Thursday, September 13, 2018


Food for thought:

In wealthy Howard, 25 percent of families struggle to make ends meet, survey finds 

There are some inteeeting numbers and comparisons in the Baltimore Sun article by Jess Nocera. It’s really kind of amazing that the cost of living here requires a basic, no-frills income of $85, 500 merely for survival. The Federal poverty level for a family of four is $25,100 but in Howard County you’d need more than three times that amount. This information comes from the ALICE report from the United Way. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — the working poor.

Next time you are in a group of HoCo residents, look around. Just think, one in four of these folks don’t have enough to get by. 

And yet, it isn’t as simple as that. How often to we find ways to surround ourselves with people like us, so we don’t see those one in four? We can easily live in bubbles where our daily lives insulate us from seeing the poverty in our community. Our neighborhoods, schools, even where we shop can be islands of affluence compared the the struggles of others. 

It feels good to be in our bubble of like-minded people. It feels like home. If someone challenges our comfortable life by suggesting that we open our eyes (our neighborhoods? Our schools?) to that other twenty-five per cent we may bristle. It’s one thing to make a donation to help people who are mostly out of sight and out of mind. It’s quite another to invite them to dinner. To call them neighbor and friend. To make their priorities our priorities.

When the thrift store Second Avenue opened up my family went a few times. After a while I found that I’d come away with a deep sadness whenever we paid a visit. I realized that I was seeing people I never saw. People who didn’t have enough. People who were struggling. It made me sad and uncomfortable. It was easier to look away. 

There are plenty of issues on the table in local elections. I wonder if this one will get the time and attention it deserves. Fully twenty five percent of Howard County residents don’t have enough to survive in our community. Any platform or vision for Howard County’s present and future should include them.

They’re not influential. They don’t have a powerful lobby or matching t-shirts. They (obviously) can’t hope to influence policy through large political donations.

To paraphrase Malcom Forbes,

You can easily judge the character of a community by how it treats those who can do nothing in return.

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