Friday, June 16, 2017

Our family knows the sting of poverty



My family also knows the sting of poverty
I recognize I may have a soft heart for the cause because my dad grew up in a time of dire poverty in the hills of Eastern Kentucky.


When you look at pictures from his childhood, you'd think it looked more like 1850 than the decade when America got television and the Soviet Union sent Sputnik into space.
In one shot, he's a tiny barefoot toddler wearing baggy overhauls, and standing in a dusty yard where someone has hung a washbucket on the fence. The family had no running water then.
In another, he's a teenager smiling in what could be a yearbook photo. It's around the same period in life he says he became aware of how poor he was, and grew increasingly ashamed for things he had no control over, like having to wear the same shirt and pants for an entire week, every week, at school.
"You'd get pretty ripe by Friday," he told me.
But I am SO GRATEFUL he says he never had to struggle with the gnawing pain of childhood hunger.
Dad says families, including his own, ate what they grew. He says as tenant farmers, my grandparents paid their rent for their huge brood (my dad was baby #14) with a portion of the crop they harvested on land they never owned.
As a result, there seemed to be a dependable supply of something to eat, he says.
But that is not the case for more school-aged kids in America than most of us realize.
It's why my chat with Gia stays in my mind.
Here was a child who, through no fault of her own, needed a helping hand. And she was so grateful to get it, proclaiming:
"I want to start a new school and a charity. I would like to have a school that would be grateful too for what they have".
Though she didn't say it outright, I felt like she was letting us know, not only did "Blessings in a Backpack" help fill her belly, it was also going a long way in feeding her huge potential.
That thought still brings a lump to my throat.