I recently attended a lecture where the speaker, Tony Campolo, was addressing these very issues. However, the complexity of poverty may be lost on those who have taken the “Why don’t they just get a job?” mentality, which I admit in some situations that has been my line of thinking.
The economic climate in the past few years, I feel, has brought a drastic decrease in this line of thinking as successful college graduates and veteran employees find themselves jobless.
I have always held that some people truly are victims of circumstances beyond their control. Whether it is an economic downturn or the spread of malicious rumors that tarnish a reputation in the workplace, sometimes losing a job or not finding one is beyond a person’s control. Compassion for this group comes easy to our human nature. They did nothing wrong. They do not deserve to be in this situation.
Compassion comes harder for those deemed “lazy.”
I admit that I have fallen into this camp at times, writing off that if a particular person would just go apply they would get a job.
There is something worse than being lazy as it relates to poverty.
It is hopelessness.
The mindset that if I apply for a job I won’t get it because … Or, I can’t keep a job because …
Hope is what keeps a person applying to job after job after door after door of opportunity has shut.
Hope is what keeps the jobless college graduate pursuing a career while they have a job that simply pays the bills.
Recently, I found myself in a conversation that pointed to all the complexities of living that are caused when a lack of education and physical ailments collide to create a seemingly hopeless situation.
Many jobs are closed to a high-school dropout. Hard work in warehouse jobs or fading sight has cost this person jobs. Office work brings migraines from staring at computer screens, and this has cost jobs. Foot issues further complicate the situation for some people.
This is a situation I rarely find myself in — wanting someone to apply for disability.
I am glad I live in a country that has a system of steady assistance for those who truly need it.
However, I believe some flaws are present in government assistance programs. The entire issue of who can get government assistance or even disability has been a debated topic I have heard about since childhood.
Sometimes those who need the assistance aren’t approved, while it seems sometimes those who might have a lesser need are approved.
During the lecture I heard on poverty, education was touted as an answer to poverty, and I agree. Education is more than learning a skill. A true education is about learning how to adapt and thrive no matter what life throws at you.
Countless people grew up in what society would deem as a “hopeless situation,” one that destined the child to a life of living on government assistance and barely making it.
Countless people have come out of that situation because of education.
As a young person, Kevin Clash (creator of Elmo) was always an example I heard about. He graduated from the same high school as my parents, but the neighborhood he grew up in had more of a stigma.
Turner Station in Dundalk, Md., was talked about as not a great place — “on the other side of the tracks,” as some might say.
Knowledge of puppetry led Clash out of Turner Station and to a career with Sesame Street.
At a recent NAACP breakfast I attended, the speaker — Shaquana Kennedy — told of how education became a way for her to break poverty and not become another teenage mom statistic.
Hope is still available for the high school dropout as many places now accept the GED.
I submit to you that hope of a better future and belief that circumstances can change play a major role in whether a person can have success after life circumstances tear it from them.
Campolo also stressed the role that broken families and absent parents played in the increase in poverty in the United States. Now, I am not a sociologist nor do I claim to be, but in my own day-to-day study of human nature, and after having listened to those who have studied sociology or psychology, it is amazing to me how many negative issues in this world seem to be traced back to family issues.
Anyone who has taken a writing course knows good writing has a conclusion. Although this column ends, it seems incomplete.
The complexities of poverty still exist. Many work toward the end of poverty, but a true solution will be as complex as the varying issues that have created it. That is why there are so many organizations that address needs of housing, food, clothing, counseling, marriage restoration and job skills.
It is this system that may one day be able to step back and truly see a conclusion to poverty.