The num­ber of N.C. fam­i­lies liv­ing in poverty is star­tling

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Arts - BY A.C. SNOW as­[email protected]­sob­server.com

I was sur­prised to read re­cently that ac­cord­ing to the N.C. Pol­icy Watch’s lat­est re­port, more than 7 per­cent of North Carolina house­holds, or about 725,000 res­i­dents, live in poverty.

That trans­lates to an av­er­age in­come of $12,300 per year, or $8 per per­son per day, for a fam­ily of four.

Dur­ing my Great De­pres­sion child­hood, my large fam­ily had very lit­tle cash. How­ever, liv­ing on a farm, we never went to bed hun­gry or lacked warm clothes. We never thought of our­selves as be­ing poor.

I fre­quently re­call au­thor Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize-win­ning mem­oir, “An­gela’s Ashes,” in which he de­scribes the ex­treme poverty he ex­pe­ri­enced while growing up in a fam­ily with five chil­dren in Lim­er­ick, Ire­land.

On the day young McCourt’s al­co­holic, ne’er-do-well fa­ther is leav­ing to find work in Eng­land, his mother has man­aged to scrounge up one egg for the fa­ther’s farewell break­fast. He de­scribes the in­ci­dent:

“M’am (mother) says, ‘This egg is for your fa­ther. He needs the nour­ish­ment for the long jour­ney be­fore him.’

“It’s a hard-boiled egg and Dad peels off the shell,” McCourt writes. “He slices the egg and gives each of us a bit to put on our bread. M’am says, ‘Don’t be such a fool,’ and Dad says, ‘What would a man be do­ing with a whole egg to him­self?’

“M’am has tears on her eye­lashes. She pulls her chair over to the fire­place. We all eat our bread and egg and watch her cry till she says, ‘What are you gawkin’ at?’ and turns away to look at the ashes.”

CHAR­LOTTE’S WEBS

The win­dow wash­ers had come and gone be­fore I re­al­ized I had ne­glected to tell them to spare Char­lotte, the spi­der that lived on the out­side of the kitchen win­dow.

I felt re­morse­ful un­til the next morn­ing, when my wife an­nounced from the kitchen that Char­lotte had re­turned. A re-built web was there shim­mer­ing in the morn­ing sun­light. Not many peo­ple I know have a pet spi­der. I rec­om­mend them as long as they live out­side.

The spi­der’s per­sis­tence in pre­vail­ing against such a set­back re­minded me of the hor­ren­dous de­struc­tion by the Cal­i­for­nia for­est fires that have claimed al­most 90 lives, with hun­dreds more still un­ac­counted for, and laid waste to the en­tire town of Par­adise as well as hun­dreds of homes else­where.

How does some­one, phys­i­cally and men­tally, cope with such raw, lif­er­end­ing tragedy? The vic­tims de­serve the na­tion’s sym­pa­thy, com­pas­sion and fi­nan­cial aid.

THAT TIME AGAIN

The “gimme” Christ­mas mail is pour­ing in. Thumb­ing through the Heifer In­ter­na­tional cat­a­log, I de­cided that I will prob­a­bly do­nate a flock of geese this year.

The cat­a­log notes that the re­cip­i­ent fam­ily, who lives in a coun­try where peo­ple strug­gle with se­vere hunger, will sell the geese eggs in or­der to buy food.

HOME AD­DRESS

When I drive along Sleepy Hol­low Drive in the Brookhaven sub­di­vi­sion, a sense of “slow down” tran­quil­ity de­scends upