St. Mary's Church youth ministry team staged event that divided 50 diners into three income levels
MONTAGUE — While Arlene MacTavish enjoyed a bouquet of flowers and a glass of wine, Cathy MacPherson ate with her fingers and wallowed in the garbage.
While the wealthy enjoyed a full course meal and a table set with utensils, the poor lined up for water and rice in a cup.
The world of economic and social discrepancy was in full bloom here when the youth ministry at a local church hosted a Poverty Banquet with 50 invited guests in the same room.
“It was an opportunity to not only see the difference poverty makes, but feel it,” said Nancy Matheson, who staged the event with the youth ministry team at St. Mary’s Church.
“It’s especially important to show this to our young people as well.”
Invited guests came from all ages and all walks of life and picked a piece of paper from a hat upon entering. That determined whether a person sat at a table and chair in the high-income bracket or on the floor in the garbage.
Guests were told that living on 50 cents a day is a way of life for more than 800 million people — three times the size of the U.S. population.
“Walk in your mind, through the rooms of your home and see your furniture and closets and favourites things and foods,” said Sister Elizabeth Dunn. “Now let’s imagine life on 50 cents a day. Empty your house of furnishings, keep just a simple table and chair, mattress and blanket and a few plates and pots.”
Dunn said a few pounds of rice and beans with a few spices would likely make up the pantry and an empty glass jar or tightly rolled bandana holds a life savings — four or five dollars saved with great difficulty for emergencies.
There would be no water or electricity and the lean-to home in a shanty town is made of scavenged wood. If someone has any unnecessary illness or disease, subtract 25 or 30 years from their lifespan.
“That’s just a taste of what life is like when you live in absolute poverty,’’ she said.
Life is filled with speed bumps and the cards are rarely shuffled. While one or two low-income earners were able to ascend to the middle class during the course of the evening, only one high-income earner suffered a business collapse and went to the middle class.
Teenager Cody Taylor dropped from the middle income to low income during the evening and got a taste of a subsistence rice diet. The banquet consisted of a full course meal for the high-income earners, beans and rice for the middle, and water and rice for the poor.
“When I see what the others are eating here tonight it really makes me want to share,’’ said Arlene MacTavish of Montague, who dined on caesar
salad, lasagna and cheesecake with her high-income companions.
Cathy MacPherson of Iona sat on the floor with other low-income earners.
“It would be hard to imagine living solely on rice and water,’’ she said.
The event was a combined event of Sturgeon and Iona Parish as well. Youth ministry worker Nancy MacKinnon said the Poverty Banquet was held to raise the level of awareness about the inhabitants of Mother Earth and will likely become an annual event.