THE SONGS OF sOPHIa

Dedicated to the Co-Founders of OPHI

Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative:

Sabina Alkire & John Hammock

THE SONGS OF sOPHIa

  1. Wisdom

Sophia, wisdom, she comes to us *
And gently holds our hands.

With your hands *
Count and number things,

Shake hands to make friends, *
Make things that create a better world.

She places her hand on our hearts *
Feeling the number that pulses our life.

Live in your hearts *
And see the lines

That make out the lives *
Of the rich and poor alike.

  1.  The Poor

Accompany me to be welcomed *
Into the home of the poor.

One room with a kitchen behind *
One seat, set aside for you.

You’re offered more food *
Than you can eat,

Wondering how to say “enough” *
Without being rude,

Wondering if you’ve been offered *
The family’s food for a week.

Sophia asks our host to tell her story *
A farmer’s daughter whose

Grandfather gave her *
Her dowry for her education.

She now supports the education *
Of a hundred young women.

How she can afford that? *
You wonder, and she in joy replies

It is the great happiness of her life *
To share what she has.

  1. The Rich

Come into the place of the rich *
Who are blessed

To live by a number *
The amount of money that they have.

They desire to make a difference *
And are measured in their response.

Asking,  “How can I know *
How to make a difference?”

  1. When We Are Blind

Know when you are blind *
And cannot see

You have your hands to count *
And ears to listen.

You don’t know what it is like *
So you are in the dark,

Like Justice you are blindfolded, *
So live like the blind,

Use your hands *
To count your surroundings.

Gently feel around. *
What do your fingers find?

  1. Know Your Poverty

Do you find walls in front of you *
Or are you living outside?

When you kneel and touch your floor, *
Do you touch dirt, concrete, planks or carpet?

What food are you preparing?  *
Do you have enough for the day?

For the week? For your family? *
Careful! Don’t burn your hands,

Are you cooking with dung? *
Or wood or fuel of another kind?

You eat a palmful, *
Are you still hungry?

Checking your child’s head for fever. *
How far is the hospital?

In your pocket you feel for your money. *
Can you pay the bill?

How much schooling do you have? *
Does your work speak of learning?

Can you fumble around to find some tools. *
Do you have any for earning?

Thirsty, feeling for a tap, *
Do you have running water?

Is it safe to drink? *
Or you are reaching for your kettle?

Do you boil the hottest tea *
Your mouth can bear?

You need to go so bad.
Do you have a latrine?

Or do you go outside? *
Or pay to go to the village loo?

Outside you stumble on something *
A piece of rubbish,

Rubbish that is never collected *
And is strewn everywhere.

Blind, you know you’ll trip *
Whichever way you turn.

  1. Know Your Un-Wellness

Even in places where more money grows *
Other forms of poverty emerge,

Is there sickness of the mind? *
Is there sickness of work?

Is there crippling over-indebtedness? *
Is there growing futility

Numbing the senses with despair? *
Is the rage doped up,

Or intermittently lashing out *
In growing cycles of violence?

And know that there are hands *
That measure this lack of wellness too.

  1. See and Make Progress

When you have counted all these things *
The blindfold will fall from your eyes.

Light will fill your vision *
You will see all the things

That count towards poverty. *
The number Sophia counts

That paints a vivid picture *
For the rich to see the poor,

That says that there is much to do *
And many ways to help.

Sophia returns again and again, *
Counting again and again

For all to see progress *
That delights rich and poor alike.

  1. Who Comes to Help?

Now the rich can see, *
They wonder how to help.

Sophia kneels in the dirt *
At the unshod feet of

The poorest of the poor *
And with her numbers

She holds the hands of the rich to be there too. *
The rich come as rulers,

People of trade, *
People of medicine,

People of learning, *
And people of building,

All united by Sophia’s number *
That captures the demons of poverty.

  1.  How Can We Help?

First remember, don’t even count *
Unless you plan to make a difference.

Find ways for poor and rich to sit together *
With the numbers as they sink in.

Ask how are our minds opened? *
Do we have space to play with new solutions?

Ask what does Sophia’s counting *
Say about our priorities?

Are we ready for her to come back in *
To measure the difference we’ve tried to make?

As leaders do we give weight *
To Sophia’s equal measure?

  1. An Alliance of Rich and Poor

Now there’s an alliance of rich and poor *
Who understand one another

To ensure that there is enough *
To make a difference.

This alliance knows that there are *
Three great measures of mankind,

A measure called your heartbeat, *
Counting how we are all equal.

A measure called money *
Counting how we go up in the world

And a measure of Sophia *
Counting how we go down into poverty.

With these three numbers *
We grow in compassion

Together counting *
What truly matters.

  1. The Balance Scale Breaks

People love to compete *
With one another

To tip the balance with money *
Up in their favour.

Does the other end of the balance *
Tip down?

Showing a decrease in poverty? *
If not what do we see?

A balance scale tipped up with money *
Just for the rich

And the other end that measures poverty *
Not tipped down for the poor.

We see the balance scale is broken *
And Justice weeps.

  1. The Balance Scale Pivots

Sophia asks those with money *
To set aside enough

To always be able to count poverty *
And ensure the balance scale measures

Increased wealth *
With decreased poverty.

So in the cathedrals of learning *
Sophia invites the rich

To sets aside money *
To keep the brightest minds

Finding counting ways *
To hold the poorest of the poor

In the minds of the richest of the rich *
And to create an alliance between them

To celebrate *
That we all have a heartbeat.

Theme for 2018

Jamie Coats

This entry was posted in Grief & Wonder, Love, Poems, Prayer, Theme for 2018. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Comment

  1. Polly hatfield
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Dear Jamie,
    How beautiful !
    So fearless and so loving. Thank you so much for finding me and making a place for me in your life of love.
    Polly

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