Why are we so convinced that our own pain is the only pain, or at the very least, that it is the worst? I’ve been writing this post for nearly two months. After reading posts and articles explaining why poor America is too ignorant to know better than to hate from people who have no idea what it is like to live in poverty, let alone the effects of it on the human spirit. (Not linking here, but a quick internet search will turn up plenty.)
The sparks of hate–anger, fear, or pain–know no boundaries, none of us are immune to them. How we express them–and if they do transform to hate–will be tempered by upbringing, life experiences, and personality. The pressure, the struggle of living will expose our inner workings. Think Rwanda 1990s. Tribal genocide from one tribe onto another. Germany 1940s. One man’s lust for power made use of political and religious phobia and the instability left over from the previous war to convince an entire nation of European people to condemn another group of European people.
The pressure, the struggle of living will expose our inner workings.
Noticing and trying to solve problems such as a stains in your shirt or how to best parent each child individually seems frivolous when you have to choose between gas so you can drive to the grocery store and enough food to feed the entire family. Children born and raised in this environment, especially in rural areas*, may have difficulty breaking the cycle. Even if children grow up to break out of their parents’ socioeconomic class, those habits they absorbed during childhood all too often live on in them. Self-destructive, ingrained habits limit their potential in adulthood.
I prefer highly processed foods because my snacks were ketchup sandwiches instead of fresh fruits. I overact to the slightest stress because my body seems to be stuck in permanent flight-or-fight mode. Childhood poverty has forever impacted my life from what I eat to how I dress as I feel each aspect of my life through the urge to care for that little girl I was. Poverty is never something people choose, but do they have a choice when they lack the resources to change it?
And when you can’t change something, you lose hope, and when you lose the hope, you’ve lost the drive to change. When poverty, be it rural or urban, reaches down to the depths of the souls of the people, when hope dies, horrendous things begin to happen. Forget those habits of highly successful people because they topple like dominoes in the wake of generation poverty.
- If you feel a spark, you lack the initiative to try because it feels that failure is inevitable. Why go looking for trouble when it will come to you? The other shoe will drop.
- How can you plan for the future when a haze of hunger, with no end in sight, clouds your judgment?
- Which ties right into the urgent versus the important. If the urgent affects your or your family’s well-being, what could be more important?
… and the list goes on.
Poverty of the soul is an emptiness, an apathy. Poverty saps the ability to derive pleasure from life and the joy from the soul. It intensifies loneliness and blinds to beauty. You accept not only as your own fate, but as the future for your children, continuing the cycle of poverty to the next generation. Parents have immense potential to spark life into their children’s dreams and to empower them to achieve them. What happens when poverty steals that? It leaves room for the sparks of hate–anger, fear, or pain–to burn hotter in them.
If it is difficult to break out of the cycle of generational poverty in the United States, can you imagine how much harder it must be in other countries where children have limited access drinking water or other basic necessities, let alone to any education?
Hoyo de Bartola, “The Hole,” in the Dominican Republic, 12 years ago. A stream flows around the clusters of houses that are surrounded by mounds of uncovered, smoldering trash.
*Further reading on childhood poverty: