Our Eyes Were Opened


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Myth Busters

Compiled by Beth Templeton, 3.30.18

Based on Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, Mariner Books, imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

  1. Not having money has nothing to do with having hope.
  • The absence of cash can equal the absence of hope.
  1. The poverty level is dropping. Our community and economy is growing. The upward trend will continue.
  • In the fifteen years prior to 2011, the number of households living on income of no more than $2 a day doubled to 1.5 million households. (1 out of every 5 children)
  • Unless Greenville does something about its housing crisis for lower income households and transportation needs for everyone, the community will strangle itself.
  • 12% of children under 18 in SC lived in extreme poverty in 2016. Extreme poverty is defined as 50% or less of the poverty guideline. (Family of four poverty guideline in $24,600)
  1. Most people who live on $2 a day or less are people of color and/or single.
  • Almost half are white.
  • Almost one-third are headed by married couples.
  • In SC almost one half of babies born are born to single mothers.
  1. People don’t have to be poor because they receive government benefits.
  • One way the poor pay for benefits is with their time. (Poverty Simulation responses.)
  • The EITC requires that a person worked at least part of the year.
  • Supports such as SNAP (food stamps) are not cash and cannot pay the bills.
  • Only about 25% of income-eligible families get any kind of rental subsidy.
  1. The changes of the 1990s when welfare was “killed” resulted in fewer people living in poverty.
  • There are indeed fewer numbers of people using welfare but that does not mean they are not living in poverty. The number of homeless children in schools increased from 656,000 (2004-2005) to 1.3 million (2013-2014).
  1. People who live on $2-a-day or less do not work.
  • 70% of children who experienced this level of poverty lived with an adult who held a job at some point during the year (2012).
  1. If “they’d just get a job” then everything would be okay.
  • Less than 10% of the jobs in the US are in manufacturing (12 million in 2012). Compare that with 15 million in retail and 14 million in the leisure and hospitality industry.
  • Low wage earners feel they need at a minimum: 1) Full time hours. 2) Predictable schedules.  3) $12-$13 an hour. $15 would be fabulous. NOTE: The average renter wage in Greenville County is $12.23. The hourly self-sufficiency wage for a household of one adult, one preschooler, and one school age child in 2016 was $18.32). 4) Safe working conditions.
  • Full time work would provide such “extras” as health insurance, vacation days, sick/personal days.
  1. People who are poor just don’t have any motivation. They choose to be poor.
  • Ways people get by: doing hair, babysitting, selling meals, cleaning homes, fencing stolen goods, selling plasma, selling drugs or sex, private charities, under-the-table income-generating scheme, selling SNAP, using public spaces. NOTE the use of multiple “jobs.”
  • Network for Southern Economic Mobility discovered that a child in Greenville County has a nearly 70% chance of staying in the lowest two quintiles of the economic ladder.
  • “To put it simply, not having cash basically ensures that you have to break the law and expose yourself to humiliation in order to survive…The line between good and bad blurs even further, especially in the eyes of a child. “ (page 154)
  1. Solving poverty is a personal, not governmental problem.
  • The authors suggest that ending $2-a-day poverty requires: 1) all deserve the opportunity to work 2) parents should be able to raise their children in a place of their own 3)not every parent will be able to work, or work all the time, but parents’ well-being, and the well-being of their children, should nonetheless be insured. (p 159)
  • Equality of Opportunity Project reports that the 5 factors keeping people stuck in Greenville County are: residential segregation, income inequality, local school quality, family structure, and social capital. Other factors are structural racism, public policies, cultural messages and media, institutional policies, transportation, and the criminal justice system.
  1. People who live in poverty do not adhere to our American values.
  • David Ellwood in Poor Support claims the basic values are: 1) autonomy of the individual 2) virtue of work  3)primacy of the family  4) desire for and sense of community.  People who live in poverty adhere more or less to these same values.

 

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Hidden Voices

We will not, do not, or cannot hear the voices that are hidden in our community.

We will not…hear hidden voices

We stay within the confines of people more or less like us. We live in neighborhoods with people who are more or less like us. We work with people who think more or less like we do. We worship with people who are educated more or less like we are. Our income levels are more or less alike.

