Tag Archives: poverty


This is a story about an humble woman wanting more not just for herself and her family, but wanting to do so much more for those suffering around her. She knows the pain of poverty. She knows the frustration she sees in the eyes of others who are always dollars short from taking better care of their own health, and the health of their family. She knows why some make bad decisions in order to just try to survive another day while watching others thriving with resources.

This story is about a mom who barely makes enough for herself and her family, but she will put herself out using her time and her car to help others who also suffer from the challenges of not having enough money, and struggling every day to keep food on the table, and doing their best to look after their family. Not being too far removed from poverty challenges herself, she has just about run her car to death. She goes out of her way to see that other moms keep their appointments with housing people, getting food, and looking for the social services needed to maintain their family. Her car has kept some families from total frustration by her arranging her schedule to make sure a mom can continue meeting with people just to find a place to live since the boyfriend can’t seem to find a job because of his past.

This story today is about how this mother has used her car to make sure someone suffering from poverty worst than herself can keep going by finding places where another mom can get some food when resources run low from social services who cannot keep up with the demand of families needing food.

Recently, this mom who also works hard to make sure her husband can get to ER from yet another health challenge, knowing the car could stop at any moment. She prays that her car holds up while taking her two teen-age daughters to yet another school function while juggling the need for car repairs against the need for food and/or to make sure the rent is paid on time. While working, getting her husband to work, and getting the daughters to school events, she is concerned about what will happen to her and her family when the car finally stops. She has been stopped by the police when they noticed that her car needed a current registration. She wanted to get the registration, but her family also needed food, others needed transportation to find resources, and the car had to have gas and oil. Why are older cars so expensive to maintain?

Sometimes this mom cries. She is going to school in order to prepare herself for a better job. By working hard on her homework, she has managed to make the Dean’s List at her college. She is happy about that, but knows that she needs to get more rest if she is to keep her grades up. Good grades equates to completing some of her educational goals, plus it is an inspiration to her own teen-age daughters. Maybe if she can graduate and find a better job elsewhere, or be promoted at the fast-food job where is now training for management, she can make enough money to get the car fixed. So many things on the car are failing; now she needs about $3,000 just to ensure that all the mechanical items get fixed before the car finally quits.

The phone rings while she is preparing dinner and encouraging her girls to do their homework without the assistance of computers. It’s ER again; her husband has passed another critical episode—she can come and pick him up. She leaves the girls again at night, knowing that they are being socially and academically drained without the aid of computers, but keeping a roof over their heads and keeping the car running overshadows that as she goes out the door again to the ER, thinking about a friend who needs a ride to get her housing voucher tomorrow. The car is slow to start. She prays. Maybe someone has an older SUV in good condition that they would like to get a tax deduction on. Or, maybe someone with mechanical skills would be willing to donate such skills to keep this car running, As she pulls out of the drive-way, she thinks: about making the Deans List. Not to bad for a struggling mom, working a full-time job, and going to school almost full-time! Well, at least the car started again.




The children were playing in the narrow streets, shivering from cold. However, they were used to the cold while playing outside—whoever took care of them could not afford a nice school coat AND a play coat! The scene is being played over and over again inthe neighborhoods of the disinherited during Christmas time. Many are hoping that some church, some organization, or just anybody will do their annual drive-by with some food, toys, and maybe a bike. Of course, a nice coat or two would be nice, but the children never had high hopes—they had been disappointed too many times in their young lives. This was especially true of one family whose house you had to enter from the back door…the front porch was too dangerous!

I recall visiting this working class family—father doing odd jobs, mostly in construction, but usually not working much in the bad cold and rainy season. He didn’t mind working in the rain if the company was on a tight deadline and encouraged them to work. If some got sick and could not work, oh well, such was the business of working outside. The father has a nice pick-up that had to always be kept in good-running conditions as he dares not risk missing work while being stuck in a pick-up on the side of the road. He has already been down that road.

