A Walk in Their Shoes

This week I was able to look at poverty through the eyes of someone who lives it every day. This week I sat in on a Circles meeting. Circles is essentially a support group for families in poverty who are working very hard to move out of poverty. Each family is matched with a trained community member who is interested in gaining a better understanding of poverty in their community. They become friends and “allies” to these families as they work their way out of poverty.

Unfortunately, due to confidentiality restrictions and respecting the privacy of the members of Circles, I cannot go into details of the meetings. However, I will write about some of the topics we discussed. During last weeks’ meeting we talked a lot of the public policies in the Adams County community. Most of the members felt as though their voices were not being heard. In their eyes, most of the public figures weren’t doing much to help fix the systems and programs that were in place to help impoverished people. Some members felt that the system actually seemed to be keeping those who were trying to get out of poverty, in. The system is very good at taking away benefits once a family makes a little bit of progress. For example, if a mother gets a small raise at the job she’s working, then sometimes some of the SNAP benefits she was receiving can get taken away. That small pay raise does not cover all of the necessities that those benefits were giving her and now she’s stuck without a way to feed her family. How are families supposed to lead better lives when the system that is supposed to help them is the one keeping them down?

During the session one women said “you can truly never understand what a person is going through until you walk in their shoes.” That is something that has stuck with me and will continue to stick with me through the rest of this fellowship and my life. The least we can do as individuals is listen, be compassionate and try to be empathetic towards their journey out of poverty.

Alyra Parker ’18