One definition of poverty is lack of money. I have a good friend, I call her friend because I look forward to meeting her on the weekends at the corner where she sells newspapers. I look forward to hearing what she has to say about the grandchildren she takes in, the car she recently bought, or to share a half-eaten sandwich with her.
There are other forms of poverty such as the couple who wait to see a counselor, sitting in a lobby of a social service agency. She is a large woman, her legs are the size of railroad ties, her brillo pad hair is parted in the middle, and she has no teeth behind a swollen lip. He is just as large, mostly through the torso, under a worn out tee shirt, and ragged jeans. She picks up a magazine and it's apparent she is just looking at pictures. He is quiet and I cannot see what he is holding until she throws the magazine on the table and looks over his shoulder. He mumbles something about a pig, and I'm intrigued enough to wonder what he is reading. It's a Winnie the Pooh book that is about a third-grade reading level. The woman's lips begin to move, she stops, furrows her brow, and points to a word. The man says, "I don't know."
Poverty is also a young woman who is college age, pregnant, working for a temporary agency for $9.00 an hour. She wants to go to college. Her eyes sparkle with the expectation that she might break free of the cycle. She has been hounded by a for-profit university to enroll in their program. She says that the not-for-profit universities didn't call her like this university did. They hounded her. Now, she's on the line for an enormous amount of money for an ambiguous degree that she completes on-line with no interaction with a professor.
I recently challenged some friends who live comfortable lives to think about the question of my brother's plight. My brother lives on public assistance-worker's compensation, medicaid, and Social Security-due to an accident that happened nearly 40 years ago that left him severely brain damaged. My question to my friends was: What about this man, whom you know, what about his plight? If we cut the "entitlement programs" what happens to him?
Interestingly enough, when I put a familiar face to the diatribe of "We're spending too much" my dear friends could not believe that the critical services that my brother needs would be cut. My point is, that people who live in comfortable surroundings have no understanding of, can envision where people such as the woman who sells newspapers go. Or how someone whose an adult has a third grade reading level.