Two years ago today my only child was born. The earth definitely moved, and has been moving since, all for the very best.
Though I woke up with memories of wonder and amazement at her life, I also woke up to read this:
The poverty rate in America is 13.2 percent, according to the US Census Bureau. In West Virginia, the rate is 17.2 percent, and recent figures indicate that 23.9 percent of West Virginia’s children live in poverty. — Sustained Outrage
I am aware of this figure. The one-in-four statistic is like a nightmare from which you desperately want to wake, but can’t. I thought this reality was the worst, but then I read something else this morning that may overtake the pain of the one-in-four.
As you hear elected officials talk about cutting programs that care for children as “tough decisions” chew on this, if you will, in the context of politics and child poverty:
“These days, we take pride in being tough enough to inflict pain on others. If an older usage were still in force, whereby being tough consisted of enduring pain rather than imposing it on others, we should perhaps think twice before so callously valuing efficiency over compassion.” The Goat Rope
When I brought home a fragile 7 pound life two years ago, I was overcome with the reality of our responsibility to children. I am frankly unconcerned with what the adults in the equation “have earned” or “deserve” or whether or not they are living up to their “personal responsibility.” Would it be nice I didn’t have to take care of other people’s kids? Um, yes. Yes it would. I’ve got my hands full over here.
But here’s the rub — these kids in poverty aren’t “other people’s kids”, not really. They are my kids. They are your kids. First and foremost they are God’s children. One day they will inherit the earth, and it matters a whole hell of a lot how well they are cared for now and how well they grow up. It is absolutely imperative that we separate what these children so desperately need from our feelings about their parents.
If you have children it should scare you to death that if you couldn’t find a job, or got sick, or developed a raging substance abuse problem, that the greater community would tsk tsk it away and your child would be left to slowly disappear off of the social radar through no fault of his or her own. This is completely unacceptable and is the behavior of a species that wants to go extinct.
We need to be in the business of strengthening the fragile. That’s our job as adults when it comes to kids. There are some things that don’t deserve “sustained outrage,” they deserve to get fixed permanently. Will there always be poverty? Probably. But there doesn’t have to always be confusion about our moral obligation to children.