The Mennonite and the Skeptic

June 6, 2016

Quelling my Inner Teacher

June 6, 2016

Living at Poverty Level

June 6, 2016

I was talking with my friend Naomi about how hard life is for the poor and middle class in America. (Naomi lives in an upscale housing development in Scottsdale, Arizona, and I live in a slant-floored, creaky farmhouse in economically backward Rusk County, but we get along because she’s really peasant at heart.)

We were discussing an article she had found about the angry white working class people who are voting for Trump in protest towards the Establishment. (Naomi is a flaming liberal who despises Trump, and I am a mugwump who agrees with whatever she says about politics. Saves me a lot of trouble, and I don’t vote, anyway.)

“Those journalists and politicians have no idea have no idea, really, what it is to be a lower working class person struggling against a rigged economy,” I told her after reading the article. “Our grievances are legitimate.”

It’s globalization, she said. It’s drugs and poverty and  low-wage Wal-Mart workers.  It’s complicated and it’s sad.

And then I went to church and sat under the sound of the Gospel, and wondered what I had said.

I am blessed with love beyond measure and eternal life and every physical need supplied–and I can look someone in the eyes and tell them with a straight face that my life is difficult? What is wrong with me?

There is an income gap in America, it is true, but I don’t think even a low-wage Wal-Mart worker has any right to complain. We have just too many opportunities within easy reach and no reason to go hungry or cold.

My grandma worked forty miles from home when she was fourteen, and in those days forty miles was a long way. She got dreadfully homesick. But her parents needed the money–and  there were no food stamps to fall back on, either. College would have never entered their minds.

And here I am. My family and I make near to what is considered poverty level, and yet our house is absolutely bursting at the seams with things we don’t need. We have more than enough food to eat, and it is good food, too. We children travel frequently, are quite independent, and have multiple smart phones and other techy gadgents within easy reach. If we wanted to go to college, the government would help to pay our way. Pretty much any opportunity is open to us. And yet, in this country, we are considered “poor.”

I think we are more spoiled than poor. And that goes for everyone else, too.

7 comments

  1. You ought to travel over here to Kenya with Heather Kuhns. This country does put the word poverty in a new light!

  2. Luci, your take on poverty is very interesting. I appreciate your willingness to depend on God instead of politicians and your gratitude for all that you have. Most of us have more than enough, especially compared to the millions worldwide who live on one or two dollars a day. I can appreciate your perspective. There are many people in America who are not as fortunate. There is hunger and homelessness in this country, and that is a shame.

    1. There is hunger and homelessness in this country, and I do not minimize that. Since I have only experienced my own circumstances, I wrote from that perspective. But I do believe poverty involves more than just a lack of money or material goods or even unfair labor conditions. We are more immediately the victims of our own inner demons, emotional hurts, anger issues, addictions, than we are the victims of a public policy; and even the wealthy may have areas of deep poverty in their lives. Consider the high rate of suicide among pop stars as a startling example of this. For all of us, unhappiness comes from inside ourselves and can only be solved by starting there.

      1. I agree about the ultimate questions. I also remember Matthew 25. I’m sure you do also. We are likely to disagree on the role of public policy. But that’s okay. We both have friends who disagree with us. 🙂

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