Thinking back to the years preceding that award I realize that the chains of poverty that had gripped my family were coming unloosed. During the early 1990's, living under the thumb of alcoholism, I tried my best to give my children every opportunity. I worked 12, 13, sometimes 15 hour days, caring for other people's children in my home. It afforded me the opportunity to be with my children, protect them, and encourage them.
While I tried to scrimp and save back then, my first husband drank up most of our money faster than I could make it. I'm not blaming him. I'm recognizing a symptom of alcoholism. I struggled, believing what my Catholic upbringing had taught - that if I stayed with my husband, no matter what, and prayed hard enough, that everything would be okay.
A dear friend entered my life during that time with tools to help me survive. For three years this member of the St. Vincent De Paul Society offered support to me and my family. When I wasn't sure how I was going to feed my children, she would call to tell me she had boxes of food to deliver, and it wasn't even Thanksgiving. When I needed to figure out how to pay my electric and heat bills she helped me learn accounting, and negotiated for me with the energy company. And when I needed to learn what it means to be humble - she opened that door too.
I have a picture of my oldest son when he was 9-years-old opening a box--a large, long box, taller than he was--on Christmas morning. The utter joy and expectation on his face said it all, still does. The gift was a set of used golf clubs which were part of a parcel of gifts the my friend had arranged for my family to receive. If those gifts hadn't been delivered to our home, there would not have been anything under our tree but for a few homemade things.
My children are no strangers to hunger, and gratefully this friend, and others made sure there was something for them. My children have drank milk that was three days expired. They know what powdered milk is, and also various ways to fix Spam. There is nothing today, that they turn their noses up to, knowing that you just have to try it once. The friend, my guiding light, died suddenly in 1997, leaving a hole in a community she served.
When she would bring things to my home--food, gift certificates for Kroger's, a check to pay a bill--she always touched my arm and said, "Now, remember, don't tell anyone where this came from."
This week I have struggled with the great political division in our country. If you are still friends with me on Facebook, you have a clear picture of where I stand, politically and religiously.
When someone walks into a St. Vincent De Paul facility and wants a photo-op for his own gain, I have a personal stake. I feel akin to Jesus in the temple with all the money changers. I want to voice how angry it makes me to hear someone of my faith doing this. It brings shame upon us all.
When nuns are faced with abhorrent behavior of ultra conservatives, who demean them and perpetuate discrimination against women and people of color, I cannot stand by. I keep hearing the invitation of the sitting governor of Massachusetts who said, "Grow a backbone."
When a man who's belief is that all Catholics are "soul-less" runs for president, I am compelled to point out that this is part of his religious beliefs. And that I have experienced first hand, the discrimination born of that philosophy. I don't understand his choice in a running mate except that it may serve his own purpose, not a greater purpose.
So there's no mistake, let me voice what I believe: I believe that every person in our world deserves to have enough.
There is no rhyme or reason to the greed that grips people. I learned in the 1990's that ensuring basic necessities of life allows people to come out of poverty. It allows for college, healthy relationships, love and respect. I know it cannot happen on the backs of churches alone, that governmental agencies must be involved in the compassionate service of the poor.
My challenge to anyone who cares to read this post is this: look within yourself and define the poverty in your own life, and learn how to change it.