[the following article was sent out on the subversive underground on jan. 9th, 2006 to the subscribers of the e-newsletter]
POVERTY LIGHT by Keith Giles
The other day I happened upon an article on MSN entitled "Poverty Now Comes With A Color TV".
If you'd like to read the entire article, (because I'm about to spend a lot of time ripping it apart), it's here:
Basically, it's one of those articles that puts forth the assertion that since the "poor" in America have luxuries the rest of the nations don't have, they're not really poor.
The underlying innuendo of those sorts of articles and commentaries is that these "American Poor" aren't really poor at all and therefore they should just get a job and stop leeching off the welfare system.
It really makes me angry.
Here's a sample from the story itself:
"Census data find an ever-growing material prosperity, with formerly high-dollar luxury items now commonplace in even poor households."
"In terms of the items people have ... it amazes me the number of people who
are at or near the poverty line that have color TVs, cable, washer, dryer,
microwave," says Michael Cosgrove, an economist at the University of Dallas
in Irving, Texas. That's not to ignore the hardships of poverty, he adds,
"but the conveniences they have are in fact pretty good."
Ok, I've worked first-hand with the poor in Orange County, California, which is incidentially one of the top 10 economies in the entire world, and I've got a different perspective on poverty in the U.S.
Most of the poor I work with live in motels. Most of them have jobs, or a source of steady income. In fact, for Orange County, 80% of the homeless have a job. They work at Taco Bell, or at the local Grocery Store, or cleaning toilets in large corporations, but they can't afford the monthly rent here, along with a security deposit and the last month's rent. They can barely buy food for their children and they're lucky to have a motel room to shelter themselves in.
Think about it. Those in the motel have access to cable tv, refrigerators, microwave ovens, swimming pools, and heck, they even have a maid who comes in every day to change the sheets and provide new towels. Doesn't that sound great? How can we really call them poor?
Because they are.
I've been in these motel rooms. I've seen whole families crammed into a single room, sleeping on floors because they can't all fit on the bed. Kids toys piled up in the corner near the air conditioner, which usually leaks and barely works.
I've prayed with pregnant moms who have no insurance and no idea how they'll feed their baby once it comes.
I've stood in the rooms of the elderly who are barely able to pay their rent, (about $275 a week), and who weep with joy when you give them a small box of macaroni and cheese or a loaf of bread because it means they'll have something to eat.
These people strive for dignity and survival every day, working their guts out, trying to save their money, trying to get ahead so maybe they can get into an apartment one day, so their children will have a safe place to play.
I once walked through one of these motels in the middle of the night, trying to help a guy who needed a place to sleep for the night. I passed drug dealers, prostitutes, and drunks, on my way to the guy's room, wondering if I'd make it back to my car without getting stabbed or robbed.
And this is where hundreds of families raise their children in Orange County.
But, look, they've got cable TV! They've got air conditioning! Shouldn't that make it all better?
No. It doesn't.
I recently came across a very large report commissioned and published by the County of Orange in 2004. It was a county-wide assessment of the economy, housing, education, crime, etc. in Orange County. Here's some of what I learned from this report:
*A minimum wage earner in Orange County must work 112 hours a week to afford a fair market one bedroom apartment.
*Orange County is one of the top 5 wealthiest places in the world to live.
*Orange County households average $1.39 per household in charitable giving.
*There are approximately 35,000 homeless people in Orange County.
*70% of these are families with children.
So, when I read articles like the one published by MSN that suggest that the poor in America aren't "really" poor, it pushes a button in me. This is insulting and misleading journalism.
The truth is, we don't have to travel to Ethiopa or India to find the poor. We can get in our cars and drive five minutes in either direction and find someone who is living in poverty, who doesn't know the Gospel, and who desperately needs the love of Jesus.
The real question is, will the people who are called by His name step out of their comfort zones and make a difference?
The poor are all around us. As Jesus promised us, "The poor you will always have with you."
Are they not poor because they have cable tv and air conditioning?
I'm tired of hearing the argument that since the poor in America have it so much better than those in other countries who are "really poor" that must mean that they're not actually poor or that we don't need to take responsibility to help our own people.
If Katrina didn't pull back the covers for us and reveal the true depth of poverty in this nation, nothing will I guess.
I just know that I wouldn't and couldn't live in the places that these people have to live every day. I don't have the courage.