The Poverty Problem

I do not know how to fix all the problems we have in this world.  I don’t, and I doubt that surprises you, because I have this sneaking suspicion that you don’t know how to do it either.

However, we generally want to do something to help.  We can’t right all the wrongs, but maybe, just maybe we can do some small thing that will make a difference.

I want that too.


Here’s the thing, our problems, those problems in my town and yours, are a quagmire.  They are like a plate full of spaghetti, each noodle intertwined with the other.  It’s pretty darn hard to unravel the puzzle.  Where does a plate of spaghetti begin and end?  Who knows.  You have to wait until the next to the last noodle is slurped up.

That’s kind of like our problems.


Yesterday I sat in the hospital for a long time, about five hours.  Five hours in a waiting room can really get on a person’s nerves.  I drank more coffee than I drink in a week and I turned into a pacing, bouncing, mad-woman.

I wrote status update after status update on facebook and deleted all of them.  Facebook really isn’t the place to incite word wars.

I was nearly the last woman standing in that waiting room.  It was down to two of us, and the other woman looked like she could use a cup of coffee.

The President of these United States was on the television talking about his commitment to better regulate guns, yada, yada, yada.  I don’t mean yada in a disrespectful way, but I am not about to dissect his speech on this blog.

I listened to the proposed new regulations, my state being the first to implement stricter gun laws, and I looked at this woman and said, “Do you really think this will work?”

She shook her head no as I stirred creamer into yet another cup of coffee.

“Here’s the thing that gets me.”  I said.  “People who shoot other people don’t follow the rules.”

She sat there looking ragged.  It’s not just that her clothes were old and ratty.  She had that look on her face, the one that gave-up long ago.  For her, she had no hope to hang on to.

“I wish they would just work on creating jobs for us.”

That’s what she said and she meant it.


Sometimes we think that if poor people would just get a job they wouldn’t be poor anymore, but it’s not always that simple.  Some people have been poor for a long time and their problems are all mixed up like a plateful of spaghetti.  They need someone to come alongside of them and sort the noodles.


Last night Flower Patch Farmgirl beautifully said the things that I do not know how to say.  She made a statement about this young woman with a life of spaghetti noodles (my words,  not hers).  She said she had a gallon jar of banana peppers because that’s what they were giving out at the church.

For real people – we give a gallon jar of banana peppers and expect that to help someone.

I know a person who got several jars of salad dressing to help alleviate the financial burden of cooking/eating/grocery shopping.

What does someone who has nothing do with a jar of peppers or a bottle of salad dressing?

The answer is nothing, but they also don’t get rid of it, because they can’t.  Even though they won’t ever really use it, it takes up space on their kitchen shelf.

I don’t have all the answers, but I know we are somehow missing the mark.  I know it will take more than a jar of peppers or a bottle of salad dressing.  It will take more than a clothes closet in the basement of the church.  I know it will take time and tears and our lives spent on another person’s life.  I know it will take making sense out of a bowl of spaghetti.


And for goodness sake, donate a can of soup instead of peppers.

Linking to Mercy Ink’s Heart & Home link-up.



18 thoughts on “The Poverty Problem

  1. Missindeedy

    This piece of writing is so helpful. And… realistic. Thank you for highlighting what we so easily forget when we have “enough”. Some still don’t. We can’t do everything, just something. And sometimes, a can of soup is something enough.

  2. rumpydog

    Jen works with people, and some of those people are poor. There is a fine art to influencing others. And that’s what Jen calls it. Because people don’t want help. Help implies that the recipients don’t know what they need. But like that lady in the waiting room who knew that what she needed was a job, most poor people know what they need. The problem is that folks that want to help don’t listen, so they give a person a jar of peppers when what they really need is a peanut butter sandwich. If only you humans would listen more and talk less.

  3. Ginger

    As a nation, we seem bent on options that provide for immediate physical needs but ultimately rob people of dignity . As a Christian and a teacher, I want to help kids by giving them tools to succeed in the long run–but I admit I struggle when they (and their parents) expect me to buy every pencil or pack of index cards.
    I want to be a person who is both brokenhearted and proactive in the face of genuine need. Thanks for this post.

  4. Sara

    You know, so many of life’s issues are like that–spaghetti noodles–it’s a great analogy. Poverty–there’s such a cycle to it. And, we don’t talk about it, but so much of it is institutional. I cannot tell you the number of people I have met who work, very hard, and yet still cannot keep food on the table for their families. A single mother working a minimum wage job cannot support her children on what she earns, let alone get insurance or save for retirement. It’s embarrassing, and we should be ashamed of that. There are organizations out there that are doing some great work in this area. I’m a big fan of Heifer International (which is starting to work more in the US on sustainable farming efforts). And, I’m also a big proponent of just reaching out and helping other people you know are in need. It never ceases to amaze me to see what people can accomplish if they work together.

    I’m interested in having the great gun debate with you, sometime. 🙂 I tend to be anti-gun in general, but I like hearing intellectual thoughts on the matter rather than the crazy extremist views. 🙂

  5. Deanna

    “I know it will take time and tears and our lives spent on another person’s life.” You hit the nail on the head. Too bad there are so many people unwilling to invest in others.

  6. michaelandrzejewski

    The church has allowed the government to outsource this assistance to the less fortunate. Most people who are poor here in Portugal don’t look poor because of the government assistance, so they have too much pride to ask for or admit they need help outside of the “welfare” program. Thank you for the post.
    “Lord, please help me never offer someone something that will not help them at all, while patting myself on the back and calling it ministry.”

  7. Kathleen

    I subscribe to your blog via email, and honestly, because of time constraints, I don’t read every one that comes into my box. But your title struck me today and I was compelled to read this entry. Thank you for saying what is in so many of our heavy hearts. There are so many out there that want to fix things, help out, be kind, but the plate of “spaghetti noodles” gets in the way because it seems too complex at the time. I appreciate your candidness and your insight. Your writing has started a thought process in my head about what part I should play in all of the world’s troubles. My hope is that the Holy Spirit can guide me to make decisions that will touch others in the way that they need. Thank you again!

  8. Joe Owens

    Tricia – I want to whole-heartedly agree with every point you made. It is unfortunate random acts of violence get more air time and political rheotric than Random Acts of Kindness. To be such a wonderful place full of opportunities, America is chock full of despari and disappointment for so many people. We have opportunities every day to change the lives of people and it only takes a small amount of our time or resources to make a difference.

    I wish we could get a dynamic move by the administration to trigger job growth, but I feel they are too conentrated on protecting ther job to make any kind of radical change. Perhaps we are too far past the best times for industries, but there is so much room for growth in telecommunications and alternative energy that we continue to leave untapped. Nice post!

  9. dyuhas62

    We are so often oblivious to the obvious. Hurting hearts and hungry tummies. May God open our eyes to the world around us and teach us to give, give, give what is needed. Thanks for a fabulous post.


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