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Combatting Poverty (And Other Important Issues) With Community and Compassion

Blog Action Day


Around the world, thousands of bloggers wrote on one subject yesterday: Poverty.  It’s a subject that I think about quite a lot, as one of my side jobs is consulting with City, County, and State governments on community development programs to prevent poverty and homelessness.


Poverty in US government terms is defined as a household who earns less than $10,400 for an individual, or $21,200 for a family of 4.  However, most consultants who do the work I do believe that this vastly under represents poverty in the United States.  The reason is that such a low income is not really a livable income.


In actuality, a family not really live on this amount without going into serious debt.  To be able to pay for housing, food, clothing, child care, health care, basic supplies, and other living expenses, an individual in Seattle would have to earn approximately $31,300.  A family of 4 would have to earn around $50,000.  It is different for every area, based on the cost of living.  Here is a quick video explaining these ideas.  (If you’re truly interested in more, here is where we find the majority of that data, with more information here and here.)


Unfortunately I don’t study world poverty, so I don’t much about its scope worldwide.  If any of you know more, please share with us in the comments.


Crises of Our Time


Yet I don’t believe we can effectively talk about poverty without talking about its causes.  Monday I wrote about the “crises of our time.”  Maybe that sounds a bit fatalistic or overly drastic for some of you.  We all are trying to live more simply, to live more fullfilling lives full of hapiness and love.  At the same time, the reality is that there are crises that exist outside of our own immediate worlds.  And I believe that as we live simply, sustainably, and happily, we will be more fullfilled if we become part of the solution to these crises.


We are coming upon unprecedented times, where many different world issues are heading toward a crux.  The result is that we will likely see quite a bit more poverty in the world.  And while the poorer, less developed countries will likely be hit hardest, poverty may also hit your neighbors and friends.


I want to make sure that we don’t just discuss problems here.  It’s important to me to focus on solutions.  So bear with me a moment as I take you through my thinking….


A Time of Corrections


A few days ago in the comments hereKate posted a link to an amazing interview between Bill Moyers and George Soros.  The interview explains the current world economic crisis and how it might be solved, where we might be going from here.  At the end of the interview, Soros mentioned that we were about to enter a time of corrections.  And this struck a cord with me.


Housing


A few months ago I posted a graph of the inflated housing market, and wrote about why we were renting rather than buying during this time.  It is because, Matt and I believed, we were entering a period of housing market correction.  The values had gone up too far, too fast.  And they would go back down, we believed.


Unfortunately, we were right.  Many economists are saying that they will go down for another couple of years.  (I’m sure that scares many of you, and I will try to write more about it in the coming weeks.)


Economy


I had no idea how intricately this housing correction would be tied to the banks, the lending institutions that had fed this upward trend in the housing market.  It turns out the banks have overextended, outmaneuvered, and really just plain practiced bad economic policies for far too long.  Now they are correcting, and we are feeding their corrections with our own tax dollars (in the hopes that that correction will not be as painful as its alternative).


And not only are the housing market and the mortgage industry going through a period of corrections, but other areas are beginning to correct as well.


Climate


Climate change is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, as is creating catastrophic floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, famine, and poverty around the world.  As a result, the tipping point of public awareness about climate change is coming nearer, people are listening, people are understanding.  And soon, I believe, we will begin correcting our years of mistakes.


We have already started.  You and I have started correcting our personal lifestyles.  And we have even started to bring those corrections into our communities.  As we push on, others will begin joining us.  The power of many will grow ever stronger.


Culture & Community


With a global recession, our lives get tougher.  Our retirement becomes more precarious, our worries about our future become more present.  But we also turn to one another for comfort, for ideas, for help, and for compassion.  We come out of our isolated worlds, where we have held up alone, celebrated for our individualism, for too long.


Suddenly, we have to change – and correct – our culture, because to get through these difficult times we have to come together.  We have to work on our local communities, help our neighbors’ businesses stay afloat for our own survival and for the survival of our cities and towns and communities.


And you know, for those of you who are shy and have had a hard time finding an excuse to talk with your neighbors, this is a perfect excuse to introduce yourself.  ’How are you doing?’  ’Man, the economy is getting rough – do you think everyone in our community will be ok?’  Or, ‘I harvested a bunch of tomatoes before the frosts – will you take some?’  There are many ice breakers when we’re all focused on a crisis.


This is also a perfect excuse to volunteer at your local food bank, or your local shelter, or start sitting in on your local community council meetings.  You may not be hurting, but others will be and when people hurt, it is time for us to have real and thorough compassion.  To come out of our shells for the greater good, and to help heal.


