Image by Pierangelo Rosati via FlickrI have some poor friends.
And I was going to try to hand over the reins of this post to someone who is in a much better position to talk about poverty than I am. But she's kind of busy.
This friend of mine, who has endured serious health issues for much of the time that I've known her, is the adoptive mother of children who might have perished without her care. Tiny little people who were born addicted to drugs, and who now have miraculously made it all the way to their teenage years. And who are keeping her running.
Poverty is a constant presence in the family's life.
Even from where I stand, on the outside looking in, you can feel the strain.
It's not just about skipped meals, or clothes that don't fit, or dwindling furniture because when it breaks there's no money to replace it. It's also about the way poverty colors their interactions with their friends and others.
When help isn't forthcoming – when the only specialist who will accept Medicare is on vacation – it's trying to decide if it's worth the potential cost of time, money and dignity to try to get someone else to help.
When help is available – when the foodbank drops off a box of what they think are staples – it's struggling with the conflicting feelings of gratitude and frustration, since half of what's in the box is stuff your kids won't touch. If you're well off, and your kid is a picky eater, it's something you deal with. If you're poor, it's maybe one more thing you feel people looking down on you about. Who are you to be picky?
Before Henry Cisneros' fall from political grace, he said something that has stuck with me ever since. Part of the privilege of being well off in America, he said (and I'm paraphrasing, this was a while back), is the privilege of being protected from the knowledge of the rest of America's struggles.
It could be that these tumultuous economic times are going to put a dent in that particular privilege. As my partner said the other night, "That knock at the door? That's the wolf."
My plan? Lots of centered listening. I'm clicking on that Blog Action Day button below to hear what other folks have to say. And I'd be interested in your comments, too. As always.