my hat to the 48% of survey respondents who guessed I would earn more than $5.  You were more confident in my bottle finding abilities than I was (I voted for less than $2).  And . . . a little heads up if you ever ask other people for bottle picking advice . . . without fail they will tell you one of three things (i) go along the highway, (ii) steal them from recycling collection points, or (iii) they will offer to give you bottles (which is awfully nice of them).


And now for . . . That Poverty Guy's Coveted List of "MOST . . . "

Things that make you go . . . hmmm?

Most "Canadian" Find . . . a hockey stick, of course.  Right in the middle of some woods.  Where did you expect it would be?

Most Successful Area to Bottle Pick . . . as mentioned above, the overpass on the highway.  However, honourable mention must go out to little clearings by the creek and back alleys.



Yes, that says 190 Proof . . . 95% alcohol.

Most "Dangerous" Find . . . an empty bottle of Everclear Grain Alcohol.  It is lethal . . . 190 proof (95% alcohol) . . . and I found it literally within a hundred steps of a playground and daycare.

Most Difficult Retrieval . . . near the back entrance of a local pub that sells off sales I found 6 empty beer cans . . . just daring me to come and get them from their home amongst a thick outcropping of 3 foot tall thistles.  I took that dare!


I think it's broken.

Most "Expensive" Find . . . a smashed Blackberry.  It was lying just off of the side of the highway under the overpass where I found all those bottles.

Most Disgusting Area to Retrieve . . . a dumpster in behind a local restaurant.  There were lots of bottles but the whole bin was being swarmed by small bugs that were feasting on the entrails of whatever was in there.  I grabbed all the bottles I could reach and then made a mad dash.

Wait a minute . . . that's FULL!

Most "Joyous" Find . . . for the first three hours my biggest joy was the very first can I found. (Because part of me had been fearing that I wouldn't find any.)  However, words cannot describe the feeling when you see three "empty" cans on the side of an alley . . . reach down pick up one and put it in the bag . . . reach down and pick up a second one and put it in the bag . . . and reach down and pick up the third only to realize that is unopened and FULL.  YEEHAW, HOORAY, and YABBA DABBA DOO!!!


Along the way, I actually found a lot of weird things.  There were lots of gloves, shoes (always one out of the pair, never both . . . not sure how that happens), socks, wrappers, and a gazillion Timmy's coffee cups.  However, the really bizarre things included . . . 

I think it "baled"!! (I crack myself up)
Excuse me, sir.  Is this the cart return area?

A bale of hay.  We're tough in the Rockies, we don't have sissy tumbleweeds blowing across the road.

A shopping cart. 
Someone made a wrong turn at the grocery store and ended up about 4 kms away in the woods.

What the . . . ?
Where the heck did I put that letter?

An empty glass.  This was found literally 10 feet away from main street.  Really strange.

A letter of resignation. 
I'm thinking someone is going to hand their boss a grocery list or something.



That Poverty Guy's "Do's and Don'ts" of Bottle Picking:

DO start as early as possible in the day.  I left it too late as it's much cooler earlier, and earlier would allow you to get the jump on people cleaning up from the night before (and getting to garbage cans before they are emptied).

DO go to the highway.  Unless it has been picked recently, there are some good finds.

DO watch your step.  Doggy doo doo is out there . . . just waiting for you to let down your guard.

DO grab some of the gloves you'll find to cover your hands.  The whole time you are dealing in people's muck . . . littered garbage, dumpsters, and garbage cans.  And, thistles!

DO find a tool to help search through garbage cans.  A stick or something to poke through the layers of garbage would be particularly helpful.

DON'T grab two large empty plastic milk containers that are sold elsewhere.  The man at the depot looks at you funny, and then says that they cannot take them.

DON'T check garbage cans on dog walking routes.  Seriously.  Just saying.

DON'T check garbage cans with a recycle container next to it.  We're simply too well trained, and 99.9% of the time we put the bottles into the recycling container (which is completely in accessible . . . once again, just saying).

DON'T steal.  I saw plenty of opportunities to grab some cans sitting in somebody's yard or garage.  However, I think the better route to go is to simply ask.  They might say "no", but they might also be happy to get rid of them and give you more.



SO WHAT DID I LEARN TODAY?  It's amazing what you see when you simply open your eyes to see it.  Most of the places I walked are places I would regularly walk, but have never noticed the treasures I describe above.  And, having seen some things again for the first time, it's amazing what you can do about them.  Poverty is there to be seen . . . it's not pleasant but it won't hurt us to look at it.  And, each of us has the ability to do a little something more than we already are to eliminate poverty.  Perhaps money, perhaps time, perhaps ideas, but definitely adding your voice to encourage our communities and leaders to address poverty.


Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.

August 23, 2011

Shoes in Church

A loyal reader of the That Poverty Project Blog forwarded the following poem.  While you may have read it before as it has made its rounds on the e-mail circuit, it's well worth another read.  In many ways, the essence of the story is a big part of what That Poverty Project is all about.  Enjoy!



I showered and shaved; I adjusted my tie.
I got there and sat in a pew just in time.
Bowing my head in prayer as I closed my eyes..
I saw the shoe of the man next to me touching my own. I sighed.

With plenty of room on either side I thought, 'Why must our soles touch?'
It bothered me, his shoe touching mine, but it didn't bother him much.
A prayer began: 'Our Father' . . . I thought, "This man with the shoes, has no pride.
They're dusty, worn, and scratched. Even worse, there are holes on the side!"

'Thank You for blessings,' the prayer went on. The shoe man said a quiet "Amen."
I tried to focus on the prayer, but my thoughts were on his shoes again.
Aren't we supposed to look our best when walking through that door?
'Well, this certainly isn't it," I thought, glancing toward the floor.

Then the prayer was ended, and the songs of praise began.
The shoe man was certainly loud; sounding proud as he sang.
His voice lifted the rafters; his hands were raised high.
The Lord could surely hear the shoe man's voice from the sky.

It was time for the offering, and what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the shoe man reached into his pockets so deep.
I saw what was pulled out, what the shoe man put in.
Then I heard a soft 'clink', as when silver hits tin.

The sermon really bored me to tears, and that's no lie.
It was the same for the shoe man, for tears fell from his eyes.
At the end of the service, as is the custom here,
We must greet new visitors and show them all good cheer.

But I felt moved somehow and wanted to meet the shoe man.
So after the closing prayer I reached over and shook his hand.
He was old and his skin was dark, and his hair was truly a mess.
But I thanked him for coming . . . for being our guest.

He said, "My names' Charlie. I'm glad to meet you, my friend."
There were tears in his eyes, but he had a large, wide grin.
"Let me explain," he said, wiping tears from his eyes.
"I've been coming here for months, and you're the first to say 'Hi.'
I know that my appearance is not like all the rest.
But I really do try to always look my best.
I always clean and polish my shoes before my very long walk.
But by the time I get here they're dirty and dusty, like chalk."

My heart filled with pain, and I swallowed to hide my tears.
As he continued to apologize for daring to sit so near
He said, "When I get here I know I must look a sight.
But I thought if I could touch you then maybe our souls might unite."

I was silent for a moment knowing whatever was said
Would pale in comparison.  I spoke from my heart, not my head.
"Oh, you've touched me," I said, "And taught me, in part;
That the best of any man is what is found in his heart."

The rest, I thought, this shoe man will never know.
Like just how thankful I really am that his dirty old shoe touched my soul.

Author Unknown


Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.


Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.

August 22, 2011

Remembering Jack (Day 31 - August 22, 2011)


The Honourable Jack Layton (1950 - 2011)
I had planned to blog today about a wonderfully warm night, an update from the weekend, and pay day from my "pet feeding job" . . . but all of that will have to wait until tomorrow.  Today is devoted to some reflections inspired by Jack Layton, Canada's Leader of the Official Opposition, who passed away early this morning following a battle with cancer.

