By CATHY BROWNFIELD, Family Recovery Center
Connie remembers good financial times in Columbiana County. "If you went looking for a job this morning, by the time you went home you had a job, hired right off the street and on the spot. Jobs were plentiful, the economy was strong, the American Dream was alive and well." She had a good job. Her husband had a good job. They were happy, self-sufficient, and all was good.
She also recalls the Economic Malaise of the late 1970s and early 1980s. She was stay-at-home mom of two children when the steel mills shut down and the contractors who relied on domestic steel from the tri-state area began to shut down. Lay-offs were high.
"Free school lunches were in vogue," she says. "There was no shame because it happened to everyone who was furloughed and couldn't find another job."
To Connie it looks like the economy never did recover. "And it seems like too many families slid from middle class to poverty."
Last week Bridges Out of Poverty received media attention in Mahoning County as staffers from various public assistance programs in the area lived the frustration of poverty for a very short time, hurdling the roadblocks of limited resources, hopelessness and helplessness.
Poverty is determined by an individual's access to resources. Can they save money and build assets or is it more than they can do just to take care of daily needs and demands? What happens if an unexpected expense comes along? Can they plan ahead and reduce stress or do they come out fighting because they are so busy rolling with the punches they can't even think about planning ahead? Crises are common occurrences. Do they have adequate life-coping skills? What is their belief system about? Their support system? Is transportation an issue? How healthy are their relationships? Who are their mentors, role models? What are the hidden rules by which they live?
Living in situational poverty for a length of time affects morale, attitude. How can you be positive and hopeful if you can't find a job, can't take care of your family, and you can't pay your own way? Emotional defeat is the worst kind. There is no light, no hope from the bottom of a black, seemingly endless, pit. If you can't see light, how can you see hope? If you don't have hope, how can you find the energy, the motivation, to pull yourself out of that hole?
If you don't know the hidden rules of the socio-economic group you aspire to, how will you get on your feet and find your way to self sufficiency again? You need good mentors and role models in your support system. Belief in a higher power assures you that you are not alone, can lift you up onto your feet again.
"This [spirituality] is a powerful resource," write the authors of Bridges Out of Poverty, "because the individual does not see him/herself as hopeless and useless, but rather as capable and having worth and value."
Our role models teach us how to live emotionally. We need to know the hidden rules of poverty so we might reach out to those who strive for the American Dream with hope. If we live in poverty, we need to know the hidden rules of the middle class by which schools and business follow for success in school, at work, and in our communities.
Living in that black pit is associated with feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem, depression, substance abuse, domestic violence and other negative behaviors that hurt the individual, the family, and the community.
Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities through education, prevention and treatment programs. For more information, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.