The Miserables

The Miserables aren’t only in a French novel written in the late 1800s.

How much more does living below the poverty line cost families already stretched to meet basic living expenses?

“I don’t get my check until 3pm. I will have to pay a $25 late fee after 11am. Can you help me?”

“I contacted the agency you recommended. They can’t see me for 2 months. They told me to save my money.”

As you see from the two statements above, there is a “tyranny of time” that adds to the numerous challenges families living in poverty face every day. Rental late fees dip into already limited family funds. An appointment more than 2 months away adds another roadblock to a family working to pull themselves out of a downward spiral created by a job loss.

Thousands of families struggle to pay monthly rent, provide food, and pay work-related transportation expenses. Many of us live in homes with well-stocked refrigerators, having money in bank accounts to pay rent or mortgages. We can afford gas for automobiles or we are able to fund public transportation fees and purchase food at favorite grocery stores while thousands of families struggle to meet basic living expenses including food.

During a performance of Les Misérables, our cell phones were off. Exiting the theater, we checked emails. A family had sent an email at 10:30pm on a Friday night. They asked for food. The head of household works two jobs. The spouse’s work hours have been cut back to one day a week. They have a 10 year old child. After paying their rent, they had $5 left over. Can you imagine a 10 year old living in a home with nothing to eat in the United States of America?

In Les Misérables, Jean Valjean was arrested and sentenced to 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread for his hungry family. If you had no food in your home and your 10 year old child was hungry, what would you do to get food? It is 2014. Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel speaks to us today.

Might you help a family in your community? Consider donating to a local food bank, feeding the homeless or discovering other ways to help families living in poverty.

“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” Matthew 25:40

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