There is a new move afoot to encourage people to shop locally. The 3/50 Project wants folks to dedicate $50 each month to shopping at three local retailers. The theory is that this keeps tax dollars in the local economy. I like the idea of shopping locally and eating at local, independent restaurants. In fact, I prefer my local eating establishments over the chains any day. I buy much of my food through local co-ops. Local is good.
The only problem I see with this idea is that it is an idea for the elite. And by elite I mean those who actually have expendable income each month. For the elderly on a fixed income or the low-income family who barely pays the rent each month the idea of $50 to spend any way and any where they want is a glorious fantasy. When the blood pressure medication prescription needs to be filled, the patient can choose to pay $4 at Walmart or market price at the independent pharmacy.
To the elite, $50 sounds like pocket change. To many Americans it sounds like the difference between paying the electric bill and not paying the electric bill. Local is a grand idea if you have $50 in your pocket that isn’t already earmarked for basic life necessities such as water, heat and shelter.
Perhaps instead of worrying about where the common folks are spending their money, our local enthusiasts should concentrate on finding ways to create an economy that provides $50 of pocket change for every person.
I got wind that October 15 was Blog Action Day ~ Poverty. So, I thought I’d make a few comments about poverty and what we can and can’t do about it. I’ll relay the stories of two single mothers I’ve known and assisted in their battle against poverty – each with a different outcome.
Each woman received identical assistance:
- The basics of food stamps, Section 8 housing and subsidized childcare
- Free job training co-sponsored by a community agency and DHS
- Mentoring with a business woman
- Resume and interview coaching
- Gas allowances and transportation assistance through a local church
- Utility assistance
- Free work-appropriate clothing through a local charity
- Medical and mental healthcare through a government/community action agency partnership
- Opportunities to volunteer at local churches or charities of their choice
- Parenting training and coaching
In short, they participated in a program that took every step imaginable to help them build the skills, confidence, and support system necessary to be able to get to a point that they could support themselves and their children.
Woman A consistently missed appointments, classes, required DHS inspections, etc. She blew what little money she had on beer and cigarettes. Despite my efforts and the efforts of countless others, she ended up evicted from her subsidized housing and her children were taken by DHS and put in foster care. We cried, all of us, those children were precious. The mother cried, but chose to run off to another state with the latest boyfriend instead of working to right the situation.
Woman B never missed an appointment, a class, or failed to attend to any other requirements asked of her, regardless of how silly or demeaning they may have seemed (and some government regulations do seem completely senseless). She won the respect of her teachers, case workers and counselors. She volunteered to help other women in her same position. She learned and asked questions and learned some more. She hung on her mentor’s every word and worked hard to become a professional herself. And she succeeded. Again we cried, but this time it was at a graduation ceremony for a young mother who would be starting her first “real” job in her entire life.
The difference in those two women was the attitude, the mindset, they brought to the table. You and I can and should support efforts to help those living in poverty. However, none of us can change the way a person thinks. Someone who chooses to be the victim and believes the government, the rich, or whoever, is out to keep them down will never rise out of poverty. More money, more programs, more volunteers will never end poverty. Poverty is as much a mind problem as a financial problem. All we can do is continue to reach those who are ready and willing to take the steps necessary to defeat the scourge of poverty.
I don’t know what happened to Woman A. I can only pray that she has or will take advantage of opportunities to rise above her unpleasant past. Woman B has continued to do well. She’s received promotions and pay raises and recently moved from her Section 8 housing to a nice, suburban neighborhood where the kids can attend some of the best schools in the area. And it’s for the sake of the Woman B’s out there they we must continue to help wherever and however we can.