Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you
Isaiah 43: 4a NIV
February 21, 2011
Last week we talked about generational poverty and grade school children. Today we are going to move up and talk about where I believe real change can start to take place and that is the high school age. How many of you saw the movie, “Precious”? It was not a nice movie and haunts me still to this day. What is worse is that while taking a class in Lawndale, a lot of pastors from the very poor sections of the city state that what the movie depicts is what truly occurs within their neighborhoods, that stories like “Precious” are very common and what they are up against when they take to the streets and preach. When the Chicago School District teachers were there, they talked about the students who arrive at school late, or leave early, or don’t show up at all in order to watch the babies at home. A lot of them are parents themselves and trying to make ends meet.
I know that the propensity to deal with this type of poverty is to reach far back and find out how it occurred. This is what starts the division between the races and there is a lot of finger-pointing and blame. I am not stating that the reasons are not valid for either side; I want you to know I am not taking a side. I don’t care how it occurred, that is not my issue. That is an issue for others to battle over and they do. Today we are just going to discuss what I believe is the way to pull them out of poverty, and I do believe this can begin to happen in the teen years.
The primary reason why the impoverished neighborhoods in the urban areas do so poorly is because they do not prepare the youth for a future. The goal of every school district should be to promote college and if not college, then a trade. The schools in the suburbs do that. My daughter Chantel took advantage of one of the programs and today is a cosmetologist. When she was a junior in high school, the district paid for her to go to cosmetology school and piggy-backed with that the opportunity to take classes at the College of DuPage and learn about business management. They enabled several young women to learn a trade and earn a living and they continue to do so today. The school also offers culinary, mechanics, automotive and carpentry courses. In the rural areas the students who are not college-bound learn trades that are common for their area. In the urban schools the students are taught the basics. Lower income neighborhoods have lower taxes and programs get cut out of the district. By allowing this to occur our government sets the urban student up for failure.
Now here’s an idea for our local and federal governments. Take the state taxes that we pay and divide them up fairly to the schools so that every student within the state is educated equally. We are quick to send military assistance to other countries to maintain peace and safety. Keep the soldiers home and have them protect the school-age children. I realize that as a nation we do need to help other nations when they need it. However, I do believe that we need to be a nation that learns how to help itself first. We need to offer the high school students in the urban schools programs that will teach them a trade. This is no longer an option but a must. When we don’t teach them a trade and allow them to be poorly educated we give them very little hope to succeed in this world. A teenage student with no hope remains trapped in the world of poverty.
We have to give them hope, we have to teach them, we have to prepare them, we have to empower them. When we do, then and only then do they have a chance to get out of generational poverty. We have to be a nation that stops pointing fingers and placing blame and a nation that does come together under God to help one another. Those who do learn a trade go out and work for a living and do what they can to better their situation. They get off of welfare and they become responsible adults. When I was in Lawndale I met some of those successful adults. They are pastors and youth leaders and teachers in the Chicago area. They are refusing to move because they want to make the neighborhood they grew up in become a new neighborhood revised and working.
When we give the young people a way to succeed in this world, we give them another way to cope with their lifestyle. Instead of joining gangs or getting pregnant to get more welfare money they learn how to respect themselves and each other. They are focused on success and do well for themselves. The better they do the longer they wait to become parents, the longer they wait the more likely it is that their children will not be born welfare babies. They will pull themselves out of poverty and the next generation will learn from what they see their parents do, just as this happens in all the other parts of the country.
How can we in suburbia America help? We have to stop waiting for our government to help and join together as the Church of God to make the difference. We can do this by sending to those areas life coaches. We can set up workshops and teach a trade. We can grant scholarships and allow them to go to another school. We can give of our time and resources and make a difference and give the teenage student a way to succeed in this world. This is what we give our own children who we believe are so deserving of a better life. This is what we should be giving to all children. There is a very old saying that I am going to end with today. It is not biblical but it does fit.
Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man how to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.