Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Poverty: the real picture of a huge minority

I have written about poverty before, but it has been a while, and things have changed.  My perspective on what poverty is has widened.  Now, it is not just about being poor in the wallet, but poor in every other area too.  It seems that those impoverished in other nations are sometimes richer in life.

I met with a woman yesterday in a rough area of Baton Rouge.  While driving to her home, I noticed all of the abandoned, dilapidated, and destroyed homes along the way.  There was a sadness to the place as if hope was on life support.  

I parked on the side of the road and walked up through an overgrown yard to a rickety door locked up tight.  After ringing the door bell, I hear a shout "who be there?!"  I replied and she opened the door.  She was a very nice lady, but not in the best health.  She was working 40-55 hours per week and trying to get as much overtime as possible.  She was concerned though because at any time they can lay her off, cut back her hours, and she'd be in bad financial shape.  

Like most people in that area, she has a paid for house, but it's not worth much.  She has very little debt, but no money in the bank either.  She is getting on in years and she has no hope of retiring with anything other than social security which would provide about 1/3 of her current income.  What is likely to happen, is that in another 10 years, her health will begin to falter, forcing her to cut back hours, barely have enough income to make ends meet, and squeak out the rest of her life on whatever government programs can help her get through to the end.

During our conversation, her son who is 28 bursts into the home with his 1 year old son.  He's not married, acts like he's drunk, and is smoking inside her house right next to his son.  He's employed, but only part time, so she helps take care of the 1 year old from time to time as she can.

I leave her house, saddened by her plight and unable to do anything substantial that will change her life.  While leaving I notice the sort of businesses as I leave.  There is, in my opinion, no honestly good business in sight.  There are a few alcohol stores (which also carry a few grocery items), check advance and payday loan places, hair salon, a fast food chain, and a strip joint.  Seriously.  No grocery stores, banks, small businesses, etc.  The one school I came across looked fairly new, but structured similarly to a prison.

The amazing fact is this: according to the Congressional Budget Office, about 40% of our country lives in a place like this (based on the lowest 40% of income earners).  I'm not a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist, but I can tell you that neither republicans nor democrats have a solution for this.  The only thing that will work is the favor of God and millions of well-paid, full-time jobs.  We as a nation, are choosing to pursue neither of these priorities.

I also know that that portion of our population has increased in the last 30 years and is continuing to do so.  It is simply a matter of time before we can no longer sustain this sort of poverty.  Clearly, I have no idea when we'll reach that point, but I can't imagine that day is too far away.

Lord, please come soon.

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