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.