Day 39

Please somehow share this post today.  And when you do, share your own “Poverty is ______” statement.  On this day to remember suffering, let us truly focus our hearts on those who suffer. And how that means we all suffer.  Please share…

Poverty is…

“Poverty is vulnerability to death in its crudest forms.  Poverty is the relentless daily attrition of contending with the most primitive concerns of human existence: food and cleanliness and clothes and heat and housing and rest and play and work.”  William Stringfellow, My People is the Enemy, p. 6

Poverty is the young girl lured away into a life selling her soul, and all for a pair of shoes and a new purse.

Poverty is the man with a criminal record trying to make something of his life, yet hitting wall after wall after wall of legal discrimination, all because of one mistake.

Poverty is not having a textbook to take home to study, or access to a computer to do your assignments, or a classroom with ceiling tiles, or real and equal opportunities to learn and grow.

Poverty is the semi-truck trailer full of humans being told they could have a new life, while they are really being sold, commodities on the market.

Poverty is the couple with a newborn baby who cannot risk complaining against the landlord because they have nowhere else to go but who cannot keep living in the terrible conditions of their apartment.

Poverty is the young person suffering from the illness of addiction but who cannot afford private treatment, never able to find the help desperately needed to heal, ending up with a rap sheet instead of a health chart.

Poverty is the mother who can’t get a job, can’t get assistance with basic needs, can’t leave the shadows, only because she is told she didn’t walk through the right door.

Poverty is the teenager being abused but whose family won’t say anything because of shame.

Poverty is the disabled elderly woman who has a landlord keep her $99 deposit just because they think they can, stealing a large amount of her fixed-income monthly sustenance.

Poverty is waiting.  For the bus.  For the doctor.  In line for food.  For a decent home.  For the legal aid attorney to call you back.  For a stable job.  For everything, wherever you go.  Waiting.

Poverty is poison.

Poverty is vulnerability to death in its crudest forms.

That’s why speaking and listening and staring intently at poverty today is so fitting.  Today, on this day that the poor homeless criminal Jesus was put to death so many years ago.  Marginalized and oppressed, Jesus the Galilean took a journey to Jerusalem, the Way of the Cross, speaking truth to power, becoming one with the poor, and giving his life away so that we all may have unending hope, experience deepest joy, and know the most powerful weapon in world, Love.

Yet, poverty is when those of us who are not poor never care to see the poor, the homeless, the criminal right in front of our eyes.  Poverty is when our comforts come before our neighbor’s survival.  Poverty is when we become blinded by our complicity with systems of oppression and accepted social “truths” that cast people aside to the margins of existence.  Poverty is when we dehumanize the other by perpetuating the myths about the poor.

May the truth set us free.

Debunking Poverty Myths and Stereotypes (from http://www.couleecap.org Community Concerns June 2013)

In poverty, the choices you have are extremely different from the choices of those with privilege and access to resources. Those with privilege and access to resources have the luxury to make real choices about their future. The crisis of poverty rarely allows you to plan for your future. Most people in poverty do what they have to do to meet basic survival needs and to help those they love who are also in crisis. It is hard to think about having a future when your family is hungry today.

People living in poverty have to make tough choices with their money all day, every day, just to squeak by, and every dollar they spend could land them under the microscope. There’s no room for error. And, unfortunately, there’s plenty of judgment to go around from others. Many people who do not live in poverty have a tendency to criticize the poor and blame them for their supposed laziness, lack of intelligence, or willingness to make bad decisions.

There are many myths and misunderstandings that fuel stereotypes that negatively impact those living in poverty in the U.S. Here are just a few of many myths related to U.S. poverty:

1. MYTH: Poor people are unmotivated and have weak work ethics.

The Reality: Poor people do not have weaker work ethics or lower levels of motivation than wealthier people. Although poor people are often stereotyped as lazy, two-thirds of people living in poverty work an average of 1.7 jobs; 83% of children from low-income families have at least one employed parent; and close to 60% of children have at least one parent who works full-time and year-round. According to the Economic Policy Institute, poor working adults spend more hours working each week than their wealthier counterparts.

2. MYTH: A huge chunk of my tax dollars supports welfare recipients.

The Reality: Welfare costs about 1% of the Federal Budget. The majority of those living in poverty do not receive government welfare assistance.

3. MYTH: Those who get on welfare stay on welfare.

The Reality: Of those that receive welfare assistance, more than half stop receiving benefits after a year, 70% within two years, and 85% within four years.

4. MYTH: Social mobility is possible by working hard.

The Reality: Education is the key to social mobility, not “working hard.” Our current economy requires workers to be more skilled than in the past. This is not our grandfather’s era where people could simply “work hard and pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” Today, an education provides the bootstraps people need for social mobility. However, many people who live in poverty cannot afford the costs associated with secondary education.

5. MYTH: Poor parents are uninvolved in their children’s learning, largely because they do not value education.

The Reality: Low-income parents hold the same attitudes about education that wealthy parents do. Low-income parents might be less likely to attend school functions or volunteer in their children’s classrooms—not because they care less about education, but because they have less access to school involvement than their wealthier peers. They are more likely to work multiple jobs, to work evenings, to have jobs without paid leave, and to be unable to afford child care and public transportation.

6. MYTH: Poor people have babies to get more welfare.

The Reality: About $60 per month is all that welfare recipients receive for additional children, and in some states the amount is zero. The average welfare family is no larger than the average non-recipient American family. Welfare benefits are not a significant incentive for childbearing.

7. MYTH: Poverty has little lasting impact on children.

The Reality: Research is clear that poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being. Poverty can impede children’s ability to learn and contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Poverty also can contribute to poor physical and mental health, and poor self-esteem. Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/or experience deep and persistent poverty.

8. MYTH: Poverty is a minority issue.

The Reality: Poverty is not solely a minority issue. Poverty affects people of all races. Of the Americans living in poverty today, 42% are White, 29% are Hispanic or Latino, 25% are Black or African American, and 4% are Asian. However, poverty has a disparate impact on people of color.

9. MYTH: Poor people tend to abuse drugs and alcohol.

The Reality: Poor people are no more likely than their wealthier counterparts to abuse alcohol or drugs. Although drug sales are more visible in poor neighborhoods, drug use is equally distributed across poor, middle class, and wealthy communities. Studies have found that alcohol consumption is significantly higher among upper middle class white high school students than among poor black high school students. This finding supports a history of research showing that alcohol abuse is far more prevalent among wealthy people than among poor people.

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