Blog Action Day: POVERTY SUCKS

Yeah, sometimes I fall for a marketing gimmick too. This one always gets me because it requires so little action on my part and the cause is always a good one.

In case you didn’t know it sucks to be poor. I’ve actually had people try to tell me that homeless people make a good living collecting cans and begging for change. My response is always the same, “Would you do it?”No one ever says yes. Even if you could make a reasonable amount of money doing this (I don’t believe it for a moment) you would be working incredibly hard and under incredibly demeaning circumstances.

There is an old joke (saying?) that goes, “It’s not illegal to be poor in the US, but it might as well be.” As a nation we constantly split ourselves into “we” and “they.” We are not in jail, they are. We do not live in this kind of place, they do. We are not the kind of people who have to deal with this kind of thing, they are. There is no we and there is no they. There is only us. The historian C. Vann Woodward has argued that Jim Crow laws came about in part because poor whites needed some way to distinguish themselves from poor blacks. Another way for “we” to not be “they.” That same kind of fear is still with us. And to some extent we (myself included) all do it.

As an increasing number of people are finding out — capitalism can be a true bitch. People are losing their apartments because even though they paid there rent regularly the landlord couldn’t afford the mortgage and lost the building. People are having to choose between rent, medicine and food. Soon we’ll be adding heating to that list. They are having to make that choice because the job disappeared or the price of gas spiked or someone got sick at the wrong moment or whatever. Sure some people did foolish and/or stupid things to get in that position and some just got caught by bad circumstances. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they are we.

There is no end of ways to help fight poverty. There is no effort to small to make. Give to a food bank. Donate some time at a shelter or some other place that helps people. Give all that excess stuff you have to a thrift shop. Hell, buy something at a thrift shop. My personal favorite — when someone on the street asks you for money give it to them. (Doesn’t have to be money either, I’ve been known to give doughnuts.) Not only that but look him or her in the eye and have a conversation. Doesn’t have to be long, just long enough to make sure both of you know that they are we.

(Sometimes people will say to me, “but what if that person just uses the money to buy drugs or alcohol?” My response, “Can you blame them?“)

An excellent post from writer John Scalzi on what it is to be poor:

Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.

Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

Being poor is your kid’s teacher assuming you don’t have any books in your home.

Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.

Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.

Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.

Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.

Read the whole thing.

2 thoughts on “Blog Action Day: POVERTY SUCKS

  1. Thanks for this clear and important message. When you have the chance to read Carole Lynne’s new book Cosmic Connection: Messages for a Better World, you’ll see that she concludes that there is no we or they: there is us, and we all are responsible — and we all need to change in order to address the problems of poverty, hunger, war, envirnmental destructure, and the like. Thanks for being such a clear spokesman for reason.

  2. Great, thoughtful post. Thank you for taking the time to write this and for sharing your perspective on poverty. I’m sure I’ll re-visit this post from time to time to help keep perspective, especially with the madness of the holiday season approaching.

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