Poverty is alive and well and more pronounced right now than ever before in our society. It is very real to a lot of Americans, many of whom thought they had worked their way out of poverty. Recent layoffs, the uncertainty of employment, the cost of living on your savings, all of the stress is getting to people. We need to understand we can live beyond it. What we cannot allow to happen is a division due to politics. This isn’t about Republican or Democrat, this is about COVID-19. We, as a country and a community, have worked together, side by side to get a lot accomplished. We need to continue that practice and understand how much we really need each other.

As those who have always lived before the poverty line know, life is precarious and so is a daily existence. It is a constant shuffle to pay the rent, pay the utilities, put food on the table, and keep the car running. Getting that all done week by week feels like you have hit the ball out of the park. I grew up that way because my parents were blue collar workers with no formal education. We struggled, but we had a garden and chickens, so we survived. Today, some are turning back to gardening, but many live in apartments or in communities where there is no space. Rents are outrageous, and for many not affordable at all.

That was the life lived by the poor, though, and not the life lived by the many. Today is different, the majority of Americans have been living on savings, unemployment, lowered or no work hours. We are beginning to understand what my parents always knew — you can live and not thrive sometimes. So many have lost loved ones, some of whom were the breadwinners, others our parents, and some our children; this thing has been an equal opportunity disease. It has no boundaries; it can happen to anyone, and it is pervasive. Far too pervasive for us to move quickly. I will follow my direction from Dr. Eric Yazel and his daily dose of calm.

In that, as we return to work and life, we will return in a different format. We won’t be quite as anxious to go to malls, but shopping will continue online and Kroger, Amazon and Walmart will thrive. Small businesses are struggling and will continue to in some communities, but I do believe here we have worked hard to keep small businesses open. The 6 feet apart rule being acknowledged the whole way, we have picked up coffee at Pearl Street, candy from Schimpff’s, breakfast at Geraldine’s this weekend, dinner at O’Shea’s, Town, the Red Yeti, Big Ben’s, all of those places. The waitresses and waiters all have talked about how generous the tips are, so I know we will continue to support them. Local has meant Clarksville and New Albany as well, as we try to have dinner from each of our neighboring communities, too. I discovered a Milee at KouKhan’s, the Rice Bowl and Jasmin’s gave us our oriental meals, and Culver’s has been the go-to place for lunch.

My point is, we have worked hard to stay together and to support each other. We will survive with a better sense of who we are than of who we thought we were. We are neighbors, we want what is best for each other. I don’t care how my neighbor votes, I just want them to vote. What I do care about is how those elected serve, who has shown up during this COVID-19 disaster. You know because you live here. Representatives Ed Clere and Rita Fleming have shown up, every time we have had a question about what we need to know from the state they have sought to get us answers. The City of New Albany stepped up by assisting small businesses during the shutdown as did the City of Jeffersonville. The city of Charlestown created its own assistance program and delivered food personally, and the town of Clarksville, even before money came from the state, because they step up for their people. It is going to take that kind of leadership to guide us through the next few months.

As we anticipate opening up we should be prepared for setbacks and possibly another close down. If this thing gets wild again it could come to that. We need to be cautious and we need to move smartly. Our health department and our medical community have guided us well; we need to take our leads from them and to move at the pace they set.

We have to take the politics out of poverty and COVID, we have to look at the opportunity we are being offered right now. For the first time in years people are so aware and concerned for their neighbors in a big way, so much so that many who may have not paid attention as they voted party will be looking more to those who are doing the right thing. It is time for a revolution in this country, but not one with guns and violence, one with the real power in this country — the vote.

Barbara Anderson is a local human rights activist. Contact her at barbanderson_1@yahoo.com.

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