Bridges out of poverty

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Marie and I were invited to join in a workshop today entitled “Bridges out of Poverty.”

We were puzzled.  How could two “girly” girls, who never denied themselves anything that made us look richer, younger or thinner, ever have an impact on the reduction of  poverty.

Our friend Lynn Phillips encouraged us to attend the program and it challenged us to do a bit of brutal soul searching which was both uncomfortable and exhilarating.

I learned more than I could suitably digest,  but two ideas stand out in my mind.  Number One, many of us are dangerously close to living in poverty if this economy doesn’t turn around, and Number Two, how dare we judge those people who are caught up  in generational poverty – dating back as far as their personal histories have been recorded.

“But for the grace of God, there go I” is a weary cliché, but it hit me in the face like a sucker punch.  Because I was born into a nice middle class family and enjoyed the perks that come with that assignment, I tended to believe that those living at the poverty level just weren’t trying hard enough.

Could you shoot me now?

After today, I realize the fallacy of that kind of thinking.  I discovered that there are three classes of people in America – the ultra wealthy, the middle class and those living in poverty.  The over-riding distinction is that the former are hopeful for the future and the latter is in survival mode.

When you don’t have food to feed your child, saving money is as foreign as eating fish eggs someone chooses to call caviar and charges $107 dollars a pound.

No wonder we can’t understand each other.  But we better start trying because Washington wants to keep us very confused.

2 thoughts on “Bridges out of poverty

  1. Just curious…what were some “bridge” suggestions? I am continually amazed at the number of LEGAL immigrants coming into this country who do not speak our language and are not familiar with our customs and yet they are soon self supporting…many starting successful businesses. Am thinking a strong work ethic may contribute to their success.

  2. Yes – work ethic is one missing element in poverty stricken families (especially those depending on welfare for generations who don’t know any other way), we learned at the workshop. But the language barrier also plays a huge role and I’m not talking about foreign speaking job applicants only. American-raised applicants who haven’t, or won’t use proper grammar, will be less likely to be hired for higher paying jobs than those who can. No concrete answers – other than to create venues where members of the various classes can interact and begin to understand each other.

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