I really do love my independence. I love that our country prioritizes it, and that it is at our core as a nation. I know how much sacrifice and courgage it took for us to get our independence. I know how many signers of the Declaration of Independence lost their lives in the war that followed their meetings in Philadelphia. It is a debt we proudly acknowledge every year – in many ways and on several days.
Independence is still our greatest challenge, however, as there are more than 100 million Americans – in fact, nearly one out of every three Americans – who do not have independence.
The 50 million Americans who live below the poverty line surely do not know independence. (and really, is the poverty line meaningful at all when it tells us that a family of four making more than $24,300 is not in poverty?) Nonetheless, for food, health care, rent, school supplies – you name it – those born and raised in poverty are as dependent as can be on others, including local, state, and federal government, as well as small and large nonprofit and service organizations.
For the next 70 million or so who are above the poverty line but below the self-sufficiency line in their counties or cities, they have varying levels of dependence on others. For example, a family of four in Fairfax County, Virginia may not be identified as living in poverty if they have an income of $31,000, but they are surely dependent on others for many of their basic needs.
Why is this true – that so many lack independence? It is true because we live so disconnected from one another. It is our national identitity to be independent, but it is our national duty to ensure that every American has the chance to be independent.
Making a personal commitment to help end poverty does not take away from your life; it will not stress you out or spread you too thin. It will make you more whole, bring you back to who you are. That is what happens when you connect with other human beings in meaningful and committed ways.
There are a lot of things to occupy our individual and collective minds these days, but if you really look around our nation, it will not be confusing. If you sift through the shouting and the media coverage of what is loudest or sells the most, you will see our true calling. You will see your fellow human beings living in conditions that are not acceptable for any mother, father, son, or daughter. In every town – some much more than others – you will see that poverty is the message of today.
Government and social service programs are important, for sure, but what your fellow Americans really need is for you to engage. If you take the time to look and think more deeply, you will see how you can help solve it, for one person and one family after another. If you want help on that journey, let us know. It is why we are here – and across his country, there are programs with which you can connect on a personal level.
Making that commitment today would make Independence Day even more meaningful – for all Americans.