Reading the report thrashes me every year. I feel ripped back and forth from depression and despair to rage, with lots in between!
Consider just a few facts of life for children who live in Dallas, Texas, one of the most affluent communities in the world.
- Over 17% of the families in Dallas live at or below the poverty line.
- The percentage of our neighbors who live in poverty has risen from 13.5% in 1990 to 17% today, while our population has grown dramatically.
- Dallas has exceeded the state's average for percentage of impoverished families.
- Fully half (50%) of Dallas' impoverished population is under 18.
- One in four (25%) children under 5-years-old are poor in Dallas--up from 1 of 5 (20%) not long ago.
- Twenty-two percent of those in poverty are between ages 5 and 17.
- 39% of female-headed households that have children are living in poverty.
What kind of city accepts such harsh realities for its families?
Upon reading some of these grim facts about life in Dallas, Jeremy Gregg, Central Dallas Ministries' Director of Development, asked me this question, "What kind of community do we live in, where our wives would have nearly a 40% chance of living in poverty if we were not here?"
He went on to say, "I think of my daughter growing up in Dallas, and I imagine the various paths that would lead her to become one of our neighbors. More and more, I realize that her future depends less on the choices that she makes than on the choices that Natalie and I make."
And, I would add, the choices that our community's leaders make. I would also want to discuss just how the opportunities afforded individuals and families are spread out over our community.
The inequities remain absolutely glaring.
Charles Senteio, another colleague of mine here at CDM who directs our Institute for Faith Health Research-Dallas, keeps saying that "people matter." But until we begin to act as if they do, the message is lost, inauthentic and simply a cruel charade.
We have a long ways to go to turn this around. And, there is no time to waste.