Shut Up

On my built-in vacation day from my well-paid, dependable, salary-based job that includes benefits and perks, I watched last Sunday’s Dateline episode (7/25/10), and I hung my head in shame.
Some 40 million Americans – including one in five children – are now living in poverty. For a family of three, that means living on less than about $18,000 a year.
A power cable strung from a neighbor’s trailer gives them electricity. But something much more valuable is lacking: running water. Every time they need to take a shower, use the bathroom or do their laundry, they walk 40 yards across the dirt to their neighbor’s trailer.

Today, only the luckiest have jobs….On $7.30 an hour, in a good week she takes home just over $200. Other weeks, she’s making just $130.

Dateline NBC: “Friends and Neighbors”, by Ann Curry – 7/25/10
Full transcript

Next time I feel the urge to complain about my “problems”, I will think of Daniel Zimmerman. “With nothing in his pocket, Daniel took his boys to get free clothes, and then he started having desperate thoughts. He started thinking they might be better off without him, living on supplemental security income.”

Daniel: If I wasn’t here, they’d get SSI from me.
Ann Curry: So what are you saying?
Daniel: That I’m worth more dead than alive.

So although I jokingly said, “No, thank you” this morning to the mechanic who said, “$142.95” as he reached for my debit card, I thank God that we were able to pay for a new battery for Lee’s 2005 over-sized SUV that is worth more than these people make in one year. I’m thankful for the mess in my house that I have to clean up. All that stuff is what I wasn’t forced to sell just to feed mouths in my house. I’m thankful for my most recent medical bill, which is only a fraction of the total cost, thanks to health insurance, something these people can’t even think about at this point in their lives. I’m thankful for the piles of laundry we seem to be drowning in. At least we’re able to store all of the clothes that we clearly don’t need in our house, and not outside in our cars, because we only have a 30-foot camper to live in (see story of Anita Hayes and her family).

Through it all, Jim Skipper says, “We try to be grateful for what we have and, you know, just look to the future. Because it could be worse.” He’s right; it could be. But for crying out loud, would I feel that way in his position, bringing home only $100 a week, trying to support 4 people? Yet, I have the nerve to complain.

I realize there are COUNTLESS neighborhoods/communities in America much like this one, perhaps even worse, but this is one story that resonated with me, along with the story of Cordette Grantling of Detroit, Michigan, who brings home $203 every two weeks, while supporting 3 children. THAT’S $406 EVERY MONTH!!

I strongly encourage you to take the time to watch this story, or at least read the transcript. I’m transferring this broadcast to DVD, to help keep things in perspective, and to remind me to shut up when I decide to complain about my “oh-so-terrible” life.

How to help

[Side note: Bon voyage to my friend & former colleague, Dianne, who is flying to Beijing, China today to begin a new adventure with her family!!]

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