Here I am, writing yet another post about fighting poverty. Not sure what more I can say that’s not in the other three posts. But Shelly Johnson and I facilitated a Poverty Simulation for West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Academy, and at the wrap-up discussion Kara Matheson asked what we can do to help alleviate the detrimental effects of poverty on people and our society.
For a minute during 2020 and 2021, child poverty in the United States dropped because of the laws Congress passed to mitigate the deadly economic effects of COVID-19. But when the Biden Administration tried to make the child tax credits, child care subsidies and other safety net measures permanent, they were blocked by obstructionist Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.
One of the participants summed it up–
It makes me want to tear my hair out. We live in the richest country EVER. IN THE WORLD, and so many children live in poverty. So many people go to sleep hungry. So many don’t have the resources to buy healthy food. And let’s not even talk about homelessness. Kids are a huge part of the homeless population. Study after study shows the bad effects of poverty, and not just on the people who suffer from it. Their poor health and outcomes affect all of society.
So when Kara asked me what can we do, I was at a loss. I’ve worked in the field of education for 50 years, mostly trying to help people get out of poverty. And it only got worse during that time. The answer I finally gave was to do what we can on the local level. The West Des Moines Chamber has had us work with their Leadership Academy for a number of years now. The group last week filled my bucket with their insights and the empathy they shared.
How do we work locally? Partner with West Des Moines Human Services, Food Pantries, DART, so many organizations that work to address the needs of those who struggle. And then start working on decision makers. First in cities and counties, then work to elect representatives at the state and national levels that care about providing for people’s welfare.
On a personal level, each of us can cultivate an attitude of abundance. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, and what we want, we can focus on what we do have, and how amply our needs are met. We can tap into our inner generosity, and find ways to share, to provide, to advocate for those with less.