When I was a little kid, I used to ride my bike for hours.
My friends and I rode to the park, the library, each other’s
houses, the store, anywhere we were allowed.
So two years ago when my husband, Mark, and I decided to
buy new bikes for Christmas, I thought I would just hop on
and take off like when I was younger. I’m sure you can see
where this is going. Fifteen minutes into our first ride,
I discovered just how much endurance, strength, faith and
energy it really takes to ride a bike—at least for any respectable
distance or amount of time.
(Brake) the Cycle
That is why I was so inspired when I heard that last month
20 bicycle riders—ranging in age from 19 to 72—left San Francisco
on a cross-country bicycle journey to raise awareness of poverty
in the United States and the need to promote permanent solutions
toward breaking the cycle of poverty. Nearly 33 million Americans
live below the poverty line.
The bike ride, cleverly named the "Brake the Cycle of Poverty
Tour," is being sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human
Development (CCHD). CCHD is the U.S. bishops’ domestic anti-poverty,
social justice program. It was established by the bishops
in 1970 to help people overcome poverty. The approach is empowerment
programs that encourage and foster self-sufficiency. Each
year, CCHD distributes grants to over 300 community-based
projects geared toward improving neighborhoods, educating
children, creating jobs and much more.
The bike ride will travel through 12 states and 37 Catholic
dioceses before ending on August 1 in Washington, D.C. Along
the way, according to Mary Wright, CCHD Education Coordinator
and organizer of the event, "We will spend time in the evenings
with grassroots groups and Catholic parishioners interested
in learning about challenges related to the poor and low-income
population. We will talk about effective ways to eliminate
permanently the effects of poverty and urge people to take
Further information on the Brake the Cycle Poverty Tour
is available at www.brakethecycle.org.
Poverty is something few of us want to think about. But
the truth is that one in 10 families in America is currently
living in poverty.
If you are fortunate enough not to be one of these families,
stop and ask what your family can do to help others who are
not as fortunate. CCHD offers a number of suggestions and
opportunities on its Web site for ways you can help break
the cycle of poverty.
- Do you know what the U.S. government considers to be the
poverty line? Or which cities have the highest poverty rates?
to find the answers to those questions and many more.
- Find out more about CCHD (www.usccb.org/cchd)
and the programs they are involved in. Look for ways your
family can support the work they do.
- Help organize a solidarity ride or event in your parish.
(If the ride has already passed you by, organize an event
anyway in order to help raise awareness in your community
about poverty.) For tips on how to organize an event, visit
- Most importantly, once this particular event is over,
don’t forget about the issue of poverty. For instance, shop
at stores run by individuals trying to break out of poverty.
- Mark your calendar to observe Poverty Awareness Month
- Check out the book When Did I See You Hungry? by
documentary filmmaker and author Gerard Thomas Straub. The
book, which also has an accompanying video, is a photographic
and textual meditation on the plight of the poor. (The book
and video are both available from St. Anthony Messenger
Press at www.AmericanCatholic.org
or by calling 1-800-488-0488.)
- Watch the video Among the People: Facing Poverty in
America. (This video, originally broadcast on the Hallmark
Channel and many NBC affiliates, may be available at your
local library or video store. If not, you can order it at
Next Month: Praying as a Family
Teens: Living in Poverty
Can't imagine what it's like to live in poverty? Nearly
12 million children and teens under the age of 18 don't have
to imagine what it's like. For them, poverty is a daily reality.
In order to understand what they are faced with daily, try
the following exercise. Enlist some of your friends to take
part with you.
For one week, be extra aware of where you spend your money.
Keep track of how much you spend on fast food, clothes, personal
items, etc. Before you make each of these purchases, ask yourself
whether or not it is something you really need. If you determine
it's something you don't absolutely need, try to go without.
For instance, you may really want those new shoes that are
on sale, but if you buy them you won't be able to afford to
eat lunch in the mall's food court. Do you buy the shoes and
skip lunch? Do you pass on the shoes and have lunch? Or do
you skip both and make yourself a sandwich when you get home?
By keeping a closer eye on your spending habits, you'll
be surprised at how much more you realize where your money
Kids: Every Penny Counts
Sometimes it's hard for kids your age to
figure out ways to help with big problems like poverty. But
it's important to realize that every little bit of help counts.
So here's how you can help. Start collecting
your spare change, do some extra chores around the house or
neighborhood for a donation, or host a lemonade stand on a
hot afternoon. (Make sure you first get an adult's permission
and help.) Then donate the money you earn to either CCHD or
a local organization that helps people become independent,
successful members in society.
Remember that, whether you earn a lot or
a little, every penny counts.