I read an obituary about Mr. Layton posted earlier today on CBC.  It talked about his family's involvement in Canadian politics going right back to Confederation, and continuing through to his son who was elected as a City Councillor in Toronto.  The piece covered all of Jack's public service starting when he was a teenager, to becoming a City Councillor in Toronto, to unsuccessful attempts to being elected federally, to eventual success in being elected to Parliament along with becoming leader of the NDP, and ultimately leading the NDP to their greatest ever showing in an election and becoming the Official Opposition.  Throughout his career, he has fought for those who are most vulnerable in our society . . . the poor, those on reservations, the elderly, and the working many just trying to make ends meet.  Of course, even those who disagreed with his politics, knew that Jack Layton was an admirable man and a great Canadian.

The thing that really struck me today, and in fact caused some tears to be shed, were Jack's own words as found in the letter that he wrote a couple of days ago and was released today by his family.  Allow me to share a few of them with you, and the thoughts that they inspired about this project . . .

"All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada."

That Poverty Project is all about hope and optimism.   While it is necessary to bring attention to the problems of poverty, such is done to define the parameters of the task and not to create doom and gloom.  Quite to the contrary, just as Mr. Layton ALWAYS provided solutions, and focused on the positive in doing so, That Poverty Project is about encouraging people to work together to make huge differences in the lives of those in need . . . and always knowing that WE CAN defeat poverty.

"As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today."

While directed towards young Canadians, I believe that each one of us can benefit from this encouragement.  Yes, there are problems . . . with poverty being the unfortunate result of many of them.  However, each one of us has the ability to be part of the solution.  In fact, there are some things that you can do that no one else can or will do.  That Poverty Project is designed to look great challenges square in the eye, and encourage each person to do that little bit only they can in order to bring about great change in the world and better lives for those currently living in poverty.

"We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. . . . Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done."

We can . . . we can . . . we can.  It's easy to criticize and be a naysayer, but we are called to be more than that.  We are called to be part of the solution.  We are to stand together and support one another in the face of those who would give up on those in need . . . who would give up on changing the world for the better.  Poverty can be eliminated . . . and don't let anyone tell you that it can't be done.

And the final words of Jack Layton's letter, which stand on their own . . .

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."

Click Here for a full transcript of Jack Layton's letter.


Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.

Tweets & Posts Updates (August 16 - 22, 2011)

For those of you not on Twitter or Facebook, the following are some highlights from That Poverty Project's postings from the previous week:

Facebook Page ("Likes" grew from about 79 to 97 while each Post gets between 110 and 380 impressions)

AUGUST 16th - Cold night! Just 2 degrees above freezing . . . but I formed a cocoon warmed by my body heat and breath and slept alright. I could really use a chiropractor adjustment though . . . oh well, I'll do some stretches and hope for a good "click".  . . . (and then later) . . . Off and walking . . . again. I've never spent so much time commuting by foot. It sure eats up a lot of your day. Just imagine having to walk for hours to fetch water everyday . . . and wood . . . and food. In some places there is literally no time to get ahead as all the available time is spent just surviving. I've seen people's lives irrevocably changed when water was piped to their house . . . it gave them 4 - 6 hours a day to apply to more productive endeavours.

AUGUST 17thReally early morning today! Amazing how much warmer 6C is compared to 3C (YAY!) Had a shower, put on my clean clothes, and walked to a Rotary breakfast meeting where I talked about That Poverty Project. I like Rotary's motto - Service Above Self. If the whole world had that motto . . . there would be no poverty, and I think that it would be a pretty great place for our self, too.  . . . (and then later) . . . According to the Anglican Journal, I'm "getting down and dirty to raise awareness about poverty". I'm often dirty . . . so I guess I'm down with that!
www.anglicanjournal.com
. . . (and still later) . . . Today I was called an "unreasonable man".  Then George Bernard Shaw was quoted . . . "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."   Hmmm . . . I likey!

