Much has been made of a recent research study published in Science Magazine about the impacts of poverty on people’s ability to function and thrive. The researchers found that living in poverty is like trying to cope having lost a full night’s sleep – every day.
Similarly sobering news is that a recent Pew study found that 70% of those who grow up in poverty in the U.S. (in the lowest 20% of household income) will never make it past the median income in the U.S. Certainly paints a bleak picture, eh?
So here’s what I’m thankful for in light of this dreary outlook. I’m thankful for the determination of people like Lorena who stepped forward this fall to ensure that her little sister gets the opportunities she didn’t. Lorena asked for our help in paying college application fees for her sister. Here’s what Lorena said:
“My goal is to give my sister the opportunity to be the first out of our family to receive a bachelor's degree. That will be a great start for her independence and have something to hold on to in the real world.”
Lorena hasn’t given up for herself, her family or her sister. She’s seeing the glass as half full and she believes that her sister can and will overcome the poverty and tragedies that have touched their family’s life.
The numbers support Lorena’s belief that with the benefit of education, her sister can rise above her family’s circumstances. While only 30% of those who grew up in poverty rise to the middle or upper income levels, 86% of people with college degrees make that positive move up the income ladder. With a college degree, Lorena’s sister will have much more than a fighting chance.
Here’s another. Shirley like so many low-income breadwinners, can secure only part time work. Shirley knows full well how difficult it is for a low-wage worker to secure full-time employment. In fact, this year’s numbers show that around 75% of new jobs created were part-time. Shirley, though, is determined to be one of the few who secure a new full-time job this year. She knows that new full-time jobs are coming open at the hospital where she works part-time as a security guard.
To get one of those jobs, she needs to move a roadblock. She knows that without glasses to see, read, and apply she won’t even be in the running. Shirley is doing the hard work of believing and working towards her goal despite the odds against her, and I’m grateful that something as attainable as prescription glasses can help fuel her in her quest.
It would be so logical to lose hope in light of today’s economic realities. This Thanksgiving season, I’m grateful that my kids and I can learn from and be inspired by those who see that sliver of light and drive directly towards it.
Thanks to those of you who set an example of what it means to be a parent, a citizen, a community, and who find hope in overwhelmingly tough situations. Thanks to those who keep alive the spirit of American determination and caring and who help us remember what it means never to say “never.”
- megan kashner
founder & ceo