They say you don’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. In an effort to empathize with the growing number of suburban poor, I walked a mile in their shoes…without a coat.
Poverty is such a complex issue. There are so many hidden side effects that are not often considered as part of the typical picture of poverty, like a lack of adequate winter clothing. SON Ministries’ newest campaign, Coatless For A Cause, encouraged members of the community to forego the comfort of their winter coat in an effort to bring attention to a silently suffering population.
There are 597,856 children living in poverty in Ohio, and for many of their families, there are tough choices to be made between food, shelter, and items often taken for granted, like winter coats. Since 2005, the proportion of that number who are classified as “suburban poor” has been larger than the number who are classified as “urban poor,” and that population faces specific and unique problems. But the ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic diversity of their community represents the possibility for unique solutions, and awareness is the first step. This is what I would tell people when they pointed to my button and said, “It’s cold outside, why aren’t you wearing a coat?”
I can tell you that after a fifteen-minute walk across campus in only a sweater, I learned an incredibly humbling lesson. I am incredibly fortunate to never have to choose between buying dinner and buying warm clothing for the winter months. In recognizing this place of privilege, it renewed a sense of significance for the work that SON Ministries is undertaking and that I am fortunate enough to be a part of. I am never going to have to spend time or energy making these sorts of deliberations, and therefore I can direct that energy to making sure others won’t either. That is a responsibility that I am happy to take on.