Other Issues


There are many other things we need to work on, problems that stem from the way we have lived our lives for the last few decades.  Food, Water, War, Environment, Energy, Poverty – many things that are intertwined with one another, all things that need to be corrected.  And all things that can be corrected if we begin working toward a shift in how we think of our neighborhoods, towns, and cities.


What Are The Solutions?


One of the top solutions, and the simplest correction to most of our major problems – climate change, cheap energy depletion, war, environmental destruction, inflated housing costs, overzealous banking problems, issues in food and water supply, individual poverty and corporate greed – is to work within our communities and rebuild our local economies and infrastructure.  And the compassion that develops from doing that.


If you can, give money to organizations that desperately need it right now.  During economic recessions, more people are in need of aid.  Paradoxically, during an economic crisis, there is also less giving.  So if you can afford to give, please do.


If you can afford it, also consider giving as a family to an organization in desperate need of funds during the holidays.  This could even be a replacement for some of the material gifts you would normally give one another.


And give your time most of all.  There are many ways to become involved within your community.  We’ve discussed some of the ways, and I will continue to write about them. 


If you have no time to give, at least give a smile.  Show your compassion.  Put good thoughts and good nature into your community.  And encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to do the same. 


You can also support your local businesses by living locally, participating in the local economy whenever you can.  And buy sustainably. 


Please go out into your communities.  Help them grow and adapt and become sustainable.  And infuse your neighborhoods with compassion any way that you can. 


And if you are living in poverty or living on the edge of poverty, there are many resources available to you.  I will write about those in the future.  I’ve written here about tightening our belts, and cutting costs – there will be more here about frugality in the coming months.


I do not know how long this time of corrections will last.  Some say 2 years, others say longer.  But it will be so much more rewarding, so much better oriented toward us – people – if we work on it together.  If we practice our compassion, lean on one another, and work together to build and make our communities stronger. We can play an important role in in helping others during these times.  In this way, we will help combat poverty and its many causes.


Thanks For Bearing With This Long Essay!


I know this was long, but I hope you were able to spend the time reading my thoughts.  Please let me know what you think about them, other ways that we may solve poverty.  I’d appreciate it!


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11 comments to Combatting Poverty (And Other Important Issues) With Community and Compassion

  • Wow. I love your outlook on everything. It’s very positive!! Thanks for this post.

  • A wonderfully thought out and well written post – thank you! I particularly appreciate your thoughts on “Culture & Community” and “What Are the Solutions?” – there were a number of “take-aways” for me in each area.
    A couple of months ago I wrote a list of 10 things I could do to build a better world/life – contributing to my community was #10 on the list and one of two things that needs more of my attention over the coming year.
    Thank you again for your insights and inspiration!

  • Rob

    You know, when I bought my house 10 years ago , people where trying to get me to buy a bigger house, which of course would have cost more- You can get an ARM mortgage they said! And being single and my sole means of support, I would think what if the rates goe up?Well I bought a house I could afford if I got laid off- and boy am I glad I did- my house was a VA (VEteran’s Administration) Repo- needed some TLC. And I put it under a fixed rate mortgage. I added the addition 2 years ago, to solve my space problem, rather than selling and buying another house ANd I am still under the local average for a mortgage payment- I know that it is no big deal to buy what you can afford, but it was one time I used brain and thought before signing on the dotted line.

  • I enjoyed this post and agree with you whole heartedly. Our country is in a dire situation and everything we can do, individually and collectively, to help ourselves, our families and our neighbors, is going to become more and more important. My husband and I have recently built a hen house and run for 5 beautiful hens who are now blessing us with delicious and very nutritious organic eggs. This is our first experience with raising our own food, other than a tomato plant or two in the past. In the spring we will begin to increase our flock and, if I can find it within myself, begin to have our own meat supply through these beautiful birds. Our next step is to establish a vegetable garden that can supply our extended family and friends with enough vegetables that we will no longer be reliant on the grocery store for these items.

