Blog Action Day reminder-October 15, 2008
It was 1958 in upstate New York.
The Boy was in my grade school class.
He lived with his grandmother and brothers in the poorer part of town.
The Boy was in trouble, it seemed, all the time.
We came back from Christmas vacation, and The Boy’s friends asked him what he got for Christmas.
A football, The Boy looked straight ahead, his eyes hard and cold.
That’s all you got?
The boys laughed.
It’s all I wanted, The Boy answered, still looking straight ahead.
That night, I talked to my father about this, and asked him why some people had so much, and others had, well, nothing.
My father held me close, and talked to me for a long time about being poor and doing without. Dad lived through the depression, but his family ate well because they had a farm. Every few weeks, my Dad told me, a neighbor would sneak over and steal one of my grandfather’s chickens. Dad’s older brothers wanted to chase the guy off, but my grandfather wouldn’t let them.
He’s a good man, and he’s just trying to feed his family. Leave him alone.
Fast forward about 20 years:
I walked into my father’s kitchen, and Dad was reading the daily paper. Dad opened up the local section of the paper and showed me a news story about a young man going to state prison for murder.
It was The Boy.
Now, I realize that Christmas isn’t just about getting gifts.
But poverty stamps some of its victims with a sense of failure that they just cannot shake.
I took me years to realize that The Boy was probably hungry a lot, that just blocks from his housing project were homes where families were living the good life, and he was not a part of our country’s boom times.
Poverty hurts, folks.