I am one of the lucky ones. I grew up in a solidly middle class family. We had all we needed to eat, plenty of clothes to wear, transportation. We were loved, didn’t have to worry about physical abuse save the occasional swat on the behind (the times were different then). My parents were not drug abusers, alcoholics, or gamblers. Our community was safe, neighbors looked out for neighbors, the schools were decent.
While this country is experiencing the greatest economic prosperity in the history of the world, it is a sad reality that this economic prosperity is leaving a great number behind. President Bush talks a lot about no child left behind, but what about whole families, whole neighborhoods? The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. There is a grand canyon of difference between these two ends of society, and the sad fact is that the vast majority of the wealthy ignores the growing number who are poor.
Being a believer in the inherent good in people, I know that most do not ignore the poor intentionally. It’s just that they don’t have to see them much. Their kids go to private schools, or at least suburban ones. Their travels don’t normally take them down the streets and through the neighborhoods where low income families live. They don’t think about the person cleaning their hotel rooms, the washer of their dishes in the restaurant where they eat lunch. They certainly don’t think about the factory worker in China or Indonesia who made their clothes.
But we must think about it. And we must think about how to make it better for them. It’s partly a matter of economics. When poor families can’t pay their bills, we all suffer with higher costs. When low income communities are plagued with crime, we all pay with higher taxes for police, jails, courts. When families lack health insurance, our rates go up. And the list goes on.
It’s definitely our moral imperative. As individuals, we certainly cannot solve the issues surrounding poverty and opportunity in this country. But collectively, we can make a difference. We can support increasing the minimum wage and stopping predatory lending practices. We can encourage our cities and towns to rehabilitate low income housing, force landlords to keep up their property, fund public transportation, lower crime through community policing efforts.
We must not forget to think about those don’t have enough food to eat, who are plagued with health problems, whose wages don’t provide enough for the basics. We have to do something about it, because this land of plenty should be a land of opportunity for us all, not just for those of us who are the lucky ones.