He no longer feared falling into the same paths he had witnessed as a kid. He had an education. He had a good job. But after leaving the trailer park and meeting a new set of friends in college, he also had people who inspired him and upon whom he could depend. And that, he says, was the key to getting out of poverty and staying out.
“Friendship is core to who I am,” Brit said. “But also, I learned that to get out of poverty, it comes down to who you know. And if you have a strong network, you’ll get ahead.”
Recent studies prove Brit’s point. According to a 2022 study by Raj Chetty, a professor of economics at Harvard University and the director of the Opportunity Insights research lab, the key to economic mobility is simple: friends. Chetty argues that economic connectedness—friendship across class—is one of the drivers of economic mobility.
“I have contacts I can call for any rainy day that could come up,” Brit said. “Nobody I grew up with has that. They have no safety net.”
“I have contact I can call for any rainy day that could come up. Nobody I grew up with has that. They have no safety net.”
He painted a picture of the economic isolation that cycles of poverty create. Those realities are often exacerbated by things like a neighborhood’s inability to meet basic family needs like affordable childcare, income increases not matching inflation rates and forcing folks to work multiple jobs at a time, or our country’s history of unjust lending practices that concentrate poverty into certain neighborhoods.
While Brit had spent his entire adult life avoiding the circumstances of his childhood, through the Narrative Change Cohort he reconnected with those realities in a way that prompted him to reflect on the cost of staying distant from economically disadvantaged communities—both for himself and his congregation.
Cohort participants spend 15 months together learning about local economic segregation through books, articles, podcasts, nonprofit leaders, and more. They develop relationships with each other while walking city streets, dialoguing over meals, scouring a local library, and exploring the San Antonio River.
Along with gaining a better understanding of the segregated landscape in San Antonio, something happened for Brit he couldn’t have expected and would never have planned for himself. He made new friends. And his friendships with other pastors from around the city changed him.
“After this experience with Narrative Change Cohorts, I have real friends in all four corners of our city,” Brit said. “And real things are happening in each of the lives of the pastors from the cohort—we are all changed by this experience. And the way we are ministering is different.”