“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” ~ Mother Teresa
Blog Action Day is an annual nonprofit event that aims to invite writers from all over the world to join in a one day event discussing one issue, and bringing that cause into the forefront. This year’s theme for Blog Action Day is poverty.
Poverty Close to Home
Suburban America – my home. Communities seemingly unaffected by the current economic struggles many face. Everyone with a roof over their head. Low crime rate. A “good” place to live…
And yet, just a few miles down the road…
Crime rates up. Kids missing school on a regular basis. Families in financial ruin.
And that’s where my story begins. A couple of years ago…
One of the organizations I am involved with is our local Cub Scout Pack.
After hearing of an organization that was in need of clothing for their shelter, we decided, as a Cub Scout Pack, to have a collection and help out this shelter just down the road about 20 miles. 20 miles. So close to our homes, and yet a world away.
We collected many items for use with this place non of us had ever heard of before. This place, Repairers of the Breach, located in downtown Milwaukee, was like a foreign entity to us – us in our large homes, with two cars, with new clothes, with toys for our kids, with food in excess – foreign to even think there was a need for such a place.
We brought items for the collection, because it was the “right” thing to do. To help out in this season of thanksgiving. To give and then move on to happier thoughts.
For our small group within the Cub Scout Pack, though, we were charged with delivering these collected items to the Repairers of the Breach. Would it be “safe” to take a few 3rd graders to a shelter in downtown Milwaukee? Away from the safety of our suburban neighborhood?
After much discussion, both with parents, and with the “Repairers” organization – we decided we would take a group of parents and kids to the shelter to deliver the items we had.
It was an experience I’ll never forget.
We arrived to this place, really not bigger than a large house, in a very beat up neighborhood. Not a place I would feel safe at on the streets at night. We went into this place…
And we were quickly greeted by the director of this organization. And she quickly introduced us to two of the “regulars” at this shelter – I’ll call them Roy and Larry. Both Roy and Larry were in beat up, old clothes. And they smelled not of a recent shower. But that’s not really what we noticed first. What we noticed was their upbeat attitude, their true gratefulness at our “gifts” as they helped us unload the clothing we had brought.
Roy and Larry took us to the basement of their shelter, a day use shelter to help people get back on their feet – to help them break the string of poverty in their lives. And in the basement, on an old sofa (that we would have thrown away) and a few folding chairs – we sat and spent some time getting to know Roy and Larry. Hearing their stories. Having them connect with our children (and us). And in doing this, poverty and homelessness – things “we” only thought about when it was convenient – seemed very real, very personal. In connecting with two gentlemen who were living poverty, it became real for us. We felt their heartaches, we understood (at least on some level) their need to be here in this place. And we saw poverty first hand. And the sadness that goes along with it.
A day I’ll never forget…
And yet, time has passed, and my life has moved on. I won’t forget that day, but have I fallen back into the insular world of suburban America? Back to where my concerns are for that which I see? Back to where I have lost the personal connection with poverty so close to home? Back to where I see only my world…
How about you? Do you “see” poverty in your neigborhoods? Do you “see” poverty in your world?
Sometimes we think that this is something that is far away from us, that poverty is the thing of third world countries. Poverty is very real, and very much near us. We may not always see it, but it’s there.
What can you do to help those “close to home” – those who suffer the effects of poverty?