Poverty – America’s unspoken natural disaster

Map showing poverty stricken areas of Appalachia
Appalachian poverty

There’s a large population of folks in eastern Kentucky living in poverty and grief. People living in other regions of Appalachia are suffering just as much. A friend of mine experienced such conditions in that area of eastern Kentucky when he was a boy. Luckily, and with God’s grace, he was able to pull himself out of the muck and mire of want and need to become a happy, productive, God-fearing man with a family, a nice home, and a generous and kind heart.

Recently he and I were talking about the earthquake in Haiti and the millions and millions of dollars in aid ($21 million from text messages??) being put into the relief efforts. It was during this conversation that he mentioned the Appalachian region and he and I both wondered why there’s so much pain and suffering in our own country that seems to continuously be overlooked.

I don’t doubt for one second the sincerity of all the folks who’re making donations for the Haitian people, this is a showing of our nations’ caring attitude. It’s noble and good that we should help those in need. It’s right and proper to give to those who have lost everything, God tells us to do good unto others.

I just wish more could be done for the poor here in our own country. If you garden, how about planting an extra row of potatoes or tomatoes this year for your local food pantry. That’s what I’ll be doing.

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12 Comments

  1. I am so glad you posted this topic. I am appalled as to how much money goes out of this country to assist others when we have our own problems! Until everyone in USA has clean clothes on their back, good shoes on their feet, food to nourish their inners and a clean bill of health, I dont feel my money should leave this country! Education is the key to a better life so lets get the system working! Here we are supposedly working on some grand health care program in this country but we don’t have the money for it but yet we send millions elsewhere? OMG something is really wrong here….

  2. You’re right, TC, and keep goin’ south. It’s easy to find statistics like this on the wrong side of the tracks just about anywhere in the country these days. Anybody like greens? I’ve got plenty to share and a good recipe if anybody’s interested.

  3. I used to teach some of these children when I lived in East TN in the foothills of the Smokeys. It is an awful situation and truly it does baffle me why it isn’t spoken about more. It’s politically correct I guess to pour money into the most recent disaster to befall the world, but you’re right there are folks that need help in our own backyards.

  4. Although it’s not often discussed in institutions of higher learning (outside the region); the entire Appalachian region, for the most part, is a third world country within a country. Not just any country either, arguably the greatest country and civilization that ever existed. The people here are just as eager to get ahead in life as any other geographical region of America; problem is, they are trapped in an area that doesn’t afford such luxuries as good paying jobs, mass transit, public housing, daily police patrols, fire departments, libraries, youth centers, or any other conveniences that most people in this country enjoy.

    Around here, you live in a shack, walk or thumb a ride to work, if you have a car it’s probably not a good one, most matters criminal and civil are settled out of court, and if your house catches fire you either put it out yourself or it burns to the ground. Bowling alleys, arcades, baseball fields, city parks, swimming pools and malls are only located in cities that can afford more than just the salt to clear their roads or a city council.

    During the days of the industrial revolution when American steel was the hottest commodity in the world, cities like Allentown, Bethlehem, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland received most of the credit for producing the steel to build the entire infrastructure in this country. All but forgotten, even to this day, were the poor people of the Appalachian Mountains who produced most of the coal and coke to melt and refine the steel. Poverty in this region is still rampant and the economic situation is always horrible even at its best. An upswing at the New York Stock Exchange does nothing for these people except drive them further down the food chain and into the poverty drainage ditch.

    Our country prides itself on helping impoverished nations rebuild as the politicians and movie stars beat their chest and smile gloriously at the thought of helping some poor kid that lives twelve-thousand miles away. The United States sends money for Tsunami’s in Asia, earthquakes in Haiti, famine and genocide in Africa, aid for war torn countries in Europe and others. All the while, mothers and babies starve and live in absolute squalor right here in their own country as they sit idly by and ignore it because it’s not popular. It isn’t popular because it doesn’t get votes or look good on a political poster. Imagine a presidential candidate standing amongst the poor dirty children, junk cars all around, washing machines and dirty clothes everywhere, a house in the background that appears to have been lifted from the set of The Grapes of Wrath as a backdrop, a couple of hound dogs thrown in for good measure; How many votes do you think he would get on election day?

    Stigma’s that our society have placed on these poor souls like “well they choose to live that way obviously”, or, “sure they can leave, there’s a road that leads out of there the same as it leads in”, or, “it’s just plain ignorance that keeps them there”, are nothing more than self centered excuses to look the other way. Try relocating from any walk of life or place in society and start over, it’s not easy even if you have lots of money. If you’re already poor, it’s virtually impossible for several reasons; you need money to get where it is you plan to go, if you’re broke no one wants to take someone in who has nothing, you really don’t want to be there either because you already feel like a failure and a mooch; It just doesn’t work the way you might think. If you’ve ever had to ask for anything you know what I mean, it’s a matter of pride and self-respect.

    Sincerely,

    Phil Hartsock
    Author “From the Appalachians to the Alleghenies”

  5. I lived in Southeastern Kentucky for five years, going there specificially to help, to try to make a difference. I loved those years and wouldn’t trade my experiences there for anything. The relationships I formed are priceless.

    It boggles my mind how few people in this country know the true state of things in that region. It is like a third world country plunked down in the midst of our industrialized nation.

    Thank you for bringing to light this situation we have right here at home. The people in that region remain close to my heart, my thoughts, and my wallet.

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