I recently had my students compare the mothers in Richard Wright’s autobiography, “Rights to the Streets of Memphis” and Langston Hughes’s poem, “Mother to a Son.” As the class discussion turned toward poverty I interrupted the conversation and said:
“I have no idea what it’s like to live in poverty.”
A student quickly replied:
“It’s nice to hear a teacher admit that.”
This made me pause and reflect. I’ve been to impoverished areas of various US cities, Appalachia, Mexico, and Honduras. But I really don’t know anything about living in poverty. I’ve never questioned whether I would have a next meal. Ever. That’s true for many people that I know.
Wright and Hughe’s captures the struggle of those living in American poverty that is as real today as it was in the early 20th century. Perhaps, Lent might be a time for the Christian to consider the widening wage gaps, income inequality, and the slashing of safety net programs that make it more difficult for people to survive.