Poverty Kaleidoscope

For those of you who don’t know Mayor Cory Booker from New Jersey, check out his Facebook page. Mayor Booker has been in the news for a number of things, including a possible Governor’s race.

However, one thing that he’s done recently is to shed light on food poverty by choosing to live on (translation: eat on) the amount per week that individuals on food subsidy programs (translation: welfare or food stamps) receive. He’s gotten some bad press because of it, primarily because there are people out there who think such programs are entitlements aimed at giving handouts to people who just need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get to work, darn it. Why people who have that thought are following him is beyond me, but that is another topic for another day. In case you were not aware, there are some incredible stat’s on hunger in the US; check this out. The site suggests that in 2010 nearly one in seven households (almost 15% of families in the country) were food insecure. After seeing families with babies on the side of the road in Southern California, suddenly made homeless because of the economic downturn, trust me when I tell you that not all of those 15% of households are entitlement families.

But just reading those sorts of statistics and following experiments like Mayor Booker’s might not be enough for you. Fortunately there are enough real stories out there to make you think just a bit more. My colleague, Dr. Heidi Matson, shares her story here. As a scholar-practitioner who came from humble beginnings, Dr. Matson tells of life in her single-parent household in the early 70s. She and her mom lived in LA and you can trust me on this as well: if you have labels of who gets and uses subsidy programs to survive, Dr. Matson will not fit them. Read her story and hopefully you will gain new insight into the problems associated with stereotyping, assuming, finger-pointing, and blaming.

Remember: boot straps are not meant to be pulled, they are meant to be tied. Let’s tie off the flow of bigotry and blame and open the floodgates of understanding and compassion.