Sunday, June 03, 2012

On my soapbox about poverty

Last night I had dinner with a group after a wonderful barbershop chorus concert.

One man across the table from me was from Memphis, and we talked about how poverty was causing once prosperous neighborhoods to become slums - in much more graphic language than that. We agreed that poverty was a major cause.

Another man said he'd seen a tv opinionater interviewing someone in a "welfare" line (my words, not his): Do you have a car? yes Do you have a television with cable? yes Do you have a cell phone? yes Then why are you here looking for a handout if you have all these things?

I answered about the lack of public transporation, the cost of telephone land lines, the fact that cable television is the only affordable entertainment for many poor people.

But, this morning I awoke angry: I am angry because these things are true. A person in poverty stricken Clarksdale, Mississippi, may pay $20 for someone to take them to the grocery store where they will spend their $18.21 in food stamps and their $3 in copay on 3 necessary medications at the drug store next door. They may buy a gallon of distilled water for $1.19 (or 89 cents if they can get to Wal-Mart) for their mother's oxygen machine or their own CPAP. They may spend $4.80 for 8 rolls of cheap toilet tissue for all 5 people in the house for a month. They'll buy hot dogs and sandwich meat, along with 3/$1 veggies, microwave popcorn and soda. Hot dogs and sandwich meats provide cheap protein. Popcorn and soda are the monthly treat. That's it. And, I suspect the food stamps won't cover all of it. In some places toilet paper can't be bought with food stamps.

We make missionary trips to other countries and continents to help people in distress. It's easy to build a church or a school building - and those things need to be done. It's not easy to solve the problems of poverty in our own very rich country. The answer is not necessarily political or religious. Some churches send missionary teams to cities to help repair homes or work in soup kitchens or some other type of organized humanitarian outreach. But, that is just picking up loose pebbles on the edge of the landslide.

I freely admit that I am one of the privileged people of the world. I have food to eat, a great home, air conditioning/heating, a washer and dryer and enough money to pay my home maintenance. I drive a car anywhere I want to go. I can read books that I get from the library or buy for my Kindle. I have several hobbies and the materials to make things. I have someone who loves me and makes sure that I am okay. I am blessed beyond my ability to appreciate.

My anger fizzles. I don't have any creative ideas about how to stop poverty from taking over neighborhood or even cities. I don't have any creative ideas about how to help my god-daughter get out of poverty. I will cry and rant and rave when my less-than-normal-intelligence schizophrenic god-granddaughter seriously hurts her mother or worse, but I don't have any idea what to do to prevent it. No government agency or religious group or humanitarian relief exists to provide this granddaughter a safe home. No one has resources to put the small group home to work. My god-granddaughter will end up in jail, homeless, or dead, and I can't do a blasted thing to prevent it.

I pray. I send money occasionally, boxes of necessaries (cost of shipping more than cost of contents), gift cards. I call, I pray.

I hope they have enough to eat this week. I pray that some church food pantry will be giving out meat so they can have protein. I call to let her know that I care.

So what about the people who stay locked up in their homes in cities, afraid to go outside because of thugs, thieves, drug dealers and users, and others who prey on the weak? What about the rural poor who don't go to the few free clinics around because they can't pay someone to take them? What about ......??????

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