How many of us really know what it is like to be deep in poverty? Where hunger lurks just over your shoulder, and feeding your children often requires that you park your dignity at a door where you never quite get it back? Have you stood in a grocery line with a young family in front of you and observed the agony (or is it defeat?) of the young mother sorting through food stamps? Can you imagine the grinding, harsh reality that there is never enough and that too many people, worldwide and in this country, go through on a daily basis?
In this small town of mine, poverty and hunger is often hidden, invisible. You hear people say it doesn’t exist here…does it? Where? We look around with blinders on, but if you are a volunteer, such as for Meals on Wheels, it is amazing what your eyes see and what your heart feels.
If you have change in your pocket, you are wealthy beyond measure for millions of people. The problem is so vast, how do you deal with it? Our government has implemented many efforts to attack the problem including the US Welfare Reform Act of 1966 which seemed to have a positive impact until Katrina came along and changed all that. The poverty plight of OUR citizens lay exposed on interstate bridges and roof tops.
I have recently been reading the book Bridges Out Of Poverty (Ruby Payne, Philip DeVol and Terie Smith). This is a very telling and important book, one that is aimed at the community or corporate response to fighting poverty. It is very informative and you are left with an understanding of how pervasive is this state of reality.
All this discussion in the media, in Congress, and at the local level about raising the minimum wage, and all the objections, truly makes one wonder if there are any compassionate thinkers out there. The majority of those on minimum wage are in their mid-thirties and have families. Full time work at minimum wage ($15,600) does not come close to reaching the poverty level definition of $23,500 for a family of four. Raising the minimum wage would seem to be an easy call, but profit and greed casts the veto vote.
It is possible that the problem is so vast that we, as individuals, have a hard time getting our arms around it. However, we must! We can’t move the world, but we can act. We can’t change the lives of those in need that cross our paths, but we can help. It is a simple act. It requires nothing more than reaching out and taking seriously what Jesus has said to us: “…For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink;…‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Those in need are all around us. Maybe we need a new pair of eyes? Eyes that not only see, but also motivate us to follow our Lord. It is a simple act.
For what it is worth.