Poverty, especially inter-generational poverty, has an unmistakable but often unspoken impact on the dignity of an individual. People who learned from birth that there was no room at the table for them as children have to re-teach themselves that they are in fact equal in humanity to everyone else on the planet.
There are stories about people pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. These stories often do well to give hope, but life is never black and white. The stories themselves are compelling because of the difficulties faced. It’s also true that very successful people never graduated college. Bill Gates, for example, never completed his studies at Harvard. But he was the son of a prominent lawyer and a banker. His family had high expectations for him and he was able to use the tools to succeed.
Poverty can make someone feel inferior. It can be overcome, but not just by writing a check. Education and self-awareness are important factors in overcoming poverty. People need to understand that they do deserve to do well and they are exactly the kind of people who can succeed in life. That’s very hard to understand at a gut level when no one you know has succeeded. It’s difficult to believe in yourself when you look at people you’d like to emulate, but they look nothing like you. Visualizing yourself meeting your goals and believing you can do it are a lot harder for people who have no context.
In rural areas, where contact with different types of people is limited, it’s even harder to picture yourself anywhere but where you are. That’s true for everyone. If you grew up with wealth, it’s very hard to imagine how difficult life can be. Banking, car repair, and doctor visits look very different depending on your economic status. A wealthy person isn’t going to have the same crises. I speak of this from personal experience. It’s very hard to relate to people from different backgrounds, and if you aren’t used to even trying to relate, you are going to feel like an outsider. It’s not something that should stop people, but when you are dealing with a million different problems, it takes a lot.
At Roads to Justice, we believe poverty is not a simple problem. We believe the solution takes everything we can throw at it, and we’re here to support the whole person.