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7.11.2012

THE FACE OF POVERTY

The face of poverty seems large.  Whether it has changed from when I was a kid, or the awareness of it is before us more now, maybe some of both, it is ever present.  Real or perceived, the increasing population into poverty or the working poor seems like a leaky dam ready to burst.

Poverty doesn't exempt you from going somewhere, it does though appear to create a road block, a detour, rising flood waters to fight through.  Maybe poverty is so overwhelming and all consuming that the energy, time, and determination it would take to leave it cannot be easily spared.  Maybe it is purely survival that perpetuates its population.

My neighborhood begins to change as you move about 5 blocks from my house.  A great number of the houses are rental properties.  Some have had various tenants in and out since I have lived here the past two and half years.  I can see the face of poverty in some of the homes, their residents, cars, lifestyle and almost dismal way of life.  You can see it on the kids, their clothes, their lack of cleanliness, their language - a seeming unawareness there is anything else but what they know.  

As we returned from our nightly walk we saw the neighbor's young adult son and his friend in our yard following what appeared to be a 2 year old Hispanic little boy.  When we got to our yard they were sitting in the grass beside this very small boy who seemed frightened.  They had found the boy wandering the area between our houses.  He either couldn't speak well due to his young age, spoke only Spanish, or was just too scared to tell us his name. 

This small shirtless and shoeless little boy was filthy.  His diaper was dirty.  So was his face, his back, his hands, his feet and his shorts.  His shorts hung loosely off his tiny, thin frame.  The mom in me wanted to protect him, to give him a snack, a bath, to take away his fear.  More than that, I wanted to give him a hope for his future.  

Amazingly enough, after kneeling down and telling him my name was Nancy, asking him if he wanted to hold my hand and take me to where his mom was, he did.  This scared, dirty, lost 2 year old Hispanic boy put his dirty hand in mine and pointed down the street from my house.  As we waited on the police, I walked with him toward the direction he pointed.  

Towards us came a teenager/young adult girl on a bike calling his name, "Christian".  He pointed to her and she said he was with her.  I questioned her on where she lived and how this small of child had gotten away from her.  Her reply broke my heart and painted a grim picture for Christian, "His mom works and has two other kids and can't watch them all the time."  I didn't have words.  I wanted to chastise her, to scold.  She didn't appear panicked or worried.  I would have been frantic.  Christian seemed disoriented, scared and unsure of everything.  I felt angry and unable to change this little boy's situation.

The police officer drove up and questioned her about where they lived and how this 2 year boy had gotten at least 5 blocks away from his house and the people that were in charge of loving and caring for him.  I watched the police officer's face; there was disgust on it, a look that screamed how can people be this stupid, and a bit of anger.  He followed her home as she rode the bike with the now returned boy on her handlebars.  That police officer probably experienced poverty constantly.  In some regard, it kept him employed.

As they drove off my heart sank.  We create obstacles for ourselves at times, making our own lives difficult.  This child though was born into something he did not choose.  I wondered if they would bathe him and love on him tonight?  What would his life be like?  Would poverty and despair and a ceilinged way of life take all his energy, drive and determination eventuallty?  I wondered did he know now and would he come to know that God was with him, had a plan for his life?  I asked God to keep that little boy Christian safe, but mostly, to love him. 

The face of poverty had a name, Christian.

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