Monday, November 16, 2009

Faces of Poverty

Although dry at parts, this is a good exploration of the problems faced by women and children on welfare. It's an honest exploration of their lives and motives, and presents a mostly fair and unbiased view, although in the study notes the author does mention that she became friends with some of the interviewees and that her position may be skewed. I wish the book had provided more practical answers to the issues raised, beyond "provide better health care" and "provide child care" for those on welfare. At the end of the day, someone will be paying for the increase in those benefits.

It is a very hard issue to deal with, and one I struggle with almost daily at my job. The majority of our students are below the poverty line. Many struggle with day to day expenses such as food, gas, electricity, etc. It is almost impossible to differentiate among students who genuinely need help and those who are milking the sympathy of other students and staff to the best of their ability. For example, a student tells me he may lose custody of his son to a drug addict mother because his father is in prison and his father is his only source of child care. The student needs money to bail out the father so he can continue working to support the family. It's really hard not to feel sympathetic until you learn that the student put an $800 cruise on a credit card two days ago. Or a student who has no heat, no running water, and no groceries, but somehow shows up at class with a milkshake and a hamburger every night, smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, and drinks a 6 pack every night.

I love my students and I believe that Christ meant what he was saying when he said "when you've done it unto the least of these". I'd rather go too far in loving than not far enough, but I think sometimes loving means saying no. I have no solutions to the welfare issues, but I'd be interested in reading a book that provides more solutions and less discussion of the problem Any suggestions?


  1. Cynicism is one thing I struggle with many times whenever I think I should help someone or want to help someone. Sometimes I feel like god - trying to judge if someone's worthy or not. Like beggars for instance - I wonder, do they look healthy enough to work and that sort of thing. I wish I didn't, actually. I wish I just would help when I can. What qualifies me to judge others so harshly when I don't even know them? What if it were me on that street corner, begging for food?

  2. Flat Broke with Children by Sharon Hays is wonderful. I don't know that it offers any more solutions, but it's an interesting read.