Thursday, February 07, 2013


 I've seen it deeply, indelibly etched on the faces of literally thousands of our neighbors as they sit in the waiting area of our food pantry on Haskell Avenue in inner city East Dallas.

You can't miss it if you stop long enough to take it in.


Deep sadness.

Even beneath the smiles of courtesy and politeness, the deep facial lines, chiseled by a long, long bout with continual disappointment and the limitations imposed by chronic, unrelenting poverty, remain.

Inescapable sadness.

Sadness that spills over into the lives of children early on.

Sadness that imposes limits, curtails expectations, and that all too often pools up at depths sufficient to swamp an otherwise promising life.

Sadness creates cesspools of hopelessness and resignation.

The variety of sadness I've observed again and again in the inner city demands a life-patience beyond my capacity to comprehend.  

Most of my middle class and upper class friends have no clue.  More significantly, we go to great lengths to dispel any notion of sadness.

Sadness discomforts us.

We avoid it at costs.

We even attempt to "shew it away" whenever we see it!

This ignorance arises from a basic inexperience in waiting for anything, especially the necessities of life:  food, clothing, shelter, transportation, education, employment, safety, health care, recreation, entertainment, celebration, civic life and organization, public engagement, to name a few.

Most of us wait for very little.

The patient response of the poor to the overwhelming sadness of so much of life lived in poverty contributes to the maintenance of social stability.

While we should be grateful, most of us remain unknowing.

Poverty creates a foreboding culture defined largely by deep, thick sadness.

Good news to the poor always involves driving the sadness out of life--a mission that can be accomplished only in a community that embraces sadness.  To deliver hope a community must live out of a commitment to understanding, honest self-evaluation, and radical dependence on those who know this sadness best, those who live it out every day.

I wonder if we're up to it?


Anonymous said...

This is one of the truest, most accurate things I have ever seen written about poverty, and it is so often ignored.

Anonymous said...

I grew up poor and insecure, it's taken me 55 years (and a few years of counseling) to understand the sadness you describe. I look back at pictures of my family, grandparents, greatgrandparents etc and see the sadness etched on their faces. I know the hopelessness that was handed down to my parents and that they tried not to hand down to us (but somehow they couldn't quite avoid the same thing).
The cycle ended with me, but it is still embedded in me.
This piece is beautiful and a reminder of why I need to continue to find ways to help end poverty.


Anonymous said...

Take a lesson from the mother of Dr.Benjamin Carson.

Larry James said...

Anon 11:38, I heard the speech and applaud the anecdotal result of his/their poster child outcome. I wish it were that simple when taken to scale. It s not. If it were, we would have millions of examples of same. Biblical vision of God's recognition of the systemic complexity cuts against the exceptional. Sabbatical and Jubilee Years, the teachings of the org, the clear message of the Hebrew prophets, the ministry of Jesus among the poor, the epistle of James, etc., etc., etc. develop the truth beyond pleasing stories that let those of us with power and the benefit of current system off the hook.

Larry James said...

I meant "the teachings f the Torah" not the "org"

Anonymous said...

I have pictures of my ancestors going back to great great great grandfather. While some people might interpret the pictures as sad, I think it's far from it. I see pictures of people building a country, raising their children to explore new territory, educating their children to honor God and teaching them to survey the land. Most of all, they did not consider themselves as victims.

Anonymous said...

LJ, we do have millions of examples of the same. Most adults today had humble beginnings, if not them, then their parents.

Larry James said...

We are talking about a different depth of poverty--the bottom 25%.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:54: I do not think you're talking about the same thing. Ancestral pictures are rarely smiling because it could take several minutes of being still to take a picture. Not smiling is not the same as sadness. But have you ever seen pictures of poor people in the midst of the Great Depression? They are not simply not smiling, they appear deeply sad as well. I think that is the sadness Larry's talking about.

Anon 12:04: The vast majority of people stay in the same basic class they were born in. Children of the rich stay rich; the middle class stay middle class; the poor stay poor. There is some movement, of course, and these provide the anecdotes people cite to prove social mobility still exists. But widespread, large scale movement in significant numbers up or down the economic ladder is almost non-existent, whatever we like to tell ourselves. Many studies and statistics bear this out.

Anonymous said...

I think it's much harder to be upwardly mobile under Obama, but as a senior citizen, I can say that I do not know anyone who is not better off now than their parents.

Obama is the worst thing to happen to America in my lifetime.

Jawed Ali said...
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