Missing work was dangerous—one could lose the job, and then be unable to pay for the housing for the family. Plus, he took pride in working for his family. He wanted so much more for his family than what was provided for him. He regretted not having a better command of the English language, but he was needed to help his father do odd jobs and had to drop out of the school in the 5th grade. He had planned to go back, but having to bring in money for his own mom, dad, and six brothers and sisters was much more important. He had dreams, but the years had not been kind to him. He was just grateful to work almost year-around to provide for his own family, send money back to his mom since his father had a heart-attack from doing too much strenuous work for too long, and not getting enough rest. His father wanted more for him just like he was now wanting more for his wife and their three children, while planning for a fourth in about two months. He loved his father and respected him for doing so much hard work. He could never understand some others in his neighborhood who had already lost their dreams, and did whatever just to get by. He hoped he would never follow their path that usually led to jail, prison, an early death, or just looking like dead men walking.

Having a large family might be rough economically, the father had thought, but it would be better for his wife’s support if he died too early. He didn’t have much in the way of recreation so he enjoyed his few beers, relaxing with the children in front of the television, and the pleasures derived from being married to his long-time sweetheart. Maybe this year, some group would give his children the toys that he could not buy, and maybe some coats. He finally had saved enough money and with his friends could finally fix the front door to open properly, and tear down the rotten stairs and put in cement stairs. As a cement worker, he had repaired so many roads, sidewalks, and freeways that he had the skills to help fix up their small house.

Inside the home was the mother, doing her best to take care of three children, and sometimes her sister’s two children—one with a mental and physical challenge. The mother is also pregnant, but continues to do odd jobs, such as cleaning homes while her widowed mother helps her keep her own house clean, and looks after the elementary children. They don’t have much furniture, but they do have a nice car since the father never wants his wife to be at the mercy of the elements or strangers, while waiting in a disabled car. She felt proud whenever she had to go shopping with the children and her mother. Everywhere she drove, people smiled. They didn’t always smile when she drove the old car that sounded like a barking dog, smoked, and often slid in the rain on the bald tires. She was so proud of her husband working hard. They could have bought a much-cheaper car, but dependable transportation was much more important with her having to be the family driver, and sometimes help her sister get around, as well as some other friends whose cars often died on them.

This mother and father didn’t have much, but every Christmas some church or other group would drive by and give them fruit, nuts, candy, and sometimes some dishes and pots for the house. She didn’t like having to get pregnant every two or three years, but having the children made her husband so proud, and giving him what he wanted wasn’t so bad, except when she would really have a headache! He was such a good man and didn’t drink too much. He always brought the paycheck home and they figured out how to pay for the house, utilities, get food, pay some bills, and use the gadgets that gave them and their children so much fun and kept their minds off the challenges of always being so near poverty. She was glad that they had saved enough money to get that front porch fixed. She would feel so embarrassed whenever someone almost felt through the rotten stairs, and stumbled against the make-shift door. She would then have to holler out the window and tell them to please go to the back door.

The children were always feeling bad whenever a teacher or some church person came calling and they had to tell them to come to the back door. Soon, the front porch would be fixed, and they would have a real door. Gradually, they would get some dining room furniture, but the boxes and broken chairs from the dump or from the curbs of others would do just fine. To have a real front door, and a safe porch would always put a smile on her face as she thought about that. Maybe they didn’t have a whole lot, but little by little they were getting ahead. While watching others on television getting new furniture for Christmas, or having their house get fixed from Hurricane Harvey gave her hope that maybe, someday, they would be on tv, smiling and crying while some kind people fixed up their house and filled their home with new furniture, gifts and some clothes. In the meantime, she would take care of herself as best she could, eating what they could afford, looking to the day when she could fill the house with fruits and vegetables, and go to the doctor more often than now. She just hoped the baby she was carrying would not come out with some form of disability like her nephew. Her sister’s husband did his best to provide for the family, but just never had enough money for proper food his wife needed, and for all the doctor visits she was suppose to make. She, too, sometimes had a kind person come around during Christmas with a little help; she just wished that Christmas time was more than just a drive-by once a year.

