Bankole: It pays to be your neighbor’s keeper this season

Bankole Thompson

It’s a wonderful season. But not wonderful for many whose lives are marked by deprivation and living standards that are far from the ones we take for granted.

Think about the children at the U.S.-Mexico border. Think about the children in Syria. Think about the children in Myanmar. Think about the children in Haiti. And then think about the children of Detroit, who are mostly living on the edge everyday with their families.

The tie that binds all these children regardless of their geographic locations is lack. Their lack is more pronounced this season than at any other time on the calendar year.

While some of us are looking yet to another Christmas of festivities and abundance, it will not be the case for those children. 

Trapped in an intergenerational and vicious cycle of poverty and unending political conflicts they had no role in creating, Christmas for these children means just another day in a persistent and cruel social exclusion experience. 

In essence, Christmas only increases their poverty and further exposes their lack of access to resources.  

Nothing is more hurtful than children waking up every morning and looking into the eyes of a parent who can’t afford to provide for them. Some of these kids may not understand the structure of society and the origins of the conflicts that have rendered them victims and made them the exhibits of inequality.

But this is clear: children do internalize lack, alienation, marginalization and isolation. When that happens, they are more than likely to rebel against society by showing extreme hostility which forces all of us to pay a price for it someday.

“In a free society some are guilty, but all are responsible,” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the 20th century Jewish theologian said. Heschel in his remarkable quest to prick our conscience to respond to the needs of many who are underprivileged added, “The opposite of good is not evil, but indifference.”

I couldn’t agree more with Heschel. Some of us are indifferent and callously dismissive to the issues of inequality facing many children and their families that are exacerbated by this season. We are often judgmental and disdainful of their conditions, especially the poor by urging them to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. 

But how can we expect individuals in a state of economic despondency to pull themselves up when they have no boots to strap?

How do we expect children whose families have been relegated to the doldrums to rebuild without giving them a fresh start?

The situation isn't getting better either according to Save the Children, the Connecticut-based international nonprofit group that tracks the well-being of children around the world. 

In a May 2018 “End of Childhood” report, the group noted that over 1.2 billion of the world’s children are “threatened by widespread poverty, conflict or discrimination against girls.”

But what is even more instructive and a cause for concern in the latest finding is that the United States ranks No. 36 in a global ranking, and is far behind Canada, the United Kingdom and other developed nations in addressing child poverty.

That is why, during this season, we should not forget about the unfinished business of finding solutions to the seemingly intractable problems faced by children who are being raised in environments that severely limit their potential for growth. In fact, Save the Children calls those life-changing factors such as violence and hunger that subject many children to a permanent state of despair “childhood enders,” in its report.

Dr. Chad Audi, the CEO of the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, told me his organization remains unbending in its commitment to fight the monster of inequality. 

Bankole writes: "Nothing is more hurtful than children waking up and looking into the eyes of a parent who can’t afford to provide for them."

Last Thursday, DRMM presented Christmas gifts with winter gears to 2,500 children from 700 disadvantaged families.  

“This year has been rough for me and my two children. I keep losing work because I have trouble with daycare for my 1-year-old son and 6-year-old learning disabled daughter. We also don’t have a vehicle. So, I have fallen on hard times,” said Alicia Simpkins, one of the recipients of DRMM Christmas donations. “I was homeless and DRMM put my children and I in an apartment.”  

Simpkins' experience and that of countless others during this season should compel us all to action. 

Merry Christmas.

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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