I have two very different types of experiences with poverty.
On the one hand, having grown up mainly in West Africa, I have seen people who truly are hungry on a daily basis. When you these things, you can turn your head away, or you can choose to act. My parents chose to act and so did I.
But somehow, the situation in Africa wasn’t as hard as the one here in North America. While people were hungry and life was difficult, Africans have a wonderful sense of community; the love that binds them together is very strong. And this has a profound impact on the way hunger is dealt with. For example, instead of some people dying of hunger, they choose to share their food so that everyone is a little or very hungry.
You don’t see things like that happening here. We choose to go to expensive restaurants and buy ourselves designer apparel, and choose to turn our heads away when we see someone begging on the street. We make more than enough money, then grumble when we have to pay taxes or rationalize our way out of giving to charities.
I’d say that the real problem isn’t poverty in itself, but rather that we choose to let it continue when we have the means of making it disappear for good. Future historians will probably scratch their heads and wonder why, in the era of the Internet, more wasn’t done to eradicate poverty.
One way to do this is to look away from the negative images typically portraying poverty – not to make it something to be ashamed of. Because poor people don’t have anything to be ashamed of other than belonging to an uncaring society. The stereotype of the poor individual living off financial aid while doing nothing more than watch TV all day is the exception, not the rule.