A number of year ago I was teaching a Poverty 101 session and we were having a little Q & A at the end when I was asked what should have been a simple question. The woman wanted to know what our goal was in working with our neighbors, specifically what we were trying to help them accomplish economically. The first thought that came to my mind was to talk about upward mobility. But as the words were about to come out of my mouth they just didn’t sound right.
So I thought for a second and said that we were really after upward stability. And that is the idea that your life is more stable today than it was a couple of years ago. And that your life is on a trajectory that it will be more stable a couple of years from now than it is today.
And this idea is about understanding that economic class is really about how stable your life is. When my life is stable and all of my daily needs are met without too much effort, I can think about the future.
But if I live in a constant state of chaos and I spend my life wondering daily how are we going to get enough food today, or how are we going to pay the bills, or get to work then I have little margin to think about the future.
If we can come alongside our families and empower them to provide a more stable environment for their children then those children can begin to look toward their futures with hope. And this is the primary differentiator between children who grow up middle class and those who grow up in poverty, whether they are future-oriented or present-oriented.
And the key to helping present-oriented kids become future-oriented kids is Upward Stability.