By Jessica Connor
Recently, I had the opportunity to tour several childcare centers in some of the poorer areas of the Midlands. It was a way to educate me about children living in poverty right here in South Carolina. Some of them were not too many miles from where I live with my own children.
The children I saw spend their days in these cheerful, toy-filled centers, where they receive plenty of love and good, nutritious food. They have solid, quality care and attention.
But I also knew, as I held and googoo-gaga d them, that when they leave at the end of the day, home life for some of them is true hardship. Many of them don t have enough food to eat or suffer from food insecurity. Many of their parents don t have a steady job, or any job at all. Many are surrounded by addiction and abuse.
Driving through their neighborhoods, I saw boarded up buildings that used to be businesses. Now, thanks to the recession or a decades-long decline in industry, they are drug houses or simply abandoned.
And think about this: I wasn t even touring the I-95 Corridor of Shame. There, I d seen far worse.
I moved to South Carolina from Miami, with the exception of an eight-year stint in North Carolina. Growing up, I was no stranger to the plight of the impoverished. I was raised to keep a dollar or two at the ready when I approached traffic lights, because homeless panhandlers lingered there, desperate for whatever that dollar could do. There, too, were boarded up, abandoned buildings, crack houses, prostitutes, dirty-footed pickpocketing wise-eyed children groomed to do whatever it took to survive.
But poverty in a city, to me, looks a lot different from rural poverty. In a city, there is more opportunity for survival, whether courtesy of strangers handing out loose change or an occasional job opportunity.
But in a recessed, rural area, where the poor are surrounded not by plenty but by less-poor neighbors, it s a whole different world. Hope diminishes. A way out is harder to come by.
Unless … Unless ¦
Unless we all open our eyes and realize that the people we see on the outskirts of our lives are hurting. They re desperate. They don t have a way out. They could truly use whatever clothing or food or money “ or job opportunity “ we can spare.
And we, the people called Methodists, with newly opened eyes, can decide to take that awareness and get our family, friends, church family and coworkers to pitch in, too.
We can start with the small stuff, the quick-fix stuff, like donating food, clothing and money. But then we need to consider the big picture: How can we put a dent in poverty long-term?
I think it starts with the children.
Take a look at some of the features in this edition. On Page 6, you ll see an article announcing how South Carolina is now a part of the Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty, a global initiative that helps churches alleviate the plight of children in need. On Page 7, you ll find eloquent words from Bishop Ken Carder on why we need to care about these children, and what we can do to make a difference.You ll find photos by Conference Communications Director Matt Brodie of those children, whom God loves no less than our own children and grandchildren, and whom it is our Christian duty to love, as well.
Together, if we can open our eyes and let our hearts be broken for South Carolina s children in poverty, we can make a difference for our state, our nation, our world “ and the Kingdom.