“because they choose to be…”

For anyone who still is under the impression that a) poor people are poor because they choose to be or b) America is immune to the situation, I submit to you this NPR report on Hunger in America. I especially recommend this section which chronicles the story of the Hankins, a family of five in western Virginia that makes around $22,000 a year, with the husband working full time and wife working part time. They are one of 38 million families in America classified by the Department of Agriculture as “food insecure” – people who can’t be certain of having enough money to buy food.

While the text of the story is good, I would encourage you to listen to the voices of the people – real people – who work hard every day, and still have trouble making ends meet.

Here are some of the statistics listed on NPR’s site which come from the USDA report on food insecurity and Second Harvest’s survey of 32,000 families.

Rural U.S. population considered “food insecure”: 7.4 million

Percentage of U.S. adults defined as “food insecure” reporting skipping meals or cutting meal sizes: 6.6 percent

Proportion of all U.S. households with children reporting children often or sometimes don’t get enough food: 4.6 percent

Proportion of people surveyed at America’s Second Harvest emergency food services forced to choose between buying food and paying utility bills: 45 percent

Proportion of people surveyed by America’s Second Harvest forced to choose between buying food and rent or mortgage payments: 36 percent

Proportion of people surveyed by America’s Second Harvest forced to choose between buying food and paying for medicine or medical care: 30 percent

Proportion of households surveyed by America’s Second Harvest reporting at least one family member in poor health: 29 percent

I particularly appreciated Brian’s suggestion this morning that our generosity toward God is at least in some way reflected by our generosity toward others. It is particularly convicting that I will think nothing of purchasing a 3 dollar cup of coffee when there are people in my own city who don’t have enough food to eat. Statistics like this serve as a reminder to me, and hopefully to us all, that poverty is not a problem for someone else to deal with.

I believe Jerrell said it best this morning: “When we say, ‘Poor people choose to be poor,’ what we’re really saying is, ‘It’s your fault that you’re poor, and therefore I don’t have to do anything about it.'” I believe we are called to reach out to the poor, that God often associates himself with the poor and oppressed, and that ultimately using the blessings we have for others returns more to us than we give away.

One Reply to ““because they choose to be…””

  1. Great post!! I would agree (obviously) that we as individuals and the church as a whole need to examine our approach poverty and homelessness and take a more aggressive stance to help. Depending on the statistics used, between 25-30% of all homeless people suffer from some kind of mental disorder. For many, homelessness and poverty is not a choice but their only perception of reality. We tend to view this as somebody else’s problem to fix. However, drugs cost money, shelters cost money, soup kitchens cost money, and hospitalization (or mental institutions) cost a LOT of money. I’m not exactly a fan of big government (too much croneyism and waste) but until the private sector and religious groups begin to truly care about the poor, our tax-supported social services are the best hope.

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