Poverty is insidious. Its tentacles wrap themselves around a person, making it difficult to escape. Some do, but there are often scars. Those born into poverty will, more likely than not, die in poverty, and they’ll die at an earlier age than those who have better access to healthcare. According to a 2013 Pew Charitable Trust study, in this country only 30 percent ever escape poverty.
Besides health care and life expectancy, poverty affects almost all aspects of a person’s life: food insecurity, education, employment, living conditions. Denied access to higher education, which could be a roadway out of poverty, most are relegated to minimum wage jobs. Those who get caught up in the criminal justice system, even for something as minor as a speeding ticket, can find themselves permanently behind the eight ball.
The poor fall in love like anyone else and have children who they hope and pray can do better. Fees are everywhere, including assessments in public school. If the child wants to participate in an extracurricular activity, there are more fees. Some schools make accommodations to offset these fees, but that isn’t true of all. How many talented children don’t get the chance to be like others?
Banks usually do not provide loans to the needy because of the risks involved, thus opening the door to predatory lending companies that charge exorbitant interest on small loans. They prey on the poor. The next time you drive through Oneonta on Ala 75, count the number of these usury lenders in this small town. It’s eye opening.
Maybe the greatest possession a person has is self-esteem, and that too can be stolen by poverty. But there is no shame in being poor. The only shame to be had is for those who are either ignorant of poverty, or worse, those who ignore it. The ignorant can be educated, but those who ignore the suffering of others is another matter.
To the former group, I quote Charles Dickens: “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” The latter group may need a stronger nudging, so I refer them to Jesus in Matthew 25:34- 36, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’” (NKJV)
You can help. It doesn’t have to involve much. Most churches have some type of program to assist the underprivileged. Ask your church what you can do to help. If your church doesn’t have such a program, ask why not. Many businesses take up collections at special times of the year to give aid, but some do it year-round. One example out of many is Hometown Market. A container sits at the front door asking for food items for homeless veterans. Even dropping in a can or two of food each week can help.
What you might think is a very small gesture on your part, could be a very large blessing to someone in need.