Lending a helping hand up

Readers, you knew it was only a matter of time before this liberal Yankee from Miami reared her leftist head. Of course, I imagine you all know me well enough by now to know that I do so only to offer another perspective, not to create conflict or point fingers.

8-20 Page 4A.inddCovering the school board debate in Six Mile recently felt a trillion light years away — like I was completely out of my element. I haven’t covered a school board meeting in how long? And I had to ask intelligent questions about issues that I haven’t spent much thought on in quite some time.

Luckily, some issues remain the same regardless of the passage of time: poverty in Pickens County will, I fear, never be out of vogue when it comes to conversational hot-button topics.

I’m not certain who said this, and who said it doesn’t matter, but one of the candidates uttered the phrase “consumers of the government” in relationship to the individuals in our county who receive government subsidies, in the form of Family Independence or SNAP Benefits, to help offset the cost of living.

The words struck a chord in my brain, and I haven’t been able to forget them. They have echoed and reverberated in my cranial matter because they imply that “those people” are like sponges that suck up free handouts without attempting to be productive and fruitful.

Obviously, there are people who mooch off of hardworking taxpayers — there are bad apples in every bushel. For every one person who seems content to let each day pass without pulling up their boot-straps and making a valiant effort to make a contribution to society, there are more folks who work diligently and desperately for every single penny they earn and still find themselves scraping the bottom of the barrel to make ends meet.

School board members are not equipped with a special sort of magic that would allow them more might to slay the dragons of poverty and create a utopian Pickens County where children don’t go without having even their most basic needs met, but they do need to understand that real poverty — the kind we see in less-developed countries on late-night infomercials — exists right here in our own backyard.

As a county, we can worry about some nefarious sort of liberalism seeping into the pristine conservative value systems and infecting our children, or we can do something about a tangible issue that goes unrecognized by so many because homelessness doesn’t sit on the corners of Main Street asking for spare change.

I have said this before, and I will say it as many times as I have to for someone to hear me, when a child is hungry — when he doesn’t know from where his next meal might be coming, when he doesn’t have a bed in which to sleep, when his parents have to make a choice between putting gas in the car to go to work or paying for a field trip — it is incredibly difficult, if not nearly impossible, for that child to receive the same education as a child who doesn’t have to bear the burden of these concerns.

Yes. There are some people who are “consumers” of the government because they are good parents — not because they are leeches. Because they have known hunger and don’t want their children to suffer an aching belly. Because they might make barely enough to survive, but nowhere near what they need to earn to thrive. My thought is simply this — instead of condemning or being critical, why not pool our resources and come up with a way to offer a hand up. You would be surprised how many people would prefer help to a handout.