This post is my contribution to Blog Action Day, joining thousands of other bloggers to write about one topic for a single day. This year’s topic is poverty.
It’s not yet dawn as Jessie prepares breakfast for her younger brother and sister. Her father has already left for work, so it’s up to her to feed her siblings and see them off to school.
Jessie then attends a full day of high school before returning home to prepare dinner and put her brother and sister to bed. Then she does her homework.
Jessie’s father works 12-15 hour days as a truck driver. Despite his hard work, day in and day out, his paycheck doesn’t quite cover all the bills.
Jessie hopes to attend college, so she works hard to keep her grades up despite being the teenage caretaker of the family. While her classmates choose between universities, Jessie must often choose between food and her father’s prescription medication.
High fat, processed foods are staples of a low-income diet when your monthly food budget is only $120 for a family of four. This antagonizes her father’s heart problems and struggle with obesity, which leads to even more medical expenses for a family that can only dream of health insurance.
So it’s not just about money. If Jessie’s father becomes too ill to work, she’ll no doubt stick around to care for him, and welfare will be the only option. By continuing to do the right thing for her family, Jessie will abandon her dreams and fail to break the cycle.
I wish this story was a work of fiction, but it’s not. Jessie’s tale has been well documented, and that may be the only reason she makes it out.
The bigger problem is that there are 13 million kids like Jessie in the United States alone. And you can forget the typical stereotypes.
The Hidden Face of Poverty
Poverty in America has many faces. But the story of Jessie’s family is way more common than many more fortunate people care to realize.
They are not drug addicts.
They are not mentally ill.
They are not lazy.
What they are is one bad break from being out on the streets.
Even worse, they can’t break the cycle.
Consider this: Jessie has more responsibility and works harder as a teen than many twice her age. And Jessie’s father puts in more hours at work than most people in this country.
Hard work is clearly not the issue. If hard work is all it takes, why do so many kids end up stuck in the same vicious cycle as their exceptionally hard-working parents and grandparents?
There’s clearly something missing.
It’s Up to Us to Break the Cycle
What’s missing is you.
Many are uncomfortable with the “Welfare State” and the government taking tax dollars to help those less fortunate. If that’s the way you feel, no problem… because that puts the responsibility squarely on our individual shoulders—mine, yours, and everyone else who actually believes in the American Dream.
So what can you do to make a difference?
You can get involved with Save the Children by donating your time, your money, or both. Save the Children helps impoverished kids worldwide, but they can connect you with well-deserving poor families in your own area.
There’s a lot of financial uncertainty these days, but the reality is that even though we feel poorer, most of will never experience true poverty. If you want to calm your fears about financial matters, try gaining perspective by giving to those who have much less and yet much more to fear.
After all, as Winston Churchill eloquently put it, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
What will you give today?
Tell you what… I’ll donate $25 to Save the Children for every pledge of $10 or more from each of you out there. Just drop me a note in the comments with your pledge, and go here to make your donation.
If there are companies out there that would like to make a more substantial donation, I’ll be more than happy to recognize you for it in a follow-up post. Send me email with the details.
Thanks for your time and attention.