Poverty Comes with Few Good Choices

Interactive Quiz with Introduction by Terry Flowers, The Perot Family Headmaster of the St. Philip’s School & Community Center in Dallas

The Catalyst asked Terry Flowers to present some of the difficult choices that families in his community must make. Below are some of those choices, which are based upon actual situations.

Oran McCall, 5, waits with his mother to register at dawn, after sleeping in their car, to see a doctor as part of a free clinic in Olean, New York in June 2017. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

For many of the families my school and community center works with in Dallas, their lives are like an economic ping-pong match. They may pay a little here on a bill so they don’t lose their lights or water, but that only means they will have a higher bill next month. They may take out a payday loan to meet expenses, but that comes with the risk of not being able to pay the high interest costs and driving the borrower deeper into debt. They may have to take cold showers when the heat is cut-off, but even then they may be forced to take a second job.

These choices create tension within families, and bring about arguments that are compounded by the lack of face-time with a spouse or partner. Children are often left in the lurch as their parents wrestle with not just second-best choices, but third- and fourth-best choices. Meanwhile, those same children wonder whether there will be enough food on the table for them, whether their parents are splitting up, and where they will live. Poverty often comes with no good choices at all.