Long ago, I dreamed of helping people who were less fortunate. After years of working in technology marketing, I got my wish with a new career in the nonprofit sector. But some days, our social problems really get me down.
We are still in the worst economic downtown since the Great Depression. Income inequality – or the “wealth gap” as some call it – is growing in this country. More people are in poverty than in 1989: 15 percent of Americans, or 46.2 million people, live below the federal poverty line. And the poverty line is so low for Silicon Valley, where I live, that it is almost a useless measure. If you’re a data wonk, read the U.S. Census Statistical Abstract on poverty.
I manage social media accounts and write for nonprofits in Silicon Valley. I scan reports, opinion articles, and blogs with grim statistics every day. I see videos and photos of poor and homeless people. I keep pushing the information out to our followers and fans in the hopes that more people become aware of our pressing social problems and offer their help.
I also see much written about the soon-to-be-poor. As one commenter in the film, American Winter, said:
“For the middle class in this country, we have a one-strike-and-you’re-out economy…The most endangered species in America is the middle class family.”
When I hear about middle class families descending into poverty, I often think, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Do you ever have the same feeling? That’s fear talking, but it can also turn into compassion, which we really need if we’re going to fix anything.
There are millions of people working at the local, national, regional, and global levels to eradicate poverty. I try to convince myself that we humans are an ingenious species and that some day, solutions will be found. In the meantime, my occasional sadness underscores the importance of balancing the positive and negative in nonprofit communications. We need to share stories of hope and success in the midst of all the scary facts.