Do you remember in History class learning about the troubles of the Great Depression?
How the stock market crashed and the population who had once only been poor grew destitute?
Do you remember reading The Grapes of Wrath in English class?
What about the old Life magazine photos?
The soup kitchen lines and the trail of dust behind the model T as it took off across the plains?
These images and stories are sealed into our minds because we think of how bad they had it and how far our country has come. We have the resources to create the best future imaginable for humanity – as a whole.
Why don’t you metaphorically close your eyes with me for a moment?
(I’m going to write a story.)
Monday morning Anna awoke. She knew she should go to work, but in her mind she had been reeling from the stress of having to hold it all together. She knows that everything will work out as it should, but there is still this shrill voice of consciousness. The voice that keeps her from sleeping properly or from stepping out on a limb because if things change in life her house of cards could come tumbling down.
So, Anna stayed home. She hugged her children tight. She made oatmeal for breakfast. She turned on the television to find the cable disconnected. Oops, she thought, I guess I need to call them. It was the first time she had been that late on a bill since he left. Oh well, it would work out.
After breakfast she wondered outside to check the mail. Pink and Yellow and Red notices abound. Anna takes all the mail inside and puts it with the rest of the collection. She opens the utility bills and plans her conquest. They will be paid but how will they eat?
The job that Anna stayed home from is by all accounts a great job. She has a good opportunity to make an impact and learn. Monetarily it is enough, but only just. When Anna’s friends talk about vacations and home remodeling she smiles sweetly and looks away before anyone catches the flash of sadness in her eyes. Enough does not equal enough for a new t-shirt much less a vacation. Though in her dreams she is transported to many exotic places and has lovely adventures. Some day she will make those dreams a reality, until then it is enough.
This particular Monday Anna calls her friend Janie who is in a worse situation. She works long hours for a pittance. Janie struggles to make the ends meet every month and she makes it, but only because she goes without so often. Janie asked if she would like to go to the food bank. Hesitant Anna says, “Yes.”
There is stuff in the fridge, but not enough to make a whole meal. Anna hadn’t been to the food bank in years. The last time she had gone was during a period of unemployment and struggle to sustain that lasted a few months. She had lost her job due to downsizing, but was still expected to maintain life. After going through savings and the support available Anna found a job paying just enough to keep her in her home.
Monday morning they arrived at the food bank to find over 100 people already in line, after an hour there were 100 more. The cars went for a mile on both sides of the road and the occupants stood patiently outside trying to stay cool in 100 degree heat. Anna and Janie eventually wove their way through the line. They received just enough for a week of meals; most people could come every week.
Looking around Anna saw many types of people. Some looked as tentative as Anna felt, this was perhaps their first time in the line to accept whatever is given to them. Others looked upset about having to ask for help. Parents with concerned looks on their face watched their children…perhaps they were pondering their own utility bills and stress.
Anna noticed the children smiling and playing and making new “stranger friends” as one child put it. They didn’t know that this was the line of last resort. They didn’t know that their parents had been turned down for assistance program after assistance program, because their parents make too much, but not enough. The voice in Anna’s head that had been shouting at her all morning calms as returns to her car. She will be able to get through with just enough.
She drops Janie off then heads home to load her fridge. She hopes that someday the stars will align and she will get to experience a life of excess. She prays to God thanking him for his blessing. Moments later her children run in with smiles and laughter. Anna knows loving them is enough. Whatever else may happen, if she can love she will make it through.
Now open your eyes and look around you.
How many of you have experienced hardship?
How many of you have witnessed the struggle that is emerging in our nation?
How many of you know that this story is a story repeated in every neighborhood in the nation?
We can work to hide the problem, we can look the other way, but it is there staring us in the face. It is a problem that needs to be corrected. We have the tools to fix it – so why is the problem increasing instead of diminishing?
As I have worked with charities and accepted endless donations “to the cause” as I call it. I see so many people who work hard. They work every day to make their ends meet and yet they still come up short. These are the good people who feel their responsibilities and try to make life work with what they’ve worked to earn.
They feel the failure when they have to accept help.
They are the working poor.
By all accounts I am well paid compared to someone who works for retailers or restaurants. I work 40 hours a week 8 to 5 and pay my bills. I make just enough to squeak by. I am blessed and I don’t know how the millions upon millions of people who make less than I do every month make it work.
The last few months I have been working on a program to provide homes to homeless men and women across the city of Houston. I am one of the charity’s involved social media person, sharing the latest on the projects and giving personal stories of those affected. This is an important task as we move into the future, giving homes to people who need them from buildings that stand vacant.
This, however, is not the solution.
In Anna’s story she could be homeless if she ever lost her job. She is on the cusp of homelessness.
I believe many crimes, societal problems, and mainly, homelessness are preventable.
What would happen if Anna lost her job? What if the motor or transmission went out on her car and she couldn’t get to work? What would happen if Anna’s children got sick? Her house of cards would fall.
I hope this is just a prompt to start a conversation.
Please comment – positive or negative on my belief of prevention.
Next time you have the opportunity to donate time (not money or goods, but time) I think you should spend some time helping the poor.
Learn from them. Grow from them.
Become a link to opportunity for them.
Edit: I referenced the Great Depression because a lot of things are happening in the world similar to what happened before the fall of the economy. I got lost somewhere along the way as I have been known to do…oh well. 🙂