The most important poverty statistic: One

in the morning, while he waits for the coffee to be served

Last week I wrote an editorial about local poverty that appeared in the Muncie Star Press. The piece was in response to multiple editorials in the paper about poverty in Muncie, specifically the poverty stats that just came in from the 2010 census.

Muncie is home to Ball State University. Students account for about 1/4th of Muncie’s population, and since they don’t earn much they are essentially living at or below the national poverty level. Anyhow, everyone was arguing about what the numbers mean, how to factor in/out the students, and how somewhere between 34%(!) and 15% of Muncians live in poverty. As if 15% is okay?!?!

So I interjected my two-cents…

An editorial last month in this paper focused on poverty in Muncie. It stated “that Change is going to be slow, painful and unsteady — and it will come from within.” I agree with every word of that and would like to thank the editorial staff at The Star Press for focusing on such an important topic. However, the staff defined “within” as local politicians, social service agencies and churches. They left some folks out: You and me.

I have a poverty statistic for you: one.

Do you know one person living in poverty?

Do you know the daily crisis that is life in poverty? Do you know the fear that comes with the monthly utility bill?

The response was varied (from I agree to poor people stink) and I thought I would share some of the more interesting ones.

I commended one commentor who talked about all of the local organizations he and his wife supported and his response to my comment was…

Thanks, Kelsey. I have to be 100% honest, though. My wife and I don’t give because we believe we have an obligation to end poverty – we don’t believe we do and would disagree with your letter on that point. And our motivation isn’t to help people.

We give because it makes us feel good to do so. Our motivation is selfish.

And the most negative response:

In this country most people are poor because they are poor managers.

The fellas that left the comments above never said they did know someone living in poverty. I bet if they did, the first would give for reasons not so “selfish” and the second would realize that there is hardly a greater crisis to manage than opening up the cupboards and not having enough to feed your kids.

I’m not saying that every single person living in poverty makes great choices and that some of these choices haven’t got them where they are. But I am saying that before we pass judgment on 15%-35% of our neighbors, maybe we should get to know them a bit. There are hard working folks who are trying to get out of poverty, trying to improve the lives of their children, who could use a friend.

You could be that friend.

How about you?

Do you know one person in your community living in poverty?

 
3 comments

That’s a great question Kelsey. I’m sure I do, altho I’ve never actually asked how much my neighbors make or how they spend their money. My neighbors range from senior citizens on social security to families on public assistance. I drive one neighbor to doctor’s appointments & donate to the resource center in our community. Helping someone in poverty doesn’t necessarily mean making their life perfect or giving them everything to live. It means lending support, guidance, assistance, and more often than not, just being their to let them know they matter.

Kelsey says:

I couldn’t agree more Joanne. Thanks for being a good neighbor.

Roland Pierre-Louis says:

statistic one !

Let your voice be heard!