The Facing Project is really taking off. J.R. Jamison, my co-founder, knows a ton of people who are interested. We’re not just talking in Indiana, but in other countries. We’re not just talking a small group, but campus-wide projects and mayoral commissions. I promised I would follow up my introductory post about the project with the foreword to the initial project we launched in Muncie with the help of TEAMwork for Quality Living. Here it is…
(Oh, one more thing. I’d love it if you liked the Facing Project on Facebook. We’re almost up to 100 likes)
Every Community has a story. What’s yours?
Poverty is a hot button issue in the Muncie and Delaware County communities, as it is nationally, and internationally. We argue about how to define poverty and when, how much, and if to help those living in poverty.
Somewhere between 8,000 to 23,000 Muncie residents live in poverty. But as you crack open this book, I want you to think about a different statistic: One.
Do you know one person living in poverty? And if you are living in poverty, do you know one person who isn’t?
The writers and subjects of the 21 stories and poems to follow do.
Facing Poverty enlisted writers in the community to tell the stories of individuals and families living below the poverty line as well as those citizens actively helping those living in poverty.
For two months, writers and those facing poverty from all angles met up to share stories. Maybe you saw us at IHOP or Starbucks or walking down the street chatting. We shared stories of triumph and tragedy, of loneliness and community, of hate and happiness, of deep depression and lofty goals.
The writers listened and jotted notes, and then they did something a bit uncomfortable: They took on the voice and persona of their subjects and wrote as if they were them. The “I” that you’ll read about in most of the stories does not represent the writer. The “I” represents a forced empathy in which the writer had to write in the first person as someone else, someone else who remains anonymous. They walked through their stories. Tried them on. Carried the feelings and emotions.
They did something all of their subjects had already done: They faced poverty.
I’d like to personally thank the organizations, including LifeStream, TEAMwork for Quality Living, Muncie Mission, CASA, Habitat for Humanity, Christian Ministries, and Pathstone for introducing us to the amazing folks they serve and the volunteers who help them. Without their support, this book wouldn’t be possible.
I especially wish to thank Muncie Civic Theatre and Lorel Lloyd as well as Dr. Michale Daehn and Ball State University theater education students for interpretive readings of many of these stories. Their involvement in the project has made this a key part of the Delaware County Poverty Awareness week.
Molly Flodder of TEAMwork for Quality Living headed up the outreach to our partners and also poured her heart and soul into editing this project as did Linda Gregory, Betty Wingrove, Annemarie Voss and Hal Roepke.
Alec Brenneman, a recent Ball State grad, and Chelsea Roberts, a soon-to-be Ball State grad, played a crucial role in wrangling writers – an activity that is right up there in level of difficulty with cat herding.
Our special thanks goes to Pat Marin of Marin & Marin Design and to Rich Michael of Spencer Printing for taking this collection of stories to something you can hold in your hand and keep on your bookshelf. And mot of all, we thank the George and Frances Ball Foundation for the grant that supported the publishing of this book.
In closing, the writers gave their time and ability. And the subjects gave us all an even greater gift: their stories.
Regardless of where you stand on the debates that surround poverty, I hope you’ll approach these stories with an open mind and heart. You can argue about statistics, but you can’t argue with stories.
If you are facing poverty or want to help those who are, please visit http://bit.ly/facingpoverty for information on local organizations that can help.
Author of Where Am I Wearing and Muncie Resident