In the spirit of all the award shows I’ve seen and/or heard about this year, I think I’m awarding myself the “Worst Blog Updater Ever” Award. Alas, in the spirit of Nicaragua Always Wins, even when we mere missionaries had the best laid plans…Salt Lake City Always Wins also holds true. I can go weeks with incessant calmness and a schedule as clear as the Virginia sky…or I have an event on every tiny square of my calendar. The latter is definitely the case for May and June. Holy traveling Batman!
I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about something that has been on my mind lately, the cycle of poverty.
I was recently reading a news article that was written by a local paper on panhandling. I don’t even really want to talk about the ins and outs of what the article said, to be honest. What really shocked me (and it probably shouldn’t have), was the comment section underneath the article. I found a small section that sort of illustrates my point without all the foul language on the rest of the thread:
Let’s go back to the “cycle of poverty” phrase that I used earlier. What is it, and why should we care? Simply put, the cycle of poverty is the vicious circle that you, I, or anyone could fall into at any moment to create a perpetual cycle of poverty that is incredibly hard to escape. I am going to attempt to create a scenario for you to illustrate why I would like to let my inner Ted Mosby out and kick some of those commenters.
Let’s pretend for just a minute that you made it through high school and got your diploma. Good job! You decide that college isn’t really for you, at least not right now. You really love cars. Your dad has taught you about automotive repair most of your life and you’re pretty good at it. A local mechanic decides to hire you and you start working there the summer after graduation. You’re still young enough to be on your parents’ insurance so you’re not worried that there is no benefits package at this job. Fast forward 20+ years. You stayed on at this mechanic’s shop and became a respectable auto repairman. However, you’re from a small town and business is slow. The owner has to lay off pretty much the whole staff, you included. Without a college degree, no one really wants to hire you. There aren’t any other mechanics in the area looking to hire more staff. You find a construction company that needs help, but only occasionally. Winter comes, and the calls to come in to work are fewer and far between. You apply to the food stamp program to help with your grocery bill. The situation causes some really strange mood swings to manifest. You know something is wrong, but you have no insurance and no way to afford a visit to the doctor and get medication or counseling treatment. The manic depressive mood swings cause you to miss several shifts at the construction company and so you are let go. You’ve also started turning to alcohol to try and suppress your mental illness. Eventually your utilities are shut off in your apartment and you receive a three day eviction notice from your landlord because you haven’t been able to keep up with the rent. Eventually you are evicted from your apartment and have nowhere to go. Your father passed away from a sudden heart attack a few years ago and your mother lives in a retirement facility. You’re now a homeless alcoholic who has a mental illness. You still don’t have health insurance so you cannot see a mental health professional, and even if you got a free screening, how would you pay for the medication? You could panhandle for it, maybe. Even then, you need to go through a detox program for the alcohol you’ve turned to in order to self medicate…
I don’t even know if I’ve done this scenario justice, but this is the kind of story that exists in the Crossroads food pantry every day. I’ve heard stories of people panhandling to help pay for their diabetic insulin, stories of people who had held down a job for 20 years at the same place, only to be let go due to downsizing. I have seen people with serious mental health issues suffering on the side of the Salt Lake City streets while the passersby just stared or averted their eyes.
We treat the poor, and more specific to this conversation, panhandlers, like they are fully capable of “pulling up their boot straps, working hard on that job application, and finding work.” They are “lazy, druggies, alcoholics, cheating the system so they don’t have to work…” Okay, that makes sense. I don’t want to come to work if I don’t have to, either. Let me go sit on the side of the street with a cardboard sign and beg for change. That’s not humiliating.
Sure, you are going to find the lazy homeless person. Undercover Dateline captured some rando on the side of the road get into a BMW. “They take the money I give them and run straight to their drug dealer!” Okay, yeah. I’m sure that happens sometimes. But I would be willing to bet you my pint of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked that it is more often than not the person really has just fallen on hard times. They are a part of this vicious cycle of poverty. They’re not begging for drug money, or if they are, there may be a deeper reason why other than getting wasted for fun.
Maybe you don’t agree with me. That’s fine. I just want people to think more deeply about the things they say in regards to people in poverty.
There’s a video out on YouTube that I won’t post due to some language, but a guy is holding a sign that says “F the Poor.” People confront him, outraged, about how heartless and careless he is. “We should be thinking about better ways to get them off the street,” says one woman. “A guy’s cold down there, go and get him a blanket,” says another person. Yet, when the guy changes his sign to “Help the Poor” and walks around with his collection cup again, not a single person stops.
Think about it.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts! Leave them below!