With the country in a shaky financial position after the events on Wall Street this week, the presidential election could very well come down to the economy. Yet in all the talk about financial reform, Obama’s tax cuts for the middle class and McCain’s bitterness about “greedy folks on Wall Street”, I can’t help but wonder why neither of them is talking about the poor.
John Edwards was the champion of the poor in his campaign, but since he left the race the concern for those in poverty has all but disappeared. Those who know me are aware that I’m not aligned with any political party; but I care greatly about the issues, and the need to have a dialogue about poverty is long overdue.
This experiment has me thinking about people in poverty more than ever before. The hunger. The feelings of desire that go unfulfilled. The exhaustion. All of these are things that I have limited experience with. I can’t begin to imagine the hopelessness people feel from having little to no choice about where their next meal is coming from. Many people I know would say something like, “Everyone has a choice, those people could turn it around if….” and then they end the sentence with something like, “they were determined”, “they went to college”, etc.
However, I have trouble believing that people in poverty are doing little to change their situation. Indeed, determination can take you far, but it takes more than that. Just ask Hillary Clinton. It also takes more than education. While those things help, the context of a person’s life largely determines the options they have to begin with. I came from hard working parents who are white and traditionally middle-upper class. I was born into a position of privilege that by nature of my birth granted me an easier path to success than the those who are without that privilege.
I have students who are working full time, one who is on his own while still in high school. I can’t imagine what I would have done in that situation; what options would have been available to me. So while some may intone that “they need to work for it, not be given handouts,” I ask: Who are you talking about? Who do you know in a desperate situation that is not working hard to move out of poverty? Who do you know that is hungry and is just looking to take advantage of others?
In the off chance that they know one of these “free-loaders”, I wonder to myself how people of such privilege can pretend to have any idea about what it’s like to be disadvantaged. The poor people I have met are the hardest working people I know.
Please consider finding an organization in your area that is concerned with poverty. Consider sponsoring that organization. Donate your time as a volunteer. See if your company can sponsor a local effort that helps those in need. There’s a reason why Mother Theresa, Caesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and innumerable others devoted their lives to helping others. They knew that by bringing others out of the darkness, their own lives were improved. So if not for others, do it for yourself. I promise that you will find parts of your own inner landscape you never knew existed, and that you will be forever changed; not to mention the lives you touch along the way.
Breakfast: Oatmeal – $0.05 (less than a cup cooked)
Lunch: Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich – $0.31, 1/2 an Orange – $0.09
Dinner: Salad – $0.15 (1/4 carrot – $0.03, 1/6 heart of romaine – $0.08, TBSP Garbanzo beans-$0.04), 2 tbsp dressing – $0.06 (Kerri had one), Polenta – $0.09, Marinara Sauce – $0 .13
Dessert: 1 peanut butter cookie – $0.06, 7 oz. of Tang – $0.06
Christopher Total: $1.00
Kerri Total: $1.00
Donation Total: $622
(THANK YOU FOR CONTINUING TO DONATE!)
NOTE: If you think what we’re doing is interesting, inspiring, or just plain nutty, consider SPONSORING our efforts. Simply enter in an amount, click “update total” and follow the prompting. If you don’t have PayPal, it will let you use a credit card. At the end of the of the month all proceeds will go to the Community Resource Center (here in Encinitas, CA). We will post evidence of donations at the end.