The face of poverty is changing. It is no longer the face of the aging American living on the street. It is no longer the face that we expect. Poverty is showing up in the best neighborhoods and with the most well dressed people. It is the single mother, the war veteran, the US soldier, police officers, college students, middle class families, and teachers that have to buy their own supplies year after year. Poverty is the face of the children that sit in our children’s classrooms. Poverty does not discriminate. It does not look at your age, race, gender, or background and decide to attach to you, it happens because circumstances change and you have to scramble to adapt. Poverty does not care what your life used to be before it attacks, it arrives when you do not expect it and stays for extended periods of time. It is not what one would anticipate when they are young and idealistic and rushing out to save the world. My face is a face of poverty and many of my friends are faces of poverty and we struggle to make sure that we do not stay in poverty.
I had the honor of attending the Results International Conference last week and Lobbying on Capitol Hill and during this conference, I had the honor of hearing the great Professor Muhammad Yunus speak and the one thing that he said that is so profound is that we want to see poverty in the museums. That is where poverty belongs. We want future generations to ask what was poverty like, not know what it is like to experience it first hand. I also had the honor of hearing from three individuals speak candidly about their lives and how they have lived in poverty and their messages touched my heart because their message is one like my own. People do not understand that it is not a choice to lack resources and need assistance, it happens and there are two different people in impoverished areas, those that are looking for a way out of it and those that do not seek a way out of it. There are more that are looking for a way out than those that do not. So please, for future reference, do not judge a book by its cover. Few would know my struggles if they didn’t know me personally. They wouldn’t know my life I did not put it on the pages here. I am young woman that works hard to make sure that things happen for her family but sometimes, having one or two jobs is not enough.
Thursday of last week, I opened up my computer and Facebook to find an article written by a young woman. What makes this young woman so unique, she is homeless and she spoke eloquently about how people treat you differently when you are impoverished and in her case without a home. She spoke of wealth being funneled upward and in one of the comments a woman asked “What is this mechanism that is funneling wealth upward?”. So I thought about what is the mechanism that is being funneled upward? Let’s see, jobs for one. Jobs are being funneled overseas instead of being offered to American’s. That is how wealth is being funneled upward with this theory of trickle down economics. I understand what this young lady is saying and it’s not hard to see those going without a job and the rich getting richer every single day. I live in the South. We were once big on jobs in manufacturing and agriculture, now the manufacturing jobs are overseas and the only job creators in my area are schools and local government. Jobs are the wealth that is funneled out of this country where people can’t work to provide for their families. The best social program, a job. It is not about producing anything that can be sold, but about producing productive members of society. It is about families being able to take care of their children, spend their money in their community to help the tax base so more jobs can be created in their local area, and lastly jobs help keep people out of poverty and also help them sustain a way of life so that they do not become homeless and they don’t need government assistance. When we as a country get this, things will get better for a lot of families from middle class to working poor. While our American citizens are getting poorer, the top 1% of American’s are getting richer.
People are suffering and there are those that sit by and watch them suffer and worry about things that should not concern them such as who bought a candy bar in the grocery store with SNAP benefits instead of worrying about that might be that person’s lunch because they only have enough left on their card to put a candy bar in their tummy. So my message to you is very clear. Poverty has a new face. It is the barista that makes your favorite coffee, it is the single mother working two jobs, it is the teacher that is working for a little over $19,000 a year, and it’s the fireman that works part time saving lives. Poverty is no longer the face of children living in public housing or people that live on welfare. Poverty is your face and it’s mine.