AUGUST 18th -   It was cold last night (around 2C) but I fared better than previous cool nights. Getting used to it? More tired? Who knows?   Having trouble getting the engines going this morning . . . feeling lazy. That said, I have already done some laundry (including both pairs of socks!). Better get writing . . . I think I feel inspiration coming on (. . . or nature's calling . . . I'll know in a minute or two).

AUGUST 19th - Zero degrees last night. Enough said. . . . (and then later) . . . Warm days cause a certain aroma to exude from me . . . I've decided that it's quite manly.

AUGUST 21st - BEAUTIFUL NIGHT!! It's midnight and I'm not even under the covers yet. Yeah, baby!

AUGUST 22nd - Today the world lost a great Canadian. I am profoundly saddened by Jack Layton's death. However, his vision of a Canada that compassionately cares for the most vulnerable amongst us . . . the poor, the marginalized, the elderly, and working families struggling to make ends meet . . . live on through those of us who share this dream. Jack, thanks for your leadership and caring. And peace and comfort to the entire Layton family, and all those who are mourning.


Twitter Account (@thatpovertyguy . . . "Followers" increased from 94 to 155 including many mentions and retweets by others . . . two postings in The #socialjustice Daily)

AUGUST 16th - Big thanks to and for helping create awareness about and www.thatpovertyproject.com. . . . (and then later) . . . Thanks and for the mentions. I've been told I have a face for radio! (I guess isn't pretty either.) . . . (and then still later) . . . Laundry's hanging to dry, the sun has warmed things up, I have a little money in my pocket. Today's a good day.


AUGUST 17th
- You know . . . being homeless is not all it's cracked up to be. Just saying.


AUGUST 18th - To be . . . or not to be . . . that is the question asked everyday by the poor as they strive to survive.

AUGUST 22nd - A sad day for Canada. The poor and working families lost an advocate, a passionate leader . . . a hero. RIP Jack Layton . . . and thanks. . . . (and then later) . . . The hope and optimism I bring to my advocacy for those in was influenced by Jack Layton. RIP Jack Layton.


Hey!! I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

August 20, 2011

Top 5 With 4 Down (Day 29 - August 20, 2011)

That Poverty Guy (Sean Krausert)
Day 29 - Bearded / 224 lbs
No . . . no . . . no.   The title is not a quarterback's call at the line for a new play when he sees the opposing linebackers getting ready to pin their ears back in a bloodthirsty blitz . . . "TOP 5 . . . TOP 5 . . . 4 DOWN . . . 4 DOWN . . . HUT, HUT, HUT".   Nor is it some secret code to my agents in foreign lands . . . although that would be cool (hmmm . . . really cool).  It's simply, and I hope that I don't disappoint after such a build-up, referring to the fact that with 4 weeks under my belt in the project, I'm going to let you know the "Top 5" blog posts so far (. . . in case you missed them or want to share with your friends).

But first, the usual business for each Saturday.  "So," you ask, "what do you look like now and how much do you weigh That Poverty Guy?"  Thanks for asking!  I've dropped another pound this week, bringing me down to 224 lbs and having lost 9 lbs in the last 4 weeks (from my starting point of 233 lbs).  As for what I look like . . . you can attest for yourself that I'm the same old me . . . a little hairier . . . and a little more worn.  These first four weeks have been a challenge for sure, but nothing compared to what billions of people live everyday.  And, I'm excited as the next four weeks (and beyond) will bring more experiences to reflect on, interviews with people on the front line of poverty, and the launch of some more videos as well as a special initiative that I will announce soon.

"Great," you say, "but what about those Top 5 blog posts you mentioned.  I'd love to see if my favourite is there or see if there are some good ones that I missed. PLUS, I'd love to share them with my family, friends, co-workers, and that guy washing his car next door!"  I do appreciate your enthusiasm.  You're awesome!  Certainly, without further adieu . . . here are the TOP 5 BLOG POSTS of the FIRST 4 WEEKS (plus a couple of others that may interest you):





. . . and the top blog post for the last 4 weeks is . . .


