I love the Oprah show. I think she is great, so I’m very excited for the new shows this season. The other day was a good one. You can find the recap here. It was all about Poverty in the United States. The numbers are astounding. 37 Million people (the population of Canada) live at or below the poverty line.
That number to me is astounding. Oprah and some correspondents (including Anderson Cooper, Maria Shriver, and Gayle King) went to various parts of the country to talk with some poor people. I don’t know about most of you, but I can’t imagine living on $500/month, let alone with kids to feed and clothe.
Oprah talked to people in Pembroke, Illinois, where 40% of the population does not have running water! I mean I knew I grew up wearing my brother’s hand me downs, shopping at thrift stores, and eating free school lunches and government cheese, but we ALWAYS had running water. We always had health insurance, and we never skipped a whole meal because we didn’t have money for food.
The point they were trying to make is that these people are invisible, that most Americans do not know these people exist (at least I hope it’s just ignorance rather than a lack of caring). And it’s true, Hurricane Katrina opened a lot of eyes to the problem. Oprah thinks its a turning point in our nation… but I don’t know. It’s been about 7 weeks since the hurricane hit, and so many people still don’t know how they’re going to rebuild their lives or even where. And it seems the rest of us have kind of moved on…It’s not forgotten, but it’s not front page news. Plus I don’t think that people are aware of the situations in so many other places in the country. Not aware that 1 in 3 people in Detroit live below the poverty line, and that 40% of a whole community in Illinois do not even have running water.
And unfortunately for many poor people, there aren’t a whole lot of second chances. If you live paycheck to paycheck, most likely any unexpected car maintenance (or rising gas prices or bus fares) can throw off your whole “budget”. Ending up in the emergency room without insurance could wipe out the grocery budget, or ruin your credit. I am fortunate to have many safety nets including my family and friends who will be there for me if all else fails “to catch” me.
It makes me feel so very very fortunate and blessed.