Monday, August 20, 2012

Why the Broke Stay Broke; If Only I Could Save the World:

There are several things which I observe that can really get my engines revved up if I think about them long enough; most of which have affected me directly in my past or present allowing me to relate making me feel like it is my right to have a voice in the matter. Although I see people jump on "band wagons" all of the time, personally, I only get passionate about something that I experience or have experienced myself; the only exception being if it involves a close friend or family member because in my world, that is as bad as it happening to me directly.

My 3 year old son Zane will be 4 this week and because of that he is eligible to attend a voluntary pre-kindergarten program that our state offers. It was developed so that children entering kindergarten will already know simple things like colors, shapes, how to write their names and act appropriately in a classroom prior to entering kindergarten. The 3 hours of learning is offered by day care centers and preschools that participate for free to all children who turn 4 prior to September 1st.  Being that my children have always had in-home-care, I felt it would help them get acclimated to a group environment.

Last week, as I was driving to the office where you obtain the certificate you need to attend this program I was in one of those "moods" that opens my mind up to everything around me. Being that this program is funded by the state, the office is located on the "bad" side of town which I did not realize prior to punching the address into Google maps. As I made my way to the office I had an epiphany which I will now share.

For a moment I thought of how being in areas like this usually made me feel uncomfortable; like I needed to lock my door and run for cover if I had to get out of my car, but this day was different. I became sad and angry as I looked around realizing that the people in these areas don't stand a chance. Their kids don't stand a chance... all because of the surroundings that WE put there.

My eyes bounced from street side to street corner looking at all of the businesses that were located in the area. Payday cash advance places, buy-here-pay-here car dealers, thrift stores, dollar stores, unhealthy fast food restaurants, day-labor offices, rent-to own furniture stores... basically every rip-off scam there is. When you are surrounded by desperate ways out all of your life... you are left thinking that this is how life is. You are constantly following the eight ball never getting ahead because you can't afford to. Loans at 30% interest that will help you to pay your electric bill until the next payday, car loans that give you weekly payments that equate monthly to more than what a Mercedes would cost if you had good credit or a higher paying job. Renting cheaply made but cosmetically appealing furniture which will again drain your bank account each month and before it is paid off, it falls apart. Clothing stores that sell cheaply made clothes that you are constantly having to replace because they too fall apart after a few washes. Fast food that costs you way more than groceries in the long run... but all you had at the time was $15 to feed your family.

There is no wonder why so many people are on welfare. Instead of supplying handouts to people who have been brought up to think that this is what they are supposed to do because that is what their parents did,  perhaps we should fund an education, help them learn a trade, create job fairs, classes on how to budget, shop smart and handle your finances wisely, provide clothing that will be suitable to wear in a workplace and be sure that the children know how to do the same thing. You can't possibly tell me that the people in these areas don't WANT to do better. If they were educated, they would not be buying cars at 30% interest and renting furniture that they will never own to make them appear more successful than they are, nor would they feel "adequate" when they are offered these ridiculous "opportunities".

When I arrived at the office where I had to get the certificate, there was a line of people out the door needing income based or free daycare for their children. They were turned away because there were too many people inside to serve already, and they were asked to return the next day. (more gas, more time off of work and no guarantee they would be assisted tomorrow either.) As I was escorted past the room of people waiting inside, I felt disgusted that this many people were in need of assistance, thinking to myself "this is America; this should NOT be a problem!" We are enabling them to be failures instead of helping them become successful.

If only I could save the world, I would pitch a tent in these neighborhoods and offer classes on how to get a job, how to dress for an interview, how to grocery shop on a budget and would regurgitate Dave Ramsey principals at them a million a minute until they got it. I would give them hope that despite how you grew up YOU CAN CHANGE the family cycle. Desperation is NOT the only option, and they need to know this. It was sad, and I was humbled, and as I looked at all the little faces of these children who were born into poverty, I wanted to cry. My heart is so different now than it was years ago... it has been changed by my experiences. I could relate to those desperate people because I was there once. The difference was that I knew how to change it and it was not by accepting hand outs, it was by becoming educated and making smarter decisions when it came to money.

The next time I have to go into this area of town, instead of locking my doors, perhaps I will roll down my window at a red light and speak some encouraging words to whoever is next to me. It may be just what they need to hear.

Wednesday I will share another story from this experience... with yet another lesson on humility and understanding. Until then... pass it on and pay it forward!!