The neighbor I met last month moved out of that leaky, moldy house right across from where Tink was murdered. She got into a townhouse all the way out of LaBelle, with her Section Eight. She liked the new place much better; her children could play outdoors without fear. But it was a mile and a half from the bus route and they didn’t have a car– nor a bed. Her children had toddler beds but she didn’t. She is pregnant, and was in pain from sleeping on the floor. She also needed groceries but they’d run out of EBT food benefits for the month again, and there was no way to get to the food pantry. The pantries in town expect you to drive up in a vehicle. And they tend to be all the way downtown, an impossible walk from where she lived.
I saw her asking for food on Facebook on Friday when I had nothing at all to give her, and then again Monday.
Thankfully, the Friendship Room was able to help. They found her a secondhand air mattress and gathered a big bag of groceries. She texted me this evening to say it was inflated and very comfortable, so her family is happy right now. I don’t know what will happen next month, and after the baby comes. But I am glad it worked out for her for now.
I tell these stories whenever they come to my attention. I tell them because I want to try to convince you that this kind of thing is normal, and it happens all the time.
Not just in Steubenville but all around, poverty is normal.
Pain from poverty is normal.
Pregnant women sleeping on the floor, is normal.
Families not having access to resources because poverty is a constant series of Catch 22’s, is normal.
It ought not to be. It’s not something that has to be. It’s a sin against Heaven that it is. But we have chosen a society where this is normal.
Right now, right here in America where we feel that everything is so shiny and free, right in your city or town, I promise you, there are poor people. They might be unhoused or they might have a house but no furniture, no bed to sleep in at night. They might have a house but no access to other help because it’s so far away and they have no car. They might have a slumlord who can’t be bothered to bring the house up to code. They might live in houses or apartments where they cannot afford to turn on at least one utility, so they try to get to sleep in a freezing house in their winter coats.
There are people who will die of carbon monoxide poisoning in their sleep this winter because the landlord didn’t install detectors. There are people whose house is going to burn down because they can’t afford to pay off what they owe the gas company, so they’re going to try to survive with an electric space heater and that heater will catch something on fire while they sleep. There are people who don’t have houses at all, who are going to freeze to death or lose fingers or feet to frostbite overnight.
There are people who are hungry and have to wait the weekend to get something to eat. There are people who can’t afford to eat toward the end of the month and in those first few days before the EBT benefits credit. There are people who need food and live far off the bus route with no easy way to get it. There are people who live in shelters with no kitchen to cook in.
And it is our job as Christians to seek them out, and help.
This can be tricky, because poverty doesn’t always look like you think it will. But we need to try.
I don’t know that there’s a single person in hell. I hope there isn’t. But if anybody goes to hell, we have it on good authority that refusing to help these people is how you get there.
Through our sin, we’ve chosen a society where the poor are always with us. Through God’s mercy, He will meet us there. The Son of Man Who has no place to lay His head is waiting for us, in the people who don’t have anywhere to sleep.
We need to go out and help these people.
Their lives depend on it, and so do the lives of our souls.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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