“What is service?” someone asked me at an event today, followed by the question “what does it mean to serve?”
Service, I shared, is the manifestation of love – not romantic love, but altruistic love. And the meaning of service is simply to become more whole. We are intimately connected to one another – I as connected to a person in southeast Washington DC as I am to my left leg. That is how we truly exist – and we would see that if we were just able to see things in their true form, as microscopically as we could get, with all of our energy visible to the naked eye.
When I help someone “else,” I am surely just helping myself. And as the recently released poverty figures showed us, each of us has a lot we can do for ourselves.
Before sharing some of the Census report below, it is important to note that the poverty figures are clearly under-estimates of how many people are living in poverty in this country. The folks most needing to be counted are hard to count, giving us an idea – but just an idea – of the needs of those among us.
In the United States, 2010 real (inflation-adjusted) median income per household was $49,445. This was more than two percent below the 2009 median (2.3% to be more exact), and it was the third year in a row that the median household income level decreased. It was first time since the mid 1990s that the figure was below $50,000.
The percentage of of us living in poverty increased for the third year in a row in 2010. It is estimated to now be 15.1%. That is up from 14.3 percent in 2009, and it is based on a very silly poverty threshold of approximately $22,300 in household income per year for a family of four. The number for a family of three is about $18,000, and families of different sizes have equally silly thresholds. The reason the thresholds were set that way dates back to the mid 1960s, when President Johnson and his team used a few different formulas to set them low and give us a better chance to win the “War On Poverty” that was declared in 1964.
Given those extremely low thresholds, there are still an estimated 46.2 million of us in poverty. This is up from from 43.6 million in 2009, and it is the largest number of us in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.
Let’s change it.