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A Single Mother’s Poverty

Published on July 27, 2009


The thought of poverty woke up fears inside of me that I have harbored for years. What fears? The fears that we might end up homeless again. I have cried many nights when there seemed like the life she describes so vividly, would be a reality for us. I am watching a homeless person as she brings me into her world. I could smell the stink of her clothing that she mentioned. I imagine the decay on her teeth. I feel her shame as her hope abandons her. Her hope leaps out the window and she is left in desperation and in deep despair. Where is my God she wonders but silences the doubt inside because she knows He is there.

Please my friends as we watch our president make his way to other countries that have starving and homeless mothers everywhere, please do not turn a blind eye to the ones in your very own cities, your neighborhoods, the subway or train stations, the bus stations, and the restaurants. Please I plead with you, lay the judgment and prejudice down. Pick up the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself. Do something I urge you!

Can you see her skin aging prematurely because of the constant emotional pain? I do not want to imagine the valley of decision she’s living in. She never sleeps because she has had to always stay awake to fight the roaches away from her kids. Can you imagine having to give your children sour milk because the refrigerator does not work? Could you imagine the smell of urine on the sheet-less mattress where you have to sleep? I believed she was pleading with us, the Body of Christ, to look at those afflicted with poverty thru an angry heart, anger that will help you help her and others like her. She reminds us that the poor are always silent. That even when they speak they are not heard. I imagine the ridicule she faces as she accepts failure as the final result. A life she has long lived without any sign of success.

She is so descriptive about the smells of urine and sour milk that you have to smell the stink of. The hunger pains of her children. Her world is one of dread and pain. Her world is desperate and has little hope for change. This story made me realize that no matter how hard it seems, it is not as hard as her life is. I am still blessed and my children are fortunate to have a home with clean linen. They are blessed to have hot meals and clean clothing. Do not allow the world to turn a blind eye to those who have been forced into silence. She is pleading with you and with me to bring attention to this peculiar institution of poverty. She begs us not to be silent any longer. We must focus on eradicating poverty. This should be one of the many issues before the state legislators. Our government needs to address this peculiar institution, the institution of poverty. If we desire to ensure success in our country and improvement in our economy we must address poverty.

My friends as I think about our role in society, in our neighborhoods, in our entertainment venues, in our places of work and lastly in our places of fellowship; why are their families still homeless? Why do single mothers still have to decide to work or take care of their children? We have witnessed several cases where young mothers must leave their children home alone to go to work. If they do not work, they do not eat. Why are they forced to make these choices? Some respond that if they did not have sex without marriage, maybe they would not be in this situation. Well, my response is that I was married and did become homeless with my children. I desire to stir up your spirit and possibly push you off of your comfortable chairs. Into a place I call “do something”. What should I do? I am so glad you asked. There are hundreds of agencies that need volunteers. Become a volunteer. I am certain that some of your neighbors could use some extra pampers or maybe milk. They could use some food. Maybe instead hosting a garage sale give the gently used clothing to a struggling family. I do encourage donations but often the red tape between the agency and the family is far too lengthy. Just give a little something. Just a little something such as: money, food, clothing or your time. I promise you will feel better the moment you do…

Can I share with you that I and my children were in a shelter for about three to five months? It was embarrassing, shameful, and really difficult. My now ex husband had become abusive and he had choked me in front of my children. I will be somewhat opaque about the happenings that drove my family and me to a shelter. I believe that we as people often pre-judge a person by what we don’t see. So now understand when people found out that we lived in a shelter; they of course thought maybe I was on drugs, or alcohol. Maybe I wouldn’t pay my bills or I was just a lazy mother that sat around and waited on the government to take care of me. Maybe I had decided to get pregnant to keep getting more money from the government. None of that was true. My job at a fortune 500 company had ended and my children and I were living off my unemployment compensation. Their dad would not pay the support that had been ordered. I must share with you that it is dreadfully challenging to go from making $1400 dollars every two weeks to $1000 every month. I was buying the home that we previously lived in. Please keep in mind that when we were married we accumulated quite a bit of debit that was left for me to deal with. I think I should also include the fact that I am the proud but single mother of five amazing teenagers, age 18.5, 17.5, 14 and 12.5 twins. They were ages 10-2.5. Yes! I know, you are thinking that I had my hands full. Well actually it was my heart that was full and still is. I would have not made it without the love and support of my children.

The shelter was crowded. There were two families to each room. I did make friends and created some lifelong friendships but the fact remains that when we listed the shelter as our address we were looked at differently. Landlords would not rent to us easily. Agencies gave us the damaged donations and were quite hurtful in counseling sessions. This was one of the most painful experiences that we (my family) have had to walk thru. I only share this in hopes that the next time you see a mother and her child(ren) you will allow the Spirit of God to usher in a sense of compassion and not judgment.

Tammie Butler

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