The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

‘The Cost of Poverty’: Janet Morrison June 14, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Janet Morrison on ‘The Cost of Poverty’


For those who have not come across Janet Morrison’s Community Dialogue blog, I find it a ‘not- to-be-missed’ voice with an eloquence and comprehension of the realities of the inner city and poverty that is rarely heard.


Today’s post in particular touched me, because it explains so well the cycle of the emotional cost of poverty on children and on families.  There’s much here I had never put together — it’s well worth a read.  Thank you, Janet, for your extraordinary heart and commitment.




3 Responses to “‘The Cost of Poverty’: Janet Morrison”

  1. janet Says:

    Thanks, Karen. I always appreciate your encouragement and kind words.

  2. John Norris Says:

    Thanks to Karen and Janet,
    You are definitely right, the costs of poverty are often immense and hidden. Many of us have been blessed to have advantages that we just assume are either earned and not given, or natural to all human beings. Over the years I have come to realize how many blessings I received from God through my parents:
    an expectation that I could and would succeed
    a belief that people are generally good and ready to help me
    trust that love is the basis of all existence
    trust that there is always someone to catch me should I fall
    trust that I will never be alone
    knowing the importance of saving and being taught how to save and being trained in how to save and spend cautiously
    knowing how to open a bank account, how to pay bills, how to account for income and spending so I wouldn’t overspend my account
    knowing good manners, how to dress for different occasions, having the clothes to look presentable in different situations, knowing how to greet people and talk with them, knowing how to make a good impression,
    knowing how to eat and what to eat to stay healthy
    knowing how to cook from scratch and how to cook cheaply and having the appliances to learn how to do so
    knowing the importance of going to the doctor, or basic health and dental maintenance, and having the opportunity and the money or the insurance to be able to do so
    knowing how to care for children and babies, how to comfort them, change them, feed them, hold them, bathe them, talk to them, play with them, teach them, sing to them, read to them, be patient with them, not hit them or hurt them, to love them
    knowing how to apply for jobs, how to act in interviews, how to send thank you notes for interviews
    a trust that if I worked hard in a job I would advance in the company
    knowing how to balance being responsive to one’s bosses orders and requests and being independent and innovative in a job

    That’s just a quick list off the top of my head. When I hear people blame the poor and the homeless for their own situation, I often think that if I had not been given all the advantages I received from my parents, I would be dead or insane. To help the poor and the homeless, there are many basic cultural and personal elements which must be provided incrementally in an environment of trust. A good friend in Wisconsin works to help disadvantaged families succeed in life, teaches them simple things like how to cook, how to open cans, cut onions, make simple casseroles and soups, how to make sandwiches, so that money budgeted for food isn’t spent on pre-packaged expensive, unhealthy instant food like Lunchables. She has to help them put money in envelopes at the beginning of the month so that basics like phone, electricity, gas, rent, and food get paid first, and only what is leftover can be spent on entertainment. You might think that such notions are simple common sense, but if you haven’t been raised to know how to do that, someone has to show you.

  3. nancy Says:

    What John says is so true. I have always taken for granted knowing how to cook, sew, pay bills and on and on. It wasn’t something that just happened. My family, particularly my mother taught me all of those things.
    I was from a poor family but my mother understood how important good manners and behavior were and more than once she would get out her Emily Post book and teach us how to behave (even down to which fork to use at a fancy dinner and where to place your napkin when you were done).
    I was poor, but with parents who were extremely literate. If my mother couldn’t read above a fifth grade level, I am sure I wouldn’t have been taught all of the graces.

    Being poor brought a lot of fears. What if someone found out this dress or these shoes were from goodwill. What if someone wanted to come home with me and saw that our old rent house had a bed in the living room and dining room (so eight people could live in a 2 bedroom, one bath house). Pleading with our mom to drop us off a block away from whereever we were going so that people wouldn’t see our old car with the broken muffler.

    On and on. And I didn’t even have it bad compared to so many of the poor. I didn’t have to contend with racism or open discrimination.

    I stil carry those fears and insecurities that poverty provided me around in my head, they just won’t ever leave no matter how nice my house is, no matter how much education I get, no matter how many trips around the country or abroad that I take…

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