What If They Aren’t Poor Enough to Help? [Plus Infographic]

US Poverty

What If They Aren’t Poor Enough to Help? [Plus Infographic]


In my family, we’ve been “adopting” families to assist at Christmas for years now. We usually go through some state or local agency who assigns us to a family. When then find out their stories, sizes and needs. It’s just as big of a blessing for our family each year as it is for the families we adopt.

One of the greatest things I’ve learned over this time was from a social worker. After several telephone conversations with her, she let me in on something:  Some people who adopt families get upset when they drop off the gifts because they don’t think the family is poor enough to be given assistance. Some of these families live in nice houses and have big screen televisions or their kids request video games for their expensive game consoles. How dare they ask for help, right?

Reserving Judgement : Everything Isn’t Always As It Appears for Those in Need

One of the things that we all need to remember when helping others is we should reserve judgement. Everything isn’t always as it appears–maybe they are losing that house they are living in, or perhaps they bought that big screen and expensive game console before both parents lost their jobs. Or, maybe they have nice stuff because someone at their church wanted them to have nice things?

The thing we need to remember is that we aren’t seeing the complete picture for those families we are helping. A glimpse at their homes or into their lives is just that, one small part of their story.

Understanding ‘Near Poverty’ and How We Need to Help

One of the biggest demographics in need is called “near poverty”–families that fall through the cracks in our system because they work, but are just above the poverty line.

According to a recent CNN article, “more than 30 million Americans are living just above the poverty line. These near poor, often defined as having incomes of up to 1.5 times the poverty threshold, were supporting a family of four on no more than $34,500 last year.”

This group has grown about 10% over the past five years.

These people have jobs, so they often don’t qualify for government assistant, but they are just one step away from catastrophe.

“People just above the poverty line are just one paycheck or health disaster away from poverty. They are still quite fragile,” Katherine Newman, a dean at Johns Hopkins University, told CNN.

Poverty Infographic

U.S. Poverty Infographic


  • AlannaB
    Posted at 21:18h, 06 November Reply

    My family used to bring Christmas presents and food to a family through some agency every year, and with the last two we began to feel angry rather than joy and blessing from the years prior. My family was part of the lower end of working class and we enjoyed sharing the little extra that we had with others, until judgement made way into our hearts.

    Upon entering the last 2 houses, we found tiny kitchens full of empty liquor bottles, end tables full of empty cigarette packages, and McDonalds wrappers as far as the eye can see. These items were proof that these people could have easily purchased a Christmas dinner and presents for their children and that are act of “kindness” was better reserved for someone else.

    Years later, I still think of these families and wonder if our actions had an impact on their lives. Surely the children should not have to suffer from their parents mistakes, what if they remembered that Christmas and decided to share some compassion and love to someone less fortunate than them? What if this family saw this act of kindness and believed that someone really cared about them despite their mistakes. We have all made poor choices, some more than others, and that does not mean that we deserve not to be cared for.

    Now, I LOVE to provide for families less fortunate than mine, no matter what their circumstances are. After all, I want to raise my children to be an example of Christ and to love and serve everyone.

    Thank you for this post 🙂

    • Jacqueline
      Posted at 00:19h, 07 November Reply

      Thank you for such an honest and thoughtful reply. I, too, was guilty of judging and had the “lightbulb moment” when the social worker explained to me about judging. Maybe people have been “drinking their money away” because of a problem, but maybe the one act of kindness that you gave them will give them enough to make them reconsider their life. We never know…

  • Perception of Poverty | What Are People In Need Allowed to Have Anyway? | Monkey Do Project, Inc.
    Posted at 03:15h, 10 March Reply

    […] Today, will you take a moment to ask yourself: How poor is “too poor” before we reserve judgment and help? […]

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