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More and more, I'm beginning to think that it is difficult to empathize--maybe even impossible--with being poor, unless you yourself have experienced it.

Poor means not having food in the house and wondering how you're going to feed your child and yourself--is there somebody you could visit about dinnertime, maybe. You give your child whatever you can scrape up, sometimes literally out of the bins behind food establishments.

Poor means you're being evicted from your apartment for nonpayment of rent because your husband left you after stripping your joint savings and checking accounts of every penny. You're living in your car parked in the far corner of a municipal parking lot, moving it every once in a while to keep from being busted.

Poor is when you can't make the car payments any longer and you keep parking the car far away from places you usually go so that they won't repossess it, thus making it impossible for you to find work.

Poor means trudging from one place to another, looking for work that pays a living wage, while your estimate of what you will accept as a living wage sinks lower and lower.

This is poor without a safety net, without a community to catch you if you crash (or a Mormon daddy with a trust fund). And if you haven't experienced it, I don't think you can understand the terror, the fear, the dangers (especially for a woman) of being poor.

Politicians have never experienced it and therefore will never comprehend it. They think the poor are all drug addicts and criminals, but in states where drug testing was done, fewer than 1% tested positive.

People think the poor have it easy. When homelessness and malntrition always loom nearby and you are trying to make ends meet, it is not easy. The working poor often work incredible hours but just can't get ahead, though it's sure not from lack of trying.

I mention the "working poor" because a poor person is not necessarily unemployed; they are not expecting the government to hand them everything; they are trying to survive on minimum wage. Try it some time and then let me know how it works for you. $23,000 a year for a family with 2 children? Of course they don't pay income tax!

And it should be noted that 91% of government benefits go to the disabled, the elderly, the households of working poor. Everyone is entitled to food, clothing, and shelter, in spite of life's vagaries, and part of the social contract is that we agree to share of our abundance to help those in need.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

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