Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day, and this year the topic to address is poverty.

Honestly, I wish I had something original, clever, or wise to say about poverty. I’m not an economist. I’m not a social worker. I’ve done some work with the povery-stricken, but not much. So my participation is limited to a few random thoughts I’ve had about the subject over the years.

And, in fact, this has been an almost impossible post to write. I’ve struggled with it off an on all day, and I have written and erased at least 1/67th of a Moby Dick* of text several times over trying to figure out exactly what to say. And I never got it.

So, short and sweet: Povery sucks. I mean it really, really sucks. So do what you can to eliminate it, both at home and abroad. At home, donate money or time to a local food bank. Buy food for or give money to the homeless people on the streets. Donate time or money to an adult literacy program, since illiteracy is one of the greatest contributing factors to the problem of poverty. For the problems abroad, give money or time to international relief organizations.

I mean, seriously. What else can I say? I feel strongly about this, but I don’t wish to be pretentious or presumptuous. I’m not in danger of slipping into poverty myself, and I’ve never experienced it; the closest I’ve ever come was in the few months after graduation from college, when I had to sell off most of my book collection to pay my rent, or borrow money from my parents. There was this one time when I had to go to the emergency room with a serious asthma attack, and couldn’t pay for it and had no insurance, so the hospital wrote off my bill. But that wasn’t poverty either; that was just inconvenience, really. I’ve never experienced the soul crushing despair of absolute poverty. I’ve never lacked for resources. I’ve never had to worry whether my landlord would evict me for being a few days late for the rent. I’ve never starved. I’ve never had to worry about whether my children would have enough good food to eat. I’ve never even lived in the bad part of town. I’ve met and spoken with people who have lived in poverty. I’ve driven through a Native American reservation and seen scenes of utter despair. God willing, I will never have to experience that level of poverty for myself.

So do something. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to the problem. It’s easy to pretend that you didn’t see that homeless guy on the corner. It’s easy to say that the poor deserve what they get because they don’t want to work, or never bothered to learn marketable skills. It’s easy to justify not giving because we’ve heard all the stories about the “welfare queens”, or because we figure they’re just going to spend that money on drugs or alcohol, or because we just figure someone else — the government, perhaps, or corporate charity programs — will take care of them.

Poverty is easy to ignore, even though it lies at the heart of just about every other problem in our society. We’ll never be able to eliminate poverty, but that doesn’t excuse any of us from doing what we can to ease the pain of someone else.