You’d never know it by the junker I drive around, but statistically speaking, I’m rich. Having any car that can get them to their jobs and allow them to run errands is all some people really want, considering that lack of transportation is one of the biggest problems for America’s “new” poor. According to the census bureau, for the first time, more poor Americans live in the suburbs than in cities.
Today on Morning Edition, reporter Rachel Jones interviewed a poor woman in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, who was having trouble getting ahead because of problems with her “new” car, which a friend sold to her for $75. Public transportation was nearly non-existent between her suburb and downtown Des Moines, where she could access social services. Like most suburbs, her home and her job were miles apart, with no sidewalks for walking and no local bus service. And the $75 car had already cost her more than $800 for insurance and registration, which she really couldn’t afford.
According to Jones, poor individuals are not the only ones struggling to deal with this new demographic. The suburban town and and city governments are struggling to come up with the services their “new” constituents need. And though many of us have extensive networks of friends, family and resources that we can rely on in hard times, this is not true for everyone. A lot of Americans are just a divorce, hospitalization, or job loss away from really hard times. And many of those people now live in the suburbs.
This story felt particularly poignant to me, as I have been trying to understand what a ministry to the poor would look like in my life. Though I live within the city limits of Indianapolis, my area feels more suburban, perhaps the only exception being the bus line that runs walking distance from my home. Until today, I have been trying to find a connection downtown where I could go and help them, the poor people. Now my focus is shifting. Seeing poverty as an issue close to home gives me more of an opportunity to practice sharing rather than giving. And when the people I help are my neighbors, I am forced to consider them as people rather than a cause.
Lord, give me eyes to see the poverty that is all around me. And give me the wisdom to know how to reach out to others with the dignity they deserve.