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PostImages of Poverty (John Heelan, UK, 05/26/19 3:56 am)
Three incidents are etched into my memory banks.
The first happened in a very snowy Boston during one of my regular visits. The first incident happened on some waste land behind the shopping street. A group of men was gathered around a refuse bin converted into a blazing brazier, trying to get warm. As I walked past, one of the men held a 10 dollar bill in both hands out in front of him and declaimed, "I am looking at happiness." As I trudged back to my comfortable hotel overlooking Boston Harbour, I felt a heavy yoke of guilt descend on my shoulders--should I have done something? This was just before Thanksgiving that year and this man and his companions appeared to have little to thanks their Maker for if happiness could be bought for 10 dollars.
The second incident happened in London. We noticed that every day a man with long white hair went into a group of red telephone boxes opposite our office (as US multinational) at the top of what is known as "Petticoat Lane" (or more formally as Middlesex Street). Once in the telephone box, we observed that under his long raincoat was concealed a dress that he surreptitiously let down. Having failed to gain access to Salvation Army hostel for males, he was later seen trying to get access to a Salvation Army hostel for females on the other side of the river.
The third incident was that we daily observed a group of men seeking warmth from the heating outlet of the Indian restaurant opposite our offices. The only other time I have seen this was in NYC with people seeking warmth from the steam outlets of the underground train lines.
JE comments: You never forget a poignant image of poverty. I have one from Chile many years ago: street children begging for customers' chicken bones outside a fast-food restaurant.
On a related note, I read just yesterday that 40% of Americans do not have the savings to cover an unexpected expense of...$400 (that's hundred, not thousand). Think about it: nearly half of this wealthy country lives hand-to-mouth. We WAISers are a fortunate lot.
Images of Poverty
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
05/26/19 2:39 PM)
I also have seen some images of poverty. One was this young immigrant to the US who was going to college on a student visa which forbade working for a living. He did break the law working odd jobs. It was barely enough to pay tuition, so many times hunger would knock. He would go to Bob's restaurant around noon and buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee, with free refills. By putting a lot of sugar and cream in his four or five cups of coffee he was able to make the meal last for the whole day. On one occasion the young man got a discarded big container full of aged sour cream which supplemented his diet for a few days when combined with a loaf of bread. The amazing thing is that the young man did not think it was honorable for him to go on welfare or get food stamps because that was only for needy people. I tried telling him otherwise but he never listened.
A similar image of poverty is that some colleges today have organized a food pantry because some of the students, including many US citizens, are hungry despite the fact that some have part-time jobs as they go to school. These are young people trying to do what society told them to do: work for a living, try to improve their lot by getting an education, and staying away from drugs and criminal behavior. For how long can they keep going before they give up and join the hordes of homeless and drug addicts?
How can we justify or just try to explain the priorities of a national government which have operated with an ideology which creates billionaire while hardworking citizens trying to improve themselves are starving in their efforts? We are not talking about just people who have given up on life. These young people deserve government attention. We as a society are failing them now and we will be failing ourselves in the future. Our sense of priorities suck!
JE comments: I hear many stories of student poverty. During his college days, our late colleague Bob Gibbs lived for a time in his car. He showered in the university gym. Bob rose from the humblest beginnings to an amazing life of scholarship and service to his country. Especially on Memorial Day, I miss him greatly.