We tend to remain with people whose fund of knowledge is similar to ours. Our fund of knowledge grows from our gender, our age, our socieoeconomic status, our education level, our experiences of the broader world, our race, our faith perspective and a host of other things. We often believe that our fund of knowledge is the only one that’s valid.  We will not hear hidden voices.

We do not… hear hidden voices.

We do not want to hear hidden voices. We are busy enough with career or retirement, caring for kids, grandchildren, or ailing parents. We struggle with our own limited world of influence and certainly do not want to be disturbed by issues beyond our control. We want to remain in our own bubble. We like our blinders of our skin color, our privilege of power or prestige, or our position in society. We prefer that hidden voices remain hidden. Otherwise we might feel uncomfortable and we do not want that! We do not hear hidden voices.

We cannothear hidden voices.

We are stressed already with the problems of the world. We are overwhelmed with all our responsibilities in our home, our community, our church, our work, or our neighborhood. We may be going through a divorce, grieving the loss of a loved one, struggling with health issues, or facing financial challenges ourselves. We do good to crawl out of bed in the morning and plow through the day. We simply cannot take on any more. Our bandwidth is taxed heavily right now. We cannot hear hidden voices.

But there are hidden voices in our community. During my next few posts, I’ll share some of those.


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Hawks and Doves

Hawks and Doves

This week, a parable took place right in front of me with a hawk and a dove. I’m talking real birds here, not symbols.  It seems timely since it happened the week leading up to the celebration of Independence Day.

We’ve had a dove couple nesting in the upper corner of our front porch. One of the birds, we assume the mother, is always on the nest, sitting very calmly. She looks at us when we come and go. We greet her. She does not blink, just notices that the people who live near her nest accept her chosen birthing place.

We did not realize when the babies hatched because they, too, were very quiet. Eventually, we could see them peering over the nest, surveying this world into which they were born. Of course, the world they saw involved four porch chairs, some plants, and a Carolina wren appearing every so often. We never heard a peep.

Occasionally, we’d see a gathering of dove friends in our front yard. They might chat with each other a bit but were not as comfortable with our intrusion as our resident couple was. But we’d hear the coo-coo sounds of the doves’ conversation.

As I took the garbage to put in the can that I’d already pulled to the street for the City sanitation staff to empty, I heard THUD!!! I wasn’t sure what the noise so I turned to see what caused the sound.

I saw a large hawk swooping across my porch. It paused briefly on the empty window frame that defines the border of the porch nearest our neighbor, and flew away. I stood there with my mouth open. After noticing a bloody splat on the outside of my storm door, I immediately went into the house and told my husband that he would not believe what had just happened. I went back outside. That’s when I saw it.

A baby dove that was just getting its feathers was lying on the porch floor with the back half of its little body ripped off.

The doves had lived peacefully for several weeks on our porch. They asked nothing of us and did not make a mess. The bird couple occasionally sat together on the edge of the nest minding their tiny family. And then, with absolutely no warning, a powerful bird decided that it would take life so it could have a meal. But the hawk flew off, having mutilated a family, without even eating the baby. It had killed for nothing.  The dove family is now gone. I don’t know what happened, if they left of their own accord or were driven away by power and death.

Our country is living in a time of hawks and doves. Some take and possibly destroy while others go about life, trying to take care of themselves and their families.

Is a country of hawks and doves really the country we want to celebrate?

 


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Let’s Get Some Perspective…Please

Such huge dollar amounts are being thrown around these days: $14 billion for a wall between the United States and Mexico or $1.5 million for one condominium on a site where a small mom and pop grocery store used to stand.  Because I have worked for years as an advocate for people who are poor and have had to struggle to find resources to assist just a few people with basic necessities, hot showers, assistance with getting a GED or a job, these numbers seem obscene to me.

Just think, $14 billion dollars could provide a year of education for 13 million school children or housing for 49,993 homeless US veterans for eighteen  years or  for adoption fees for all 415,000 kids in foster care in the US AND provide each one a $50k college scholarship!  This seems to me to provide more stability for our country than a wall which doesn’t really work anyway.

The four unit building with the $1.5 million penthouse could provide houses for almost 28 families in Greenville SC at the median price of $152,500.

Let’s get some perspective and not let our fear or our greed blur our vision.


