I believe that very few of the readers of this book are in severe poverty. In the United States, the ‘official’ poverty level is about 15% of the population. What we call ‘poverty’ is regarded to be ‘luxury’ in most of the third world. Still, many people really do ‘suffer poverty’ In the United States and much of the Western world. Notice that I say ‘suffer poverty’ as many people really ‘feel’ deprived in their circumstances. It is true, of course, that our climate requires more provision for survival than a loin cloth for clothing and a grass hut for shelter as is the case in some societies. However, when a child in poverty ‘needs’ a pair of $100 sport shoes, for any reason, the definition of poverty needs to be reconsidered, doesn’t it?
If we are to understand the subject, the first thing that we must do is to throw out the politics of poverty. Some politicians make their living by exploiting society in the name of ‘poverty’. How many times have we heard the cry: “Starving people are living under bridges?” We may actually find such people, but they are almost entirely the result of a program that released emotionally disabled people into society to fend for themselves for ‘humanitarian’ reasons. We, as a society, are the most generous civilization in the world. When disaster happens in Africa, for instance, the cry is; “Tell America. They will help us.”
My generation has experienced the most privileged lifestyle that the world has ever known. Both of my grandfathers were Civil War veterans and my parents were Civil War ‘baby boomers’, being born in the late 1800’s. One set of grandparents raised their family of eight in a one room cabin with a loft. Of course there was no running water or ‘indoor plumbing’. Heat was provided by a wood burning fireplace which also served for cooking in the wintertime. During warm weather there was a ‘summer kitchen’ which was an unenclosed porch with a ‘wood stove’.
I remember that when my other grandmother visited our ‘new house’, which was actually a very old farm house, she was very excited to see a wood burning stove in the kitchen and couldn’t wait until she baked some bread in it.
My grandmother carded, spun, dyed, and wove wool to make ‘homespun’ clothing for her family. My grandfather made shoes for his children by the light and warmth of a fireplace – after his regular day’s work was done. His regular work was as a carpenter and cabinet maker. With all of this work to do, he still found the time, energy, and resources to study Greek in order to better understand the New Testament in its original language. He was a poet and also an inventor. Before the Wright brothers, he built an airplane with flapping wings (an ornithopter) on a bicycle frame. It didn’t fly.
My grandfather, being of sound - if adventurous, mind and not wanting to end up in a mental hospital, took the airplane into an orchard on a moonlit night and away from public view. A 17 year old son pedaled the contraption until he was exhausted but it never moved. Spectators thought that it would have flown if my uncle could have just pedaled a little harder. (Foot powered flight was accomplished in 1979 when the ‘Gossamer Albatross’ crossed the English Chanel)
My grandparents didn’t complain because this was their ‘standard of living’.
My father worked in a factory for 12 hours a day and 7 days a week. This was also ‘standard’. It was not until WW1 when the U. S. Navy contracts stipulated a 40 hour week, that people started rethinking what was a “work week.” There was no such thing as a ‘paid vacation’, hospitalization, or a retirement fund.
Is it ethical to say that a person is ‘living in poverty’ when they have a wide screen color television? Our president wants to put high-speed internet service into ‘every home in America’. Is this poverty?
I have a friend who lives in another country. She is number 16 of a family of 17 children. In their culture, it was ‘a sin’ to not raise as many children as they could have. This was during ‘The Great Depression’ of the 1930’s’ and they lived on a ‘dirt farm’. Were they poor? You bet! Did they survive well? Yes! They were successful and even flourished because they knew the difference between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’. My friend did not attend her sister’s wedding because she didn’t have clean stockings to wear. I asked her why she didn’t borrow a pair of stockings from a sister. She said that they each had only one pair of stockings.
They were normal children and found time to play games. There was no Nintendo. They made their own dolls and they played hopscotch and other similar games. Someone gave them a pair of ice skates, they either took turns or they shared - using only one skate each. They raised and butchered their own meat and her mother worked a large vegetable garden while her father worked a team of horses in the fields. When her father suffered a broken back, which disabled him for years, the girls, their teen aged brother, and their mother ‘pitched in’ and did all of the farm work, all the while keeping a fastidious house and laundry which was washed in a wooden, hand powered washing machine. Neighbors predicted that they would fail, but, instead, they ‘flourished’ by the standards of the time.
The starting point is this; don’t give yourself a name that suggests that you have failed and have no future. Don’t believe that you are ‘poor’ and therefore have no chance for success. If you can’t afford to go to college, remember that half of the richest men in the country didn’t attend college either. In many/most cases poverty is a state of mind, an attitude, and a habitual way of thinking. Success also ‘starts in your head’; in your thoughts and your attitude. When you ‘get your head straight’ you will likely find that you have resources to get started on a path out of ‘poverty.’
I don’t intend to minimize the plight of genuinely ‘poor’ people. They may be the aged, and incapacitated who really do not have resources to recover. I am saying that usually, ‘poverty’ is the result of a state of mind that people can,and do routinely overcome.