    In addition to this, I recently (Sept. 8th) left a job that I had been in for almost 19 years to go to work for a group that is trying to help out individuals that are without insurance or have no drug coverage. We accept donations of sample medications from doctors and surplus from pharmaceutical companies, which often are wasted and destroyed and distribute them, through charitable pharmacies and charitable clinics, to those who cannot afford their medications. With the current economic situation, the number of families in this situation will almost certainly increase in the near future. We are trying to get more doctors and pharmaceutical companies on board, but more importantly, we are trying to increase the number of sites through which we can distribute these medications, nationwide, so that we can reach the maximum number of people, and not just move the problem of wasted medications from the doctor’s offices to our warehouse. We are in the process of getting licensed in as many states as we can and looking for “site sponsors” so that we can open additional sites. We are a not-for-profit company and the people I work with are all excited about the opportunities to expand. My boss was formerly with Second Harvest Food Bank here in Nashville, TN, and has a huge heart for helping the under served.

    If you choose to remove this post from your site, I understand, but please, check out the website before you do. I am not asking for money, just trying to make you and those who read your blog, aware of one possible remedy to part of a nationwide and global problem. If you don’t choose to delete this post, thank you.

  • Very comprehensive, Melinda, and good stuff for us to sink our teeth into right now.

    One thing I want to mention is the opportunity in the next 2 and a half weeks. URGENT! ONLY 2.5 WEEKS LEFT! You can question local council candidates face to face about sustainability. I sent a list to the candidate I am supporting to let her know that a City Council that supports a local economy does not invite big box retail stores or developers into our community. This was number one along with some basic reforms needed for WATER (educate the public to acknowledge drought and offer rain barrel, water catchment assistance), FOOD (local agriculture is being driven out by development bubble & farmers markets, urban gardeners need City Council support) and there are walkability, transportation issues central to our town ongoing streetscape planning. You get the idea.

    Besides this urgent task – because post-election will not be as powerful a position for us all, there is a very huge theme we are all saturated with every day. FEAR. For eight years we have been subjected to this constant barrage of fear because it was the goverance method. It is vital we resist the manipulation being used upon us over and over again. Please understand, I am not discounting real fears and anxieties that we all may have with our personal situations and the larger context. But, we must know that inciting crowds is one of the effective operations used over and over again. The media is complicit. Our task is to find the facts buried under hysteria and reject the hype and the lies. This is true even with the story of World Food Crisis.

    Dr. Vandana Shiva is someone I admire for truth telling. Please check out this wonderful video from the Slow Food Nation’s recent San Francisco event. She tells of World Hunger being used to grab power (sound familiar?). This is the panel introduction:


    The World Food Crisis

    Listen to four of the foremost authorities as they discuss the impact of the industrial food production system that has left communities worldwide in the grip of hunger and dire food shortages.

    Featuring: Vandana Shiva, physicist, environmental activist and author; Carlo Petrini, founder of the International Slow Food Movement; Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved; and Corby Kummer, journalist and author of The Pleasures of Slow Food.

    Moderated by Michael Pollan, author, In Defense of Food, and the John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

  • I would add to your list: If you are American, campaign for universal health care.

    For starters, it’s cheaper for everyone. Secondly, it means when you lose your job you don’t lose your health insurance. It means that no one is uninsurable, and it makes a big difference to the experience of poverty in different countries.

  • Nice post. This is my first time at your blog (which I found from Blogging Bookworm). I’ll be back!

  • Not too long. :) There’s a lot to cover!

    I’ve been thinking a lot about compassion….

  • Mrs. M, Thank you for your comment! I do try to look toward solutions as much as possible, because I don’t think it helps the world to become stuck focussed on what is wrong without trying to make it right! : )

    Late Bloomer, Wonderful to hear from you! And thank you, it means a lot to hear that my words are hitting home. I look forward to hearing about your contributions to your community!!

    Rob, I think it is a big deal, because so often people are over-extended in this country. Congratulations for living within your means! What’s an ARM mortgage, btw?

    Kathy, What a lovely comment – thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here. Since you are starting to grow a garden, you might consider joining The Growing Challenge – it’s a wonderfully supportive gardening community.

    The work you are doing sounds truly amazing. And very inspiring. We will need more of such things in the future. Best of luck in your endeavor.

    Katecontinued, Yes, very very very good point!! Indeed. We have much work to do in a short amount of time! I will check out the video – thank you. Have you read Culture of Fear? Quick read, and loved it.

    Kate, Very good point. You Kates are so darn good! Thank you for adding that – what a different country this would be…

    Electronic Goose, Thank you so much for coming – I look forward to your return!

    Deb G, : ) Me too. I think one of the most important things we can do is infuse the world with a lot more compassion. How is a big question, but we can start within our immediate worlds and work outward… I’ll keep thinking about it. Let me know if you have other ideas about it, whenever – would love to hear them.

  • Melinda,
    “ARM” is the acronym for adjustable rate mortgage.

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