Little Things

As we approach the holidays I can’t help but think about the massive numbers of unemployed and homeless people in Detroit (and around the Country). In the past 9 years the rate of poverty, which had been decreasing since the mid-1960s, has been increasing. But statistics about poverty or hunger don’t begin to tell the story. Dr. Martin Luther King once observed that poverty is a form of violence. Not only because it damages the body, but also because poverty damages the soul and spirit.

I can’t begin to understand the effect it must have on a mother who has to choose between paying the heating bill or buying food for her children; between taking a part-time job at minimum wage or staying home to raise her children; waiting at a bus stop to take a sick child to the E.R., or waiting to see if they will get better without spending a dollar on bus fare instead of food.

Choices like these are being made every day by families not just in our own country but in our own city. I see it every day. Anyone who chooses to look with eyes open would too. The debilitating effect of poverty runs through generations, and the vast majority of people in poverty are single mothers and their children – mothers who are working as well as raising their children.

If poverty can injure a soul, then the generosity of others might be a healing salve. Your small sacrifice is a tremendous source of healing for others, so we should not hesitate to give a few dollars to the Salvation Army, The Goodfellows, The Capuchin Soup Kitchen or any of the charities that will be hitting the streets in the coming weeks.

I have a friend who was raised by a single mother on welfare for the first 12 years of his life. He is a successful professional now and earns a good income. Sometimes he tells stories of how his mother would take him and his brother and sister home to home in their neighborhood, asking if she could wash walls or iron clothes for money or food. To give you an idea of how little things mean so much to people in need, he now says that the very best meal he ever had was when his mother sat him and his sibs down for dinner and the only food in the house was a box of cake mix. So she mixed water and the cake mix and that was the meal they had that day. But it was so welcomed that it remains in his memory the best meal he ever had. Little things we give can mean a lot – even if it is some cake mix for a food bank.

4 Responses to Little Things

  1. Patricia Jankowski says:

    Thanks for reminding us of this, Mr. Fieger…there are still way too many poor in the world, and for no good reason.

    I want to share the website for one of my favorite charities. This is the Heifer catalogue. If you get the catalogue, you can order tax-deductible gifts for families in more than 125 countries of the world. The gifts pertain to livestock and agriculture and help develop programs that the families themselves can work to alleviate hunger and poverty.

    Their website is:

    For example, they offer a gift of honeybees for $30…I’m going to do this one this year, I think. For only thirty bucks, I can provide a family with a package of bees, the box and hive and the training in beekeeping. This also helps the planet, as the bees are disappearing.

    And there are countless other ways.

  2. Vicki Porter says:

    I know what it is like to watch someone you love suffer because they don’t have the insurance to pay for medical care. I watch my daughter work hard at a job that pays no benefits. She struggles to put food on the table and a roof overhead. She took her sick child to the doctor and trusted in his judgement for help and ended up screwed with no where to turn for help. In today’s society the only God many people believe in is money! It’s hard not to give up.

  3. Carol Szalega says:

    Geoffrey PLEASE run for Governor – you will get my vote for sure. I believe you have exactly what it will take to make Michigan what it should be – prosperous!

  4. InYourFaceNewYorker says:

    “Dr. Martin Luther King once observed that poverty is a form of violence. Not only because it damages the body, but also because poverty damages the soul and spirit.”

    Well, sure. The other day I read an article about a scientific study on the effects of mice “exposed to social defeat” or in “impoverished housing” and how they reacted in ways that strongly suggested depression and caused aggression towards other mice (

    Poverty isn’t just a form of violence that damages the “soul and spirit” like MLK said, but it also CONTRIBUTES TO violence. How can anybody expect to become a healthy, well-adjusted adult if they are struggling to survive everyday? Conversely, how is it that some people, like your friend, manage to pull through and live comfortably in adulthood? I read a book by Steven Pinker, “The Blank Slate,” in which he discusses how the way we turn out and how we handle situations like poverty is a complex interaction between genes and environment. Unfortunately, our brains are largely hardwired to react in counterproductive ways (ie violence, etc.) in response to desperate situations like poverty… It’s a struggle for survival!

    And why aren’t families on welfare given access to free contraceptives (not forced, of course)? It seems that that alone could potentially put a HUGE dent in the poverty problem. Or is this one of those boneheaded, contradictory, “culture of life” things that prevents it from being an option? One of those things that could lead to accusations of eugenics or a “slippery slope?”


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