To the editor:
It came as unwelcome news to me: One in three of us is poor.
And what did I expect as I peered into the future? Despite being flattened by a heat wave or perhaps because of a solid week of 90-plus degree temperatures, my optimism is becoming modified. But what was the nature of my optimism anyway?
After all, I was a child of the Great Depression, which unequivocally dates me. Do I feel nostalgia over my mother’s making $35 a week as a librarian at Bucknell University? I look back in wonder at my ability to search out substitute families and having them welcome me graciously.
Could it be that was in the nature of small towns then? Lewisburg, Pa., had a restaurant on Main Street that saved a seat for me at the counter for breakfast when I was a child and didn’t charge me for it. Did the owners know that I had gotten up and dressed and wakened my mother just before I left and walked down the same street from the apartment?
My father had deserted my mother and me when I was a toddler. He announced that he was “off to write the Great American Novel” in some obscure state and never returned. He didn’t produce one any more than I did later in life, when I wrote three unpublishable novels.
What was wrong with them? The intrusion of fear was palpable. After all, I had majored in English Language and Literature at an Ivy League college in South Hadley thanks to my grandfather on my father’s side who paid my tuition.
He later left me my share of my father’s estate when my absent parent died of alcoholism at age 48. I felt free to choose my direction for the first time.
Fast forward to the present. The statistics claim one in three of us is poor, which amounts to 105 million of our citizens. Tens of thousands of children have been cut from Head Start, untold numbers of homebound seniors have had to be dropped by Meals on Wheels and hundreds of thousands of low-income veterans, many of them homeless, have had their housing, tuition and suicide-prevention assistance eliminated.
There is something profoundly immoral in this. The upper 1 percent bask in riches. The middle class is shrinking due to an increase in robotic technology used to perform routine tasks once assigned to its members. A larger number are poor or near-poor.
What to do? Fix the situation, depending on the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on which our democracy was founded.
We might be surprised at how attractive and achievable those goals turn out to be.
Chapel Street, Gloucester