Michael Harrington wrote “The Other America” In 1960 which dealt with poverty and how it is hidden in America. We don’t have to be reminded that we are in desperate times. No one likes to broadcast that they are poor. Politicians, the stock market and corporate America don’t want to be reminded. But the signs are all around us.
In Holly you don’t have to look far to see how many groups are trying to meet the need. M-Live.com recently reported that 50% of all students in Michigan are on free or reduced lunches. I suspect that percentage is much higher in some places.
If 50% of all children are on the reduced lunch program, what about the rest of the family? Are they going without? What about senior citizens who live on very “fixed incomes”?
In Holly alone there are canned food drives, mitten trees, the jolly Youth Assistance Jacobson/Quinn annual holiday project, the Kiwanis newspaper sale (money goes toward scholarships and food baskets), and there are other efforts. Community and veterans groups are struggling to help people pay essential bills. Area churches also provide food giveaway days.
Here is a critical fact for local groups: their resources are finite.
What Harrington wrote in 1960 about poverty being hidden applies in many general ways today. His book was very popular. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson embraced many of his ideas when they shaped their economic and social programs.
Jobs, or the lack of them, is a key issue in Michigan. For many, good paying jobs don’t exist unless you want to move out of state. Contrary to all of the corporate myths, people do want to work. Minimum wage jobs are not enough to keep a family in any kind of shape. People take these jobs because they don’t have a choice. I suspect that the poverty level is much higher now than it was when Harrington was writing.
At the very least the groups trying to stem the tide need help. Help can come in many forms: volunteering your time, donating money or other things that are needed to support these groups. Even if you don’t have money to give, your time and energy is valuable.
I helped sell the Kiwanis the Goodfellow’s newspaper this year. I was at Holly Foods with another member. You’re lucky if 1 in 10 people donate. Sometimes you get ignored. But there are times when you are inspired by what happens.
One elderly lady stood over by the carts counting her money and looking over her grocery list. When she finished she approached me and handed me a dime. She explained that it was all she had, but she wanted to help. After I handed her the paper, she told me she always reads every word.
Another woman told me she didn’t have any extra money, but she said that she had knitted a pair of mittens and put them on one of the trees around town. I gave her a paper and thanked her.
Both women did what they could to help. Their actions mean more than the money. They represent a beautiful side of the human spirit—the giving side. We need more givers. The stock market is full of takers and no givers. The state and national level governments lack givers.
You could help wrap or distribute presents for the Jacobson/Quinn project. You might be surprised by the number of presents, but you could be Santa for a few minutes. You could donate a few cans of food. You could offer words of encouragement. You could do something to help, no matter what it might be.
There is always a heightened sense of need during the holiday season. Unfortunately the need exceeds the season in all directions. Winter is coming on and people are in trouble.