Blog: The Price of Poverty

Sometimes I am a sucker for those news headlines that Yahoo! features. This one from The Washington Post caught my attention last week. Five years ago, before I moved to an urban area, I wouldn’t have been able to identify with the situations the article describes. Now I can.

While there are a myriad of factors that contribute to a child or teen being considered “at-risk,” it is not unusual for chronic poverty to be part of the mix. That is true in the zip code 85006, where the heart of Aim Right’s outreach occurs. To get some perspective, here are a few facts:

  • The 2007 Census Bureau poverty level for a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) = $21,027
  • The 2007 Census Bureau poverty level for a family of 6 (2 adults, 4 children) = $27,705
  • In 2007, residents living below the poverty level in 85006 comprised 41.8% of the population.
  • In 2007, residents living at 50% below the poverty level in 85006 comprised 20.3% of the population.

Bear with me while I do some math, but that last figure means that 1 in 5 residents likely subsisted on an income level in the $10,500-13,800 range in 2007. Per month, that computes to a range of $875-$1,150.

How do you begin to provide for a family when those numbers are your reality? You apply for government assistance, you move frequently when you find a more palatable living space for your already stretched dollars, you wake up and go to sleep with a sense of hopelessness and uncertainty.

Something has bumfuzzled me lately, and it is this: When I have asked various children if they are excited about the end of school and the beginning of summer, I’ve been surprised at their lack of enthusiastic response. In my childhood experience, I couldn’t wait for summer to come, because that meant going to camp, riding my bike, swimming, playing with cousins and friends, going on family vacations to cool places like Yellowstone National Park, Niagara Falls, and of course, Branson, Missouri, the mecca of family entertainment in the Midwest.

Most of my memories are wrapped up in what I got to see and do and experience. If I would subtract all of that and add in a dysfunctional family, scorching summer temperatures, and a house that’s not much cooler than the outdoors, I think I would’ve dreaded the beginning of summer break, too.

So how does one insert hope into these depressing situations? As the Psalmist puts it, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Do I believe that the goodness of the Lord can appear, even in a stagnant cycle of poverty? And perhaps, a better question — What am I called to do in light of the poverty I see? Is God wanting to use me as a tangible revelation of His goodness to someone who is in need?

The price of poverty. Has it cost me anything? It did Him.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah. Although He was rich, for your sakes He became poor, so that you, through His poverty, might become rich.”

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