Poverty, the ultimate destroyer of dreams

In recent months both here on my blog as well as on Twitter I have been pretty vocal about my need for a career change. After 15 years in the non-profit/human services sector I am burnt out. This is my second stint as an Executive Director but in 15 years this is the first agency that I have been with where the work I do is emotionally and mentally heavy. I started my career off back in Chicago working with women trying to escape the exploitative world of prostitution. From there I spent most of my career working with homeless men and women, occasionally working with folks formerly homeless folks once they got into housing. But it’s the past three years of working with low income youth that has just taken my soul and everything good and lovely that I believed in and turned it into coal.

While I am prone to joking about my work and my kids as I call the families we serve, the truth is it’s not the kids themselves that have burnt me out. It’s the system, its society, it’s the fact that so many of us have too damn much and some of us don’t have enough and seeing that great inequity day in and day out is killing me.

I am tired of seeing people with no teeth, children who don’t have good shoes to play in or adequate clothing to play in. I am tired of begging people with too much to support those who do not have enough because we with a few rocks are in a position to decide if those poor people are worthy. I am tired of going home and talking to friends who have more than enough bitch and moan about their lack because they can’t get the newest and latest iGadget when I know kids and family who struggle literally to have enough to eat. Because the reality is monthly SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) really aren’t enough to feed a family of 4-5 three nutritious meals a day despite everyone’s anecdotal story of the welfare recipient with a cart piled high with Porterhouse steaks and Chips Ahoy.

Most of all I am tired of seeing kids that by age 13 have given up hope, whose largest dreams now exist in procreating themselves if nothing else for the temporary joy new babies bring into all families regardless of economics. Tired of the fact that my generation might have been the last one to be born poor or working class but could work hard and move up. More importantly just tired of feeling like I am no longer an agent of change for my families but instead I have become a human misery minimizer because all I can do in the end is minimize the misery that people living in poverty face…Poverty sucks because in the end it robs those stuck in it of the ability to dream and without dreams, what do we have? If it wasn’t for dreams, a little girl born in the early 1970’s in Chicago back in the free hospital (Cook County) to teenage parents wouldn’t be sitting here typing this piece.

1 thought on “Poverty, the ultimate destroyer of dreams”

  1. Ironically I think a big part of the problem is the welfare system itself. Originally designed to help those folks who needed a little propping up while they got back on their feet, it’s become an entire subculture where people don’t want to (or feel they can’t) get out of the system. And it’s become generational. There are many folks who use the system for what it’s designed to do – get them over the hump. But for too many folks it’s become an entire way of life. And being poor is depressing, keeps people unmotivated, perpetuates the cycle. In addition, the governments creation of the welfare system also enables those with more than enough to not feel obligated to do something to help those less fortunate. Why bother? There’s welfare… the government will take care of ‘them’. Unfortunately the real victims are the kids. Blargh. You’re right, you need more unicorns.

Comments are closed.