No doubt, many of you folks of a certain generation will remember the parental dictates concerning eating all the food that was put or otherwise landed on our plates, also known euphemistically as “cleaning your plate.” Our parents felt that we would be motivated into this act of cleaning by guilt. We would be told, “Just think about those poor children in India (or China) who would be glad to eat this food.”
As I look back on it, I don’t know how much of a concept I had about these children, although I would have gladly given the offending food to them. Food we liked went down easy. Food we didn’t want to eat, however, always brought up the specter of these starving children on the other side of the globe.
But that was then. Nowadays hungry children live all around us, thanks to a political system that has systematically picked away at the middle class and has now climaxed in an economical collapse that pushed those who remained, albeit precariously, decidedly into poverty. According to 60 Minutes, 25% of our children are now living in poverty. . . the largest generation since the Great Depression.
If you didn’t see last Sunday’s 60 minute segment titled, Hard Times Generation: Homeless Kids, I suggest you do.
Since seeing this, I am haunted by the vision and the words of a little boy describing what it feels like to be hungry, to not be able to sleep at night because your stomach hurts so much. Nor can I forget the girl who talked about getting food from churches or the one who described asking classmates for their uneaten food.
The children in this story by Scott Pelley are living in Seminole County, Florida, within an hour’s drive from Disneyworld. The irony, of course, is that Disneyworld is a children’s paradise of carnival rides while Seminole County school buses now make regular stops at the cheap motels to pick up students in the places they have landed after losing their homes.
Those who still have houses describe having their electricity shut off for non-payment and having to study by candlelight, flashlights, or even the overhead lamps in a car. It should come to no one’s surprise that these children are struggling in school.
And what about the psychological effects? One young girl said she felt that it was her fault because her parents had to buy food and clothes for her. No, it doesn’t make sense, but that’s common reasoning among vulnerable children trying to protect their parents from their shortcomings or failures.
But as we all should be aware, these problems are not confined to Florida. Last year, according to the group Green Doors, there were more than 5,000 homeless people on any given night in Austin and Travis County, 616 homeless families with children, and 3,000 to 5,000 homeless AISD students. Furthermore, the average age of the Austin homeless person is 7 years old. Surely, their faces are just as sad and troubled as those children in Seminole County.
I don’t know how any Wall Street executive or banker can sleep at night knowing that they have been bailed out with government funds – only to get richer than ever – while these children get more destitute and hungrier.
And I have to wonder how members of congress are sleeping at night having just extended a tax cut to millionaires for another 2 years while the parents of these children lost jobs, their houses, and now, their dignity. Why is it too much to ask for a little sacrifice from those who have gotten all the breaks in the last 10 years? If only someone in Washington would worry about the starving children of America like they worry about millionaires who threaten to hijack the economy if they don’t get their tax breaks.
Must those children depend solely on the charity we “little people” can give? How much can we feasibly accomplish when the forces in charge of this country have doomed the economic system that used to allow for most people – not just the very rich – to make a decent living? How can we keep our cash-strapped state governments from abandoning these children’s future, along with their present, by withdrawing support to public education?
If I (and a few of you) start giving more regularly to the Capital Area Food Bank would that assure that no child goes to bed hungry? I don’t even know where the food bank is….does it have branches? Is it convenient for the homeless to visit? I realize how little I know about it beyond being an irregular contributor. I plan to learn more.
There’s something so wrong about this. I see the faces of these children and they aren’t living in India. They are in the United States of America, Land of Plenty, Land of Opportunity, Land of the Free and the Brave. And now Land of National Shame.
I wonder if Mitch McConnell ever urges his grandchildren to clean their plates in the name of the poor starving children in America.