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Martin Luther King Tribute

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was deeply grounded in scripture. His story has many parallels to the story of Jesus: “The mendicant road preaching, the travel from the margins to confront the center of power, the arrests and trials, an assassination, filled with the passion of forgiving love, even the freedom and power of resurrection — the pattern is all there.” (Bill Wylie-Kellerman, “The Gospel of the Beloved Community,” The Other Side, January February 2003) The story of Acts 10:1-11:18 of Peter’s interaction with Cornelius and ultimate conversion to include uncircumcised people into the Jesus community underscores the life-long work of Dr. King.

He has been glorified, vilified, minimized, and maximized. Whatever one personally believes about Martin Luther King, he was and is a man to be reckoned with. His words today are maybe even more powerful than they were when he first spoke them because the historical events which he was addressing continue to play themselves out in myriad ways even today.

The following are selected words from this man who has been called a prophet.

Courage and hope

Forces that threaten to negate life must be challenged by courage, which is the power of life to affirm itself in spite of life’s ambiguities. This requires the exercise of a creative will that enables us to hew out a stone of hope from a mountain of despair.

We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.

Only God is able. It is faith in …[God] that we must rediscover. With this faith, we can transform bleak and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of joy and bring new light into the dark caverns of pessimism.

When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a great…power in the universe whose name is God and…[God] is able to make a way out of no way, and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.

Interrelatedness of Life and Service to Others

In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All … [people] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality.

The true neighbor will risk his position, …[her] prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, … [she] will lift some bruised and beaten brother [or sister] to a higher and more nobel life.

Life’s persistent and most urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

When an individual is no longer a true participant, when he[/she] no longer feels a sense of responsibility to his[/her] society, the content of democracy is emptied. When culture is degraded and vulgarity enthroned, when the social system does not build security but induces peril, inexorably the individual is impelled to pull away from a soulless society. This process produces alienation– perhaps the most pervasive and insidious development in contemporary society.

All too many of those who live in affluent America ignore those who exist in poor America; in doing so, the affluent Americans will eventually have to face themselves with the question that Eichmann chose to ignore: How responsible am I for the well-being of my fellow? To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.

An individual has not started living until he[/she] can rise above the narrow confines of his[/her] individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

Nonviolence

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plain of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. We must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

Let no one pull you so low that you hate…[that person.] Always avoid violence. If you sow the seeds of violence in your struggle, unborn generations will reap the whirlwind of social disintegration.

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hat. In fact, violence merely increases hate…. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkens to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Six Principles of Nonviolence

  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
  2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
  3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.
  4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
  5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
  6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.

Fear

Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion. The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody.

Most people are thermometers that record or register the temperature of majority opinion, not thermostats that transform and regulate the temperature of society.

Courage faces fear and thereby masters it. Cowardice represses fear and is thereby mastered by it. Courageous…[people] never lose the zest for living even though their life situation is zestless. Cowardly…[people], overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life, lose the will to live. We must constantly build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.

Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that. Hatred paralyzes life, love releases it. Hatred confuses life. Love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.

Seeing ourselves.

Burnout is a surrender. We have just so much strength in us. If we give and give and give, we have less and less and less — and after a while, at a certain point, we’re so weak and worn, we hoist up the flag of surrender. We surrender to the worst side of ourselves, and then we display that to others. We surrender to self-pity and to morose self-preoccupation. If you want to call it depression or burnout, well, all right. If you want to call it the triumph of sin when our goodness has been knocked out from under us, well, all right. Whatever we say or think, this is arduous duty, doing this kind of work; to live out one’s idealism brings with it hazards.

One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right if the head is totally wrong. Only through the bringing together of head and heart — intelligence and goodness — shall … [we] rise to a fulfillment of…[our] true nature.

The belief that God will do everything for …[you] is as untenable as the belief that …[you] can do everything for …[yourself]. It too, is based on a lack of faith. We must learn that to expect God to do everything while we do nothing is not faith, but superstition.

Injustice / War

I’m tired of this stuff about menial labor. What makes a job menial is that we don’t pay folk anything. Give somebody a job and pay them some money so they can live and educate their children and buy a home and have the basic necessities of life. And no matter what the job is, it takes on dignity.

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ … A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.