The Grinch who stole Christmas won't be touring America's
second-most- populous state this year. Why bother?
After all, that state is poverty, according to the Catholic
Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). According to CCHD,
more people live within the boundaries of the "state of
poverty" than live in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan,
New Jersey and Nevada combined.
In Poverty USA, annual income for a family of four is $17,184or
less. Such a family won't have many Christmas presents for
the Grinch to haul back up the chimney!
To have even a tree, much less something under it, the
32 million people who live in poverty will have to cut some
already sharp corners and rely on the generosity of others.
We need to pay more than seasonal attention to people in
this crisis situation.
No Place in God's Reign
The Catholic Campaign wants "to promote a spirit of solidarity
among those who are successful, those who have acquired
some share of this nation's goods and those still trapped
in poverty." This month, they conclude the first of a three-year
consciousness-raising campaign. In January, which they have
christened "Poverty in America Awareness Month," they begin
a new phase which focuses on children in poverty.
In the name of all Catholics, who believe that creation
and created goods are to be shared by everyone (see Vatican
II's The Church in the Modern World, #69), the Catholic
Campaign reminds people of conscience that poverty is not
usually noble but demeaning, disempowering, destabilizing,
On CCHD's Web site, povertyusa.org,
you can experience poverty for yourself. Or you can learn
from someone you know.
According to the Campaign, four in 10 Americans currently
know someone who is poor. Allow that person to inform
That personlet's call her Maryprobably works. About 7.2
million working people live in poverty, more than half of
them engaged in service, sales or agricultural labor. If
Mary or her children get sickwhich often happens to those
who eat poorly, must keep their thermostats low and lack
warm coatsher paycheck can't cover groceries and medicine.
If she gets laid off, she has no savings to fall back on.
Mary gets discouraged. She lives in a state of insecurity
and tension. And her children wait for Christmas.
She, her family and all poor people should be treated with
respect, but poverty itself should be eradicated. Mary can
act on her own behalf (and CCHD excels at projects that
empower), but she needs help.
Religious people sometimes point to Jesus in the manger
or cite Matthew 26:11 ("The poor you will always have with
you") to support an attitude of acceptance or resignation
of poverty. Wrong.
We can ease the burden of people like Mary. Such expressions
of love are the evidence of discipleship.
Jesus didn't mean for the works of mercy to be futile gestures.
In fact, he comes down hard on those who refuselike the
From Awareness to Action
The Grinch is fictional. Poverty is real. Around the world,
poverty contributes to the festering resentment that can
inspire terrorism. Around the nation, it results in hunger,
homelessness, untreated health challenges and political
apathy. CCHD has made praiseworthy efforts to communicate
this. Their Web site suggests these five actions: