Last Thursday I attended a seminar called “Bridges Out of Poverty” which is also the title of the book that inspired a whole new movement in the welfare system.
This is about the growing gap between the rich and the poor. In my lifetime I’ve seen this gap grow wider and wider and it really disturbs me.
Back in the ’50’s and ’60’s, a middle class family could do well with one pay cheque. They could carry a mortgage, own a car and take the kids on vacation every summer. Now the average household needs two incomes and still has a hard time making ends meet.
Even worse for single mothers. What do they do? Get a minimum wage part-time job (because all jobs now are part-time) and pay for child-care? Impossible. Corporations are making money for their share holders….. the rich get richer off the backs of those people working hard and making way too little.
A lot of the social ills we blame on racism are really about poverty. We, privileged middle class people are raised with certain tools that help us think about our future. We take for granted we have food and place to sleep and we are asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. There are role models all around to learn from.
In poverty you are raised ‘putting out fires’: are you going to eat tonight? Do you have a safe place to sleep? What are you going to come home to? Just getting through the day is a struggle: there’s no time to dream about your future.
We heard many heart-breaking stories of people in poverty who, even though struggling to pull themselves out, get pulled back down again: take back an abusive mate back or numb the pain with drugs or turn to prostitution to feed their kids. That’s what they are raised in: the tools they have are for surviving day-to-day, not living, certainly not moving ahead.
Bridges Out of Poverty addresses exactly this issue and the ‘bridges’ are bringing middle class people together with poor people just as friends. Friends who listen, friends who help, friends who have connections, friends who have been there and got out because they had help and support.
In Canada, we have started the Circles program; bringing people together three times month just to eat and talk. Children are welcome and play together. Some of the younger kids ‘adopt’ a new gramma. They are starting a group in my area and I really hope to be a part of it.
For anyone who is concerned with these issues or wants volunteer work that really makes an impact, I encourage you to read this book and/or find your local group. It’s called ‘Bridges Out of Poverty’ in the U.S. and in Canada its called ‘Circles‘. Whether you are rich or poor or somewhere in between, you have something to offer. Those who were brought up living in poverty have so much to teach us, too.
This gives me hope for the future as long as everyone is on board but they are not. If Doug Ford (Conservative) gets in you can be sure the poor will get the shaft. But it won’t stop this group of friends who just want to get together for dinner. If Andrea Horwath (New Democrat Party) gets in…. women can change this world!
So Google it or look it up on Facebook and find your local group….. it’s a growing movement!