Friday, October 14, 2005

What One Thing...

One of the blessings in being home on medical leave is watching television and being forced to think, two concepts not always joined together, especially when talking about daytime t.v.

Wednesday's Oprah show looked at America's poor. We were forced to look at the realities of poverty in America when we saw the faces of those who were stuck in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. Yes, Hurricane Rita did its own share of damage to coastal cities in Texas, but we didn't see the absolute devastation of poverty and helplessness that we were exposed to in New Orleans. The show sent CNN's Anderson Cooper, Maria Shriver, Gayle King, and Oprah out to several small towns, and one city, to talk to people who are living well below the poverty line. Yeah, one could view the show and see it as heavy-handed, but you couldn't walk away with previously held assumptions about what sends someone into poverty or that every poor person is comfortable being poor.

In each profile, the common thread was that one event spiraled into several events that led to being poor and/or homeless. From the town of Pembroke, Illinois, 70 miles outside of Chicago, a town with no infrastructure such as paved roads and running water, or even its own zip code (which would entitle them to direct state and federal aid), to the Appalachians, where a mother of five has to take her children down to the valley on an ATV to drop them off at a school bus stop, to a mother of three who, after being abandoned by her husband of 15-plus years spiraled into depression, unemployment and living in her minivan with her family, we learn these are real people, "good" people. The majority of the homeless and poor in the U.S. aren't drug addicts or alcoholics; certainly, a percentage are simply because of an intense need to dull the pain, they aren't all mentally ill, but depression is rampant among them. It took one event, one factor; illness, unemployment, an unplanned pregnancy, to send a family provider down into a pool of poverty. And it takes one thing, one opportunity, to start to surface.

According to economists and financial talking heads, most Americans are two paychecks away from being poor. What one thing protects us from poverty? And what one thing would send us straight into poverty?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

For some reason, this particular Oprah show came to mind. I wondered what if anything is being or has been done about this town with no running water, paved streets, or zip code. VIP's with resources seem to help other countries, and America has a town like the one Oprah reported on. Why does this town even exist? Are these people registered to vote? Are there any schools for the children? Health care providers, hospitals, etc.? What about the welfare of these people? Does anyone care enough about them hlep? If I had money, I surly would help my homeland before going outside to help other countries. God Bless us ALL!

4:52 PM  

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