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Some Perspective

June 10, 2011

Yesterday I told myself I didn’t want to go to the gym because I was too tired. I justified it by saying I had had a long day the day before and had already worked thirty-odd hours this week and that I deserved to rest. Then, I realized what a privilege it was just to be able to have that possibility. For some people, there is no rest, and there are those who would find it a luxury to only need to work 40 hours a week to support themselves and their families. You’d think these people are rare and far away in some distant land, but they’re in our neighborhoods, cast aside and forgotten by our broken system.

Here is some information I gathered online[1]:

  • In 2009, approximately 20% of males between the ages of 18 and 24 in Pennsylvania were below poverty level. It was 25% of females of the same age group.
  • That means, among four women, that person could be me.
  • The poverty guideline, in 2009, for a household of one was at about $10,000, but the cost of living in Pennsylvania is almost three times that much.
  • If a person earns minimum wage ($7.25 in PA), he/she would have to work almost 80 hours a week to make the $30,000 cost of living. 

There is government support for people who qualify but the current system makes it difficult for them to get out of the cycle of poverty.  Watch this video to understand what I mean.

The statistics given above are not meant to make us middle or upper class people feel bad or guilty. They’re meant to give us some perspective and make us realize the privilege of the security we have. One of my favorite quotes is by the theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel: “In a free society, all are involved in what some are doing. Some are guilty, all are responsible.” None of us are at fault for the failing welfare system, but we are responsible for changing it and allowing everyone the same standard of living.

That’s why there are programs like Circles Initiative which aims to engage the community in helping families move out of poverty. Circles brings families working to get out of poverty and middle to upper income allies together to achieve goals specific to the family, address systemic and community causes of poverty and identify barriers to overcoming poverty. Those involved with Circles and programs like it are not to blame for the state of our welfare system and its implications, but they’re taking on the responsibility of addressing the need for change and instigating positive changes in our communities.

The next time I want to complain about how tiring my job is, I’ll remember the reasons why it’s important and how much progress we still need to make.


Countdown to GIV Day: 77 days





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