NEXT TIME: She used her car so much for others, but now her car was dying. Maybe a drive-by Christmas would help her in time before the car died as she carried people to doctor visits, find them housing, get to work, take others to work, and take young people to their practices and games. Maybe this 2017 Christmas Drive-by would be a dependable SUV or van. Well, Christmas was still a few days away…maybe.

Poverty is More than a Mind Thing!

While doing research on building my business recently, I came across something that may help the masses of people, especially those of the African American experience who have been dumbed down, discouraged, depressed, despondent, and disappointed in trying to fulfill their potential. This is a short phrase from a business family, but mighty powerful:

“If you want to go fast, go alone… if you want to go far, go together” (Joel & Julie Landi of The Performance Group)

I was raised by a very determined woman. She had a husband, but sometimes things just don’t work out, and a woman has to do what a woman has to do.

Not many people around gave me much of a chance. I was smaller than many boys around me; had a speech impediment (stuttered and stammered); was made fun of; developed a very low self-esteem (whatever that is!); and began growing into a very angry young man on the inside while I tried to smile on the outside.  There is quite a story behind why I smile so often now, and have dedicated my life to help others.

By the time I was 11, my mother had become one of those very dedicated Christians. She was the daughter of a church planter and minister, but negative circumstances had affected her desire to be really serious about becoming a committed Christian. Coupled with her own personal powerhouse of determination to succeed, she constantly brought sunshine into what I thought was a strong poverty life. One day, she grew weary of my negative and “Woe is me!” attitude.  I had made the word “can’t” my daily diet.  I used to smile as a baby and young child, but over time, hurts from family members, school acquaintances, and being laughed at by others had crushed me—my smile left and I was a depressed sight.  I had said “I can’t” once too often that day.  My mom glared at me with those sharp black eyes surrounded by her long black hair sat atop a very diminutive body.  “That’s it!” she cried.  I had heard her sharp tongue much of my life, but this was different.  It was as if God himself was thundering at me.

“The word ‘can’t’ will no longer be used in this house!” she continued.  “You CAN read better!  You CAN speak better.  You CAN do better!” she thundered.  “I don’t ever want you to use the word ‘can’t again.  Do you hear me!”  Her thundering voice was so strong I was sure the entire neighborhood heard from our basement living conditions.  “Beginning today, you WILL smile!  Beginning today, you WILL believe in yourself!  Beginning today, you WILL read to me out loud and speak better!”

My mom spoke with such force, I was convinced that she and God must have become very connected!  My eyes opened wide; fear gripped my soul.  However, that day was a turning point in my life of thinking we would always be in poverty.  Of course, my mom NEVER considered us poor, even when we had to share an outhouse with the local pimps, prostitutes, drunks and others in a place where we used to live. She often worked two jobs, and even found time to take me to work in the agricultural fields wherever we lived.  We were seldom broke.  She would wash twice or more times a week to keep my few clothes cleaned and pressed.  And, we seldom missed a meal.  But, I would look at others and what they had, and often despised what my mom worked hard to provide for the two of us.

That very day of the thundering, my mom began me reading out loud to her.  Every morning she would check to see if I was smiling.  If not, I had to quickly put on a smile!  I went to church with her, became active in local and church youth programs, and slowly began to grow beyond my mind of poverty-thinking.

My speaking gradually improved.  I began to dream again.  Against odds, I finished college with several degrees, and was blessed to have had a wife who has stayed with me since 1965.  We have five grown children successful in their own right, 14 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.  I am NOT rich—yet, but I have had the experience of working and learning from over 19 different industries!  This experience has helped me to become a consultant to politicians, ministers, business people, and to community organizations, helping others to dream, and find their niche in life.  Now, I wake up every morning with a smile on my face and looking forward to helping someone else, or making a positive difference in some organization or community.

This entire journey of mine could not have been as successful as it has been if I would have had to walk my journey alone.  Preachers, pastors, teachers, street people, business people, family members, and associates have helped me come this far in life—by being willing to go on the journey together—with others.