There were boxes everywhere. Some large, some small, filling the basement. Evidence of the community’s generosity could be seen throughout as the group of girls arrived. The humidity was thick that August afternoon, but the atmosphere of the party lifted the heat. Celebrating a friend’s birthday, the girls wanted to make their mark on their community. In the basement of that downtown church, 10 teenagers were chattering happily as they were sorting a variety of items. They had a single mission. Doing their part to help reduce the stress of poverty for local families, they were tasked with putting kits together. The receivers were unknown. Would it be a classmate? Possibly a neighbor?
Meanwhile, across town, there were bills everywhere. Evidence of the parents’ concern was visible as they stared at the big, bold words, PAST DUE for the third time this month. Struggling to find a steady job, the family had no idea how to survive on the little income they had earned. Hopeless. Desperate. Searching for stability or a connection that could help them get back on their feet, the family reached out. The community answered their pleas for help. Assistance from humanity was helping this local family of four to have their food insecurity needs met. Can you imagine living in a world without access to food, money, and knowledge? There are millions of people around the world where this is the life they know.
Poverty is defined as the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor. It is an epidemic felt globally, nationally, and locally. Globally, more than 3 billion people (nearly half of the world’s population) live on less than $2.50 a day. There is a struggle to put food on their tables while others are living lavish lives. Nationally, over 45 million people living in the United States fall under the category of living below the poverty line. Locally, according to the 2015 census, 11.7% of the people living in Snyder County are living in poverty. The world needs to know the truth about poverty. Poverty deserves to have its myths debunked, its realities understood and a compassionate response from all of humanity.
We begin by having an understanding of what poverty is and what it is not. Money, or a lack of it, is not the only thing that represses people into poverty. According to poverty education expert, Ruby Payne, poverty is caused by a lack of eight essential resources: emotional support, mental support, spiritual support, physical support, support systems, role models and knowledge to hidden rules. These are resources that the middle and upper classes take for granted. Virtually inaccessible for those living in despair, is there even an escape from Poverty’s grasp?
A common trend in thinking is people living in poverty should be able to rise up and take care of themselves. The population’s mindset is, “if I work hard and can provide for myself, why can’t everyone else?” This trend also parallels the thought that people living in poverty are lazy and don’t have the drive to fix their situation. It is believed that poverty’s prisoners “are capable, but unmotivated” to provide their families with the basic needs that are essential to survive. This theory, however, is false because there are families that have such a low income, they cannot provide their families with basics such as food, water, and shelter. How did they arrive in this place, anyway?
The answer for some is, poverty is generational. Others, it is situational. A local community member who was surveyed says even though he has a stable job, he feels “like only a health issue or injury away from it.” Others surveyed believe people can get out of poverty with the help and support of others. Survey responses indicate strongly that Poverty is ugly, unnecessary, and sad mostly because people don’t know how to help or even begin to wrap their heads around this growing issue.
It starts at the top. The world needs its leaders to model acceptance of everyone, no matter what social class they reside in. Regardless of race, social class, and origin, the citizens of America have been excluded from important topics that are issues very close to home. During the most recent presidential debates, poverty was only discussed 31 times while the topic of Terrorism and ISIS ruled the floor with a whopping 716 total times of discussion. While talking about how to demolish hate and crime in the world is important, exterminating poverty should be the world’s top priority. It appears that the leaders of America are so focused on bombs, terrorist groups and destruction, that internal issues like poverty appear to be ignored and less important.
Action can and should be taken by all social classes. Physical appearances, skin tones, origins, locations and resources all share leading roles in how social classes are determined. America is the wealthiest country in the world, but it still has its flaws. Poverty would be one of them. While others (wealthy) are bathing in money and social connections, families all over the world are struggling to survive on the low income on which they are depending. As the former South African President, Nelson Mandela, stated, “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” We should consider Mandela’s wise words telling us that we, as human beings, can be part of the solution to eliminate poverty. The whole world needs to come together and support the people in need. But where do we begin?
Millions of people around the world and in the local community struggle with poverty. Across the world, people need to step up and face poverty head on. Poverty is a man-made issue so it can easily be eradicated with generosity and kindness. Donating to a food bank, giving supplies to homeless people on the street, starting a charity to raise money for poverty “prisoners” are three of many examples of action that people can act upon immediately. “Helping people boost themselves out of poverty is the best way to make a lasting positive difference in a person’s life.” These are the words of Naveen Jain, the Entrepreneur of the Year, calling people to action. The world needs everyone to chip in for poverty to be completely erased from peoples’ lives.
Poverty does in fact have its own story to tell. In order for its truths to be heard, it begins with an understanding, continues with a debunking of myths and grows with compassion. Its elimination can be successful with action. “Poverty is not just a lack of money; it is not having the capability to realize one’s full potential as a human being.” This quote by Amartya Sen, Harvard Professor of Economics and Philosophy, is calling the world to action. Poverty wants its story to be told so that when it is understood, should lead to action. One random act of kindness can change a person’s life forever. Why not try to be a hero to someone today?