Mission of Our Youth: Poverty in New York
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82: 3-4
Every Sunday morning as I entered church, a basket labeled “People to People” would greet me. On a monthly basis, food items ranging from canned soup to cereal would be collected and sent to the local food pantry. I am very blessed to have grown up in a church where food insecurity and poverty have been discussed, considering the prevalence and urgency of those social issues.
It would be good to be able to attribute poverty to one easily addressable factor, but the reality is, of course, that it originates from a series of intertwining components. Environmental degradation, corruption, inadequate education (or a total lack thereof), population growth, unjust economic and social structures, discrimination… the list is long. Recently, those living in poverty have been the most severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, during which the commodification of the necessities required—such as masks, medication, and sanitary products—has denied many Americans the chance to survive.
The endless cycle of poverty seems inescapable, and we may be unable to foresee a world where such injustices are eradicated. Inequity is as old as human existence and continues to proliferate globally; it will be extremely challenging to undo its damaging effects—but (on a more optimistic note) not impossible.
We hear it all the time: it is our generation that is now responsible for taking the necessary actions to foster social change. Being constantly reminded of this can feel overwhelming and even unrealistic. However, perhaps the most reassuring fact is that it is not up to any single individual to facilitate progress; rather it is an ongoing process, requiring the cooperation of us all. As a community, we must all individually actively engage and collaborate with those who suffer from poverty.
We also have the responsibility to educate our neighbors, support legitimate organizations, be a volunteer, and act charitably. Embracing the measures within our capabilities to aid our neighbors not only feels good, but it can produce tangible change.
At All Saints’ Church in Valley Cottage, the Sunday School classes participated in charity bake sales and annual sandwich drives for homeless shelters during the Thanksgiving season. In the early morning, we gathered in the kitchen area and spent a few hours making simple ham and cheese sandwiches which were later sent to a homeless shelter in New York—proving that regardless of age or other extraneous condition, we are all capable of action. What it comes down to is willingness.
I cannot emphasize enough the urgency of this issue. If we continue to put off dealing with it, it will irrevocably worsen. The power to address homelessness and poverty lies in the dynamism of our communities—within our churches and our youth. We have that dynamism. Now it is simply a matter of how we choose to use it.