Poor child, Author Pankajauyangoda (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

They are like straw before the wind, and like chaff that a storm carries away” (Job 21: 18).

Often, those of us not raised in dire poverty fail to understand the chaos of that environment.

The electricity is turned off, and homework is not done.  The ceiling falls in, literally.  The grocery bag rips, the eggs smash, and there is no dinner.  Children sleep in the bathtub as their only defense against drive-by shootings.  An intoxicated neighbor sets the house on fire.  An argument over sneakers escalates into a shooting.  Police arrest a parent, and the children go into foster care.

No Safety Nets

There are no safety nets.  There are no margins for error.  What to the rest of us might be an inconvenience, at worst a minor hardship, can be devastating to the poor.  Progress is impossible.  A youthful indiscretion may cost a life.

Is there any wonder that long range consequences are imperfectly understood?  These children have not been in a position to predict from one hour to the next what may befall them.

Disappointed and Discouraged

Children in poverty face constant disappointment, and daily discouragement from the adults around them.  Promises must be broken again and again.  Some of the criticism may actually be an attempt by adults to protect their children against the bias they are expected to face.  Underachievement is perceived as “safer” than success.

Not all such criticism is intended, however, to be benign.  Many adults – themselves defeated by poverty – view the potential achievements of others as an indictment, a reflection on their own efforts.

This repeated exposure to unexpected trauma, this constant barrage of negative feedback, results not only in insecurity, but Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression.  There is no one to rely on, and no escape.

Stress on Families

Poverty places enormous stress on families which are already vulnerable.  This is not meant to imply that the poor are incapable of feeling.

Parents living in poverty desire the same advantages for their children they see enjoyed by others.  This can, itself, lead to bad decisions.  What little money there is available may be expended on computer equipment or other electronics, while the family struggles to keep food on the table.

Moreover, the problems of parents are passed onto and replicated by their children.  A mother, whose own credit has been exhausted, may take out credit cards in the names of her minor children, thereby saddling the children with a marred credit history before they are old enough to read.

The future is sacrificed to the present.

Chaff in the Wind

While they may be chaff in the wind, children in poverty are not in some way “deficient” or undeserving.  Whatever mistakes their parents may have made, these children come into the world with hopes as bright and shining as those of any child.

Poverty has many causes; it must be attacked on many fronts.  No matter how well intended, government programs alone cannot eradicate poverty.  Poverty can, however, be impacted by government.  That is the lesson from President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Unless and until we commit to its eradication, as individuals and as a nation, children raised in poverty will continue to be victims of chaos.

Originally posted 3/8/15



Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Poverty, Religion

2 responses to “Chaos

  1. Hello my friend. Last week I attended a two day training session on the issues involving migration and how the local church can better respond in order to help people affected by this crisis. The information was sent out to thousands of ministers, pastors, church leaders, and others who are involved in local church ministry.

    I must tell you Anna that I was dumbfounded by the lack of response from church leaders. On the first day there were roughly 55 in attendance, while on the second day only 40 showed up. To make matters worse, non Spanish speaking attendees made up less than 10% of the total number of attendees. What is shocking about that is that of the thousands of invitations sent out, the vast majority went to those same non Spanish speaking church leaders!

    Frankly, I was and am appalled at the seeming lack of love and concern for these people from the church. The poor, be they citizens or migrants, are often helplessly caught in the web of policies and politics they cannot begin to comprehend. Does not God’s heart break over their plight?

    The church has a divine mandate to assist the poor, the widows, and the fatherless. How we can ignore this mandate from God and still expect Him to bless us by keeping our own refrigerator full is beyond me.

    Forgive me, but I am sickened by what I am seeing related to the poor in this country. I will be the first one to say that it is impossible to eradicate poverty, yet the church is literally sitting on billions of dollars of wealth. Surely the Almighty will not hold us guiltless for looking the other way when confronted by poverty and abuse when the church has the means to help millions out of the stranglehold of poverty.

    Forgive me for the rant dear friend, but this post touched a nerve.

    • My dear friend, you echo my own feelings. Scripture predicted that in the last days the love of many would grow cold (Matt. 24: 12). We see that sad prophecy being fulfilled before our eyes. But there will be a price to pay.

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