Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Where Poverty Lives - 6-24-09 Mahomet Citizen Editorial

When looking around the town of Mahomet, no one can argue that we have a wonderful town and that many of the residents here can live comfortably. Many of us don’t have to worry about where our food comes from, nor do we have to worry about how we are going to pay our bills for the upcoming month. We are - in terms of financial and therefore socioeconomic standings - stable.

However, it is important to remember that even in an area that is seeing positive growth like Mahomet, we too are a place where poverty lives.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the 2009 poverty line in the United States is $22,050 for a family of four.

In Mahomet, where the median household income for a family in 2000 was around $61,000, as a village, Mahomet’s per capita income was approximately $22,000. Around that time, approximately 3.5% of families and 5.1% of the population were below the poverty line - which in 2000, according to Health and Human services was $17,050 - in Mahomet.

As numbers typically do, the aforementioned numbers have gone up across the nation, especially with the downturn in the economy over the course of the last couple of years.

So what does this mean? It means that we should be conscious of the village in which we live and the people that live within it. Even in the nicest of neighborhoods, there could be someone who is living off of a credit card to pay monthly bills. Even in our schools, which are considered some of the best in the state, we have children who cannot afford to eat, whether they are at school or at home.

In the book “Just Generosity” by Ronald Sider, one portion talks about the face of poverty and one of the more interesting things that I read said possessions are a poor way of determining that someone lives in poverty.

The fact that nearly every family owns a television doesn’t mean that those families each went out and bought a new television. The fact that there are people with cars doesn’t mean that cars are necessarily expensive and that each of the drivers has all of the necessary paperwork (license, insurance, registration) to actually be driving.

This topic runs much deeper than any newspaper column could ever try and show. The real problem doesn’t just sit with those who cannot afford to sustain themselves, but also with those who can do something to help out - even in a small way - and choose to ignore what is right in front of them. The truth is, if we are to ever end poverty and make a better society, we must act upon inaction.

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