Children and Poverty: An Independence Day Reflection

As we celebrate American independence in 2017, we have much for which to be thankful.  The principles upon which our founders built our government have served us well and helped produced a prosperous, free society.  The founders rightly observed, most notably in George Washington’s Farewell Address, that the success of a republic depends on the virtue and civic commitment of its citizens.  This, in turn, Washington and many other founders argued, is closely connected with people’s religious beliefs and practices.  While Christianity is arguably under attack more strongly in the United States than ever before in our history, it still shapes the perspectives and actions of millions of Americans.  The tenets of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, secular humanism, and other worldviews also encourage their adherents to contribute to the common good, follow traditional moral standards, and aid society’s least fortunate members.

Sadly, however, millions of impoverished children are not able to enjoy America’s material abundance or take advantage of its wonderful opportunities.  Their inadequate socialization, malnourishment, and inferior education, coupled with the discrimination they experience, thwarts their ability to attain their potential, fulfill their dreams, or achieve a middle-class standard of life.  They often eat unhealthy food, live in substandard housing, and are exposed to drugs, crime, and disease at young ages.  For most destitute children, many of the promises and benefits of American independence are a chimera.  

Surely, the wealthiest society in human history can take better care of its poorest children.  By using a variety of public and private endeavors, we can significantly improve their lives.  As we reflect on the blessings we enjoy this fourth of July, let’s remember those who do not fully share them.  Let’s recommit ourselves to work through our government, businesses, congregations, and community associations to help indigent children.  Many marvelous organizations and effective programs are working to aid our nation’s impoverished and vulnerable children.  Through our lobbying activities, jobs, charitable gifts, and volunteer service, we can enrich their lives and help them move from dependence to independence.

Gary SmithComment