The following blogs are also deserving honourable mention:

Robert's Story
(picked up by the #Social Justice Daily and re-published on August 19th)

Blew My Money On Booze . . . Almost
(picked up by the #Good Work Daily and re-published on August 13th)




Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

August 19, 2011

The Five Minute Challenge (Day 28 - August 19, 2011)

Peace dude!
Well that will freeze your Grandmother's preserves!!!  Seriously.  Ye ol' mercury dipped to the freezing point last night . . . 0C . . . 32F . . . 273.15K . . . no matter what you call it . . . it was cold.  At that temperature human beings should have shelter.  I'm extremely lucky as I have a tent.  Unfortunately, there are so many people that don't have that luxury.  I was actually warm inside my sleeping bag, blanket and hoodie . . . so much so that I did not want to get out this morning (see picture on left).


Guess what I just did?!?  I just wrote my Member of Parliament to ask him about what the Canadian government is doing to eliminate poverty in Canada.  It took me all of 15 minutes from finding his e-mail address to writing the letter to hitting "send".  That gives me an idea . . . a challenge for you!

Do you have 5 minutes to spare for the poor this weekend?  Good, I thought you might . . . because 5 minutes is easy.  Everyone has 5 minutes.  I challenge you to do one of the following two options this weekend - each will only take you 5 minutes.


OPTION #1 - Take 5 minutes to write to your MP and ask them about what the government is doing on our behalf to eliminate poverty.  While it took me about 15 minutes, it should only take you 5 minutes because I have done much of the work for you.  Simply follow these three steps (if you are in Canada):

Step #1 - Go to WACHOOKANDU and scroll down to the link to find your Member of Parliament.  On your MP's page take note of his or her e-mail address.

Step #2 - Cut and paste the following letter into an e-mail, and insert your information as noted:

Dear ENTER YOUR MP's NAME:
 
I have a question that I would appreciate you looking into and getting back to me.
 
What is the Canadian government doing to eliminate poverty (a) in Canada and (b) around the world?
 
Allow me to provide some context for my question;
  • In the 1990's Parliament voted unanimously to eliminate poverty in Canada, but as far as I know the level of those in poverty in Canada remains at about 3.5 million Canadians (which includes 1 in 10 children);
  • There are almost 1 billion people in the world without adequate food, and yet the world produces enough food to feed everyone;
  • More than 9 million people die each year around the world due to hunger related causes and approx. 3.5 million die due water related reasons (which is most prominent with the poor) . . . this by far surpasses the number that die from AIDS, malaria, TB, natural disasters, and conflict COMBINED (which altogether totals between 5 and 6 million deaths) . . . and yet this is not publicized like those other plights; and
  • We live in a world that has the abundance and technology to eliminate poverty and ensure that everyone has food, water, basic schooling, access to basic medical services, and safe birthing experiences for women. Some studies show that the additional cost to do all of this is approximately equivalent to 5% of the world's military spending.
I think there is an excellent opportunity for Canada to be a world leader in bringing an end to poverty in Canada and around the world. The Canadian government, and all governments, should ensure that no one goes hungry or without their basic human rights met on its watch.
 
I look forward to receiving your comments with respect to my question at your earliest opportunity. Thanks very much for your attention to this matter.
 
Best wishes,
YOUR NAME HERE
YOUR HOMETOWN HERE
YOUR TELEPHONE NUMBER HERE
 
Step #3 - Hit "SEND"
 
 
OPTION #2 - If you are unwilling to do Option #1, then take 5 minutes to think about "Why?".
 
 
By the way, for those who choose Option #1, please feel free to let me know what your MP tells you.  I will let you know what my MP says.  And . . . for those who choose Option #2, please feel free to share your thoughts and insights from your time of reflection.
 
 
Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.