Tuesday, March 6, 2012

POVERTY: Food for Thought

After reading in the Mercury that the Sly Fox was opening a microbrewery on Circle of Progress Drive in Pottstown, I had only one question: where the heck was Circle of Progress Drive?  A map check showed it to be near the airport off of Glasgow Street.
Next time I was in the area, I drove over to check it out and was stunned by what I saw.  It was a business/light industry park with mostly empty buildings surrounded by empty parking lots.  The only real activity was at the microbrewery where workers were busily preparing for opening day.  The empty buildings reflected the down economy our area is experiencing.  The road should have been called Circle of Regress Drive.
Empty buildings lead to empty stomachs.  There are more job seekers than there are jobs available.  Many of the jobs that are available do not pay a living wage.  Money is tight, while food, and fuel get more expensive by the day, thus leading people into lives of quiet desperation.  Eventually, pride is swallowed as people do something they never thought they would have to do: go to a local food bank.  During hard times increased traffic at the food banks soon results in empty shelves. The call goes out for food donations to replenish supplies, blah, blah blah.  You know how it goes because you have heard this story before.  You are not alone.  Let's, for a moment, examine the reactions to the poor and to poverty.
Mr. ObliviousHe isn't reading this article.  He is into himself and his immediate circle of family and friends.  Life is good.  He tries to stay positive and avoid negative subjects like poverty.
Archie Bunker:  Known today as a Dittohead, he claims that "those people" (code for minorities) are just too lazy to work.  If you say "welfare", the first word that comes to his mind is "queen" (more code).  If you were to present him with facts like the majority of people on welfare are white, or that close to half of welfare recipients are children, he would denounce these as liberal lies.  If you point out that the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States is medical bills due to an unforeseen illness, he would say, "That's the way goes".  Of course, there are some deadbeats in the system, as there are in any system.  Archie isn’t all wrong, just 95% wrong.
Mr. and Mrs. Average American: They have a compassion that Archie totally lacks.  Their motto is, "There but for the grace of God go I."  They will donate food if they see a collection bin.  They might donate through a service organization or their church.  They might even drive to a food bank to drop off supplies.  Others go even further and volunteer their precious time serving meals or find other ways to help the down and out.  For them it is just the right thing to do.
Mother Teresa:  These people are really into Jesus, I mean really.  In Matthew 19:21 Jesus says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  While this is far too radical for most of us, there are some in our community who have done just that.  Perhaps certain members of the clergy have done this, but I'm thinking of the leaders of the local Salvation Army.  They own neither house, nor car and have dedicated their lives to helping the poor and the downtrodden, whoever they may be.  They are the polar opposite of poor Archie.
A few final thoughts on poverty in America: Government money that goes to help the poor is called welfare.  Government money that goes to help the middle class (home mortgage deduction) and the rich (tax dollars to oil companies) is called a subsidy.  1% of the federal budget goes toward public assistance for the poor.  12% of the federal budget goes toward subsidies for the middle class and the rich.  Yet, strange as it may seem, the Archie's of the world get far more steamed by welfare payments than they do by subsidy payments.
I know that the people in the Boyertown area are generously supporting both the Salvation Army and the Multi—Service food banks.  I hope the same is true in other area towns.  The Mercury's leadership in the current food drive and the volunteers who are assisting in the effort will ensure that no family in our area goes truly hungry.  For that we can all take pride.  Who knows, Archie himself might mischievously donate a can of outdated vegetables.

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