Us, Them, We

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Thursday morning, I wore my power-do. All swept up, twisted and clipped, the ability to rock the delicate balance between messy and elegant gives me confidence…I can do anything. And I needed that courage. Thursday, Valentine’s Day, was Have a Heart Day in the state capitol. A day for advocates to speak to lawmakers. Me. A poor girl. An advocate.  Speaking to representatives and senators.

Some of these people haven’t got a clue. They’ve never had to choose between paying for utilities or food. Never “floated” a check because the kids were hungry. Never use glue or duct tape to fix shoes. Never stood in line at the food pantry, the unemployment line, or the welfare office. Never had to use the emergency room for something that should have been taken care of at a routine visit. Never had to eat with pain in the mouth. And really, that’s okay. It’s difficult to understand what one has not experienced first hand.  Living in poverty is rather uncomfortable, and I would not wish it upon anyone.  There are levels of poverty I have never experienced first hand, and I am thankful.  And this is where education steps in.  If one does not understand poverty, it is a challenge to grasp the effect of policies and practices on those living there.

Not having enough to provide for the basic necessities is oppressing, isolating, frustrating!  And there I was, power-do and all, siting facts and figures, sharing my story and others, to those in government.  Giving a voice to others like me.  An awesome responsibility.  I was both exhilarated and terrified.  What an adrenaline rush!

Yet I struggle with the way I see these issues.  So many have an “us versus them” mentality.  “We are the 99%.”  “We are working class, or middle class, this level or that level.”  How in the world will this get us anywhere.  In my experience, this sort of thinking only causes problems.  “Are they whispering about me?”  “What does that look mean?”  Profiling, anyone?  It’s not us.  It’s not them.  It’s we.  We are people.  And if any one is in crisis, then we are all in crisis.  It is time to stand up and say “I will not let my neighbor go hungry.  I will not let my neighbor be ill without care.  I will not let my neighbor live without warmth, without shelter.”

I realize there will still be some who will say “it’s not my problem”.  Some will still say “us” and “them”.  That’s fine.  But watch out, because “we” are diverse and plentiful, and “we” are not backing down!

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