We delivered a food basket to the families from the local community house. My children, like most, didn’t understand poverty after all, they can’t have soda whenever they want it, (milk builds strong bones) and hamburgers from McDonalds are hard to come by. (I think it’s my aversion to hydrogenated oils.) To them –they knew about poverty first-hand.
The family we visited was kind, and their two children were delightful. Our children and theirs saw no differentiation between economic levels. As we left the apartment, my four year old said, “They’re not poor. I saw a bag of chips. To me, his comment was really a wish: They are just like us. Tell me the bag of chips means they are OK.
I wanted to tell him that everyone does have enough to eat. But instead, I offered awareness. I was grateful the food-basket organizers provided me with a handout, “The Hidden Rules and Values of Poverty” based on the book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. I learned that this poverty, generational, as opposed to situational poverty is perpetuated by a set of values, based on immediate gratification. The author explained that she arranged for a homeless man to have a room and a small refrigerator. A week later he sold the refrigerator so that he could buy a bus ticket to visit his Mother. He didn’t understand the value of focusing on the future by being able to store food.
The following questions from the handout helped my children see poverty in a new way.
Do you know which grocery stores’ garbage bins can be easily accessed for thrown away food?
Do you know how to use a knife as scissors?
This last question was interesting — people in poverty rarely have access to tools don’t think ahead and say, I have some extra cash, I think I’ll buy scissors; or a screwdriver.