Monday, August 10, 2015
Today was my fourth day working for my AmeriCorps site. My adjustment seems to be going fairly well. There have been moments when I have felt a bit overwhelmed. But such feelings are not at all unusual when a person is beginning a new job. I have the added feature of a new home environment. A lot has changed for me in the last two weeks. Indeed, there have been so many positive developments I have caught myself feeling amazed that all the manifesting changes are really happening!
As I adjust to a living allowance on par with the poverty level as defined by the federal government I have found myself reflecting on ways to define poverty. What exactly does poverty look, sound, smell and feel like? Here are some of my thoughts:
the experience of having a treatable illness that nonetheless progresses because your health insurance is sufficiently comprehensive or generous enough to cover it. So you get to watch your health decline over the years despite your best efforts to be healthy.
that moment when the last remaining vital industry closes down in your town and is then off-shored to another country (so the wealthy few at the top of the company hierarchy can enjoy wealth unlike anything a vast majority of employees will ever experience).
moving hundreds or even thousands of miles across country in the hope of finding better work...and in the process leaving everything you know behind you.
missing the funeral of a loved one because you can't even afford the plane ticket to go to it.
being really tired at the end of your work day and feeling relieved that you don't have to go grocery shopping that night. And yet you will have to go shopping soon because you are low on food.
repurposing items from your wardrobe because it's been years since you bought new clothes for yourself.
marveling at how some people have enough money for pets when you hardly have enough money for food for yourself.
feeling unappreciated in your community to such a degree that you consider moving to a different place where there is more human capital similar to you.
not wanting to look for work anymore because your efforts over the course of years have not produced the results you want. And you also feel disgusted by the constant insistence that the economy is improving while all the while not seeing any real evidence in your local community.
lacking stable parents when you were a child and thus being unable to remember the joy of genuinely stable relationships in the earliest years of your life.
visiting other cultures, such as Native Americans living on their respective reservations, and seeing what massive unemployment, alcoholism, domestic violence and the like can do to an entire culture.
having enough money to eat for the day but no job, no real prospects of a decent job and feeling confused all the while that the decisions you are making are actually good ones.
watching the infrastructure of your nation disintegrate around you but not having the means to do much about it because you are yourself engaged in a difficult and long process of trying to hold on to what little you have.
fearing the people who make up the influential institutions in your community.
living near poisoned land or water and not having sufficient political clout to change these circumstances.
In short, poverty is a burden all too many people bear.