Picture yourself a single or divorced mother. You are more likely to be white than black. You and your children live in rural poverty, on an army base, or in what is now politely known as the “inner city”.
You work outside the home, in a full or part-time job (sometimes two). Since you have no more than a high school diploma, you are limited to minimum wage, blue and pink collar jobs. Never mind that you grew up in poverty, yourself.
Childcare is an ongoing challenge, sometimes costing you jobs. When a child is sick, you miss work. Child support is little more than a fantasy.
Poverty and all it entails is a recognized cause of chronic health problems. You may already be suffering from depression or heart disease. Your children still have their dreams. They, also, have asthma.
There are government programs that should be of help to you. Welfare, Food Stamps, and others. These require that you set any remaining pride aside, and wait hours on a phone, a website, or a line. You do that gladly (and repeatedly), to no avail.
One agency takes the position you are another’s responsibility. A third unaccountably closes its file, sending you back to the beginning.
So on and so on. Bureaucratic errors and delays bring you to tears. You fear you may snap.
Your children have had little stability in their lives, apart from you. Unfortunately, you (and they) have more than once been evicted.
This is not the result of a cavalier attitude on your part toward finance.
To the contrary, you stretch your meager income as far as possible to meet expenses. Since there are never enough funds to go around, you pay bills in part, in alternate months, or allow them to go into collection. This applies to rent, as well.
Evicted and without savings, you sleep on a friend’s couch, effectively homeless. Your children may have to change schools again; may have lost their meager belongings to a lockout by the landlord.
Public housing is not an available alternative. The waiting list for subsidized housing in your state may be years long. Such housing is often dilapidated; the crime rate there, astronomical. Ceilings leak, toilets function only occasionally. Gunshots can be heard in the halls.
Younger children eat before older ones. You eat last, if there is any food remaining. More often than not, the refrigerator stands empty.
This is the face of poverty. It is not the image any of us would choose for Thanksgiving. But it is the face of America as surely as that of Lady Liberty or Uncle Sam. As we sit around our holiday tables, the rest of us would do well to remember that.
“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty…and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me’ ” (Matt. 25: 44-45).
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