The world has never been fair. You know very well how different the life of one born in poverty and one born in luxury regardless if you lives centuries ago or living in the present. While you can’t choose your family, you have a chance to improve the quality of your life as you age especially if you are educated or talented with great gifts. However, the odds are high if you are poor because education is expensive and talents often need to be harnessed over time unless you are exceptionally good.
Although it is easier to discover raw talent now with the help of social media and there are more opportunities for work depending on your industry, the life of the poor remains the same. Most poor workers work on the most menial of jobs and get their hands dirty for a measly amount in return. And as such, they are trapped in a cycle of poverty throughout their lifetime and so on and so forth. In times of need, they may commit crimes to put food on the table or save the life of a loved one.
Crime and joblessness are directly related.
A person does the crime, serves the time, gets out of jail and can’t find a job.
Employers are afraid to hire convicted felons.
Perhaps the person with a record initially wants to walk the straight and narrow.
But without a job or any prospects for finding one, he gets frustrated. Then he gets aggravated, or perhaps just desperate.
The next step is often resorting back to a life of crime.
So, do we let the poor people be trapped in this situation forever or do we do something about it and stop them from becoming criminals in the process? We all have a capacity to help others. It may not always be monetary but any form of help can make a difference in their lives, especially if it gives them a chance to escape their fate.
Fortunately, unlike in the time of Charles Dickens, people in need are not forced into prisons or union workhouses and there are agencies to help people if they wish to seek help.
There are, to name a few, the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry, Upper Room Food Bank, Salvation Army, many churches offer programs, Downtown Charlottetown Inc. has a “street Navigator”, Jenn Nicholson, who manages its Street Out reach program.
We feel the need to share our blessings and uplift the lives of the poor even though we are not told. We feel compassion for those who suffer in hunger and in pain because they don’t have the money to pay for their needs. While many are willing to share, there are some who don’t feel obligated to give back to the poor.
On one side are folks, like me, who feel that a civil, caring society has a moral responsibility to fund anti-poverty programs.
On the other side are people who argue that it’s unfair that a share of their income — through taxation — subsidizes various federal and state entitlement programs that help people who became poor because they made irresponsible decisions.
We have to keep talking about this, because divided we all fall. When readers disagree with me, I give them a chance to be heard in the Color of Money “Talk Back” feature. I received quite a bit of pushback on this month’s pick for the book club. I selected “Falling,” an essay by novelist and former Washington Post book critic William McPherson.
Faith in humanity is restored every time we hear stories of people helping one another in times of need and more so of ordinary individuals going out of their way to extend help to the poor when they have so little themselves.
Advocating for anti-poverty programs does not mean you don’t recognize that some people getting help made poor choices. It doesn’t mean you absolve them of personal responsibility. People shouldn’t have children they can’t support. Retiring and then recklessly spending down your money is bad money management. But helping the destitute is the decent thing to do.
What do we as a society owe the poor?
We owe them empathy. We owe them a safety net that gives them a chance to get back on their feet — and maybe even survive.
You don’t have to be rich to be able to help the poor nor do you always have to give out money to uplift their lives. Even donating used clothes and things can help people get through their day. At times, just spending your time with them to hear their story and become a friend is more than they can ever ask for.
Nowadays, it is easier to ask for help from the global community through the various social networking platforms. Anyone can set up GoFundMe sites to raise money for various causes or even ask the help of local charities to set up fundraising activities through their various networks. There is always a way if you are willing to help. You can help one person at a time or an entire community. By empowering the poor and helping them stand on their both feet without always relying on the government or others for help, we can make the world a better place to live in for future generations. To be able to do this, we need the concerted effort of the state, the church, and the people to address poverty at its roots.