Having just moved to SW Florida from Ohio I have been trying to get my bearings and learn a little bit about the area we’re now calling home. Aside from the obvious beauty of the ocean,the beach,and the various rivers and harbors,I have been struck by the lushness of it all. The locals say we are heading into Fall but for this country boy from Ohio when it’s in the upper 80’s it sure seems like summer time to me!

One thing I’ve learned that isn’t different from Ohio however is that there are large numbers of poor and hungry children here. In this immediate area the percentage of children qualifying for free or reduced school lunches ranges between 48 and 75 percent,depending on the county.

So what’s so remarkable about that,you may ask?

Well,for starters, the amount of wealth in this area is staggering. Homes costing upwards of sixty million dollars can be found within an hour of me. Yes,you read that right: $60 million dollars! Million dollar homes don’t even raise an eyebrow in this part of the country.Talk about culture shock!

And lest you think that unbelievable consider that there are certain country clubs charging upwards of $250,000 just to join! Which,by the way,does not include the monthly costs of up to ten thousand dollars.Hopefully for those who can afford such things,membership does have it’s privileges!

With all of this wealth as a backdrop it seems impossible that such a large part of the population struggles to provide enough food for their families.

But of course this is by no means unique to this area. Wherever you live in America this same condition exists. Cities large and small,rural or metropolitan areas,pick any part of the country, all have similar conditions. As a matter of fact,it’s always been that way. It just hasn’t been as noticeable as it is now.At least to me.

The Great Divide

The gulf between the haves and the have not’s has likely never been wider than it is right now. The disparity in income levels appears to be ever increasing.Some might say it’s just me getting an up close eyeful of “the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer”. But I don’t think so.

Now please understand,I harbor no animosity,jealousy or bitterness towards anyone who has accumulated great wealth.It’s none of my business frankly.So I certainly don’t know what I’m missing (if anything).

Just as it’s none of my business what people do with their money,or to what charities they may donate to.

But I am troubled when I read in the papers where hundreds of thousands,and in some cases millions of dollars,are raised for a particular cause or event while children are hungry.Forgive me,I know it’s none of my business,but my lack of education and social status prevents me from understanding why priorities are what they are.

Being exposed to the magnitude of wealth in this area,albeit from a great distance,has perhaps brought to the forefront of my heart and mind something that has long troubled me.

I come from very humble stock. I’ve never had wealth nor do I anticipate ever having it.I have no rich uncles.What I do have however are memories of what it’s like to be hungry as a child.I know what empty cabinets and a bare refrigerator feels like.Few things in life are more cruel than having little, if anything, to eat.So it is very easy for me to have empathy for those who are struggling just to put food on the table.

The vast wealth of this nation is rivaled only by the depths of poverty to which some must try to overcome.I understand how hard it is to climb up from the depths of despair in order to make a better life for your family.Now try that while being hungry most of the time.Is it any wonder so many simply give up?

On the subject of poverty,I recently read part of a speech given by Herbert Hoover on August 11,1928 before a huge crowd at the Stanford University stadium.I was struck by the timeliness of it all as I was writing this particular post. In it Hoover had this to say about poverty:

“Given a chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years,we shall soon,with the help of God,be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation”.

Eighty eight years ago this speech was given to a loud,enthusiastic crowd of supporters.

In that time the world has changed exponentially.Atomic weapons have been developed and used.New nations have been birthed while others have faded into obscurity.Another world war and several lesser wars have been fought all across the globe since 1928.

Manufacturing and farming technologies have advanced in unimaginable ways.For more years than I can remember,America has fed a large part of the world.In America today,more food is grown than at any other time in our history and many still refer to us as the “bread basket”.

Yet for all of our technological advances,for all of our knowledge,for all of the great wealth we have,we still haven’t come close to fulfilling the words of Herbert Hoover.

Perhaps we should finally try something different to eradicate the poverty issue in America.

Maybe for once we should look at poverty as a heart issue and not a social issue.Maybe if instead of staring at statistics and charts,instead of developing more programs to throw money at, we look into the faces of those who are desperate.Maybe we should look past the color of someone’s skin or nationality,and instead look into their eyes.

Or could it be that we are too afraid of the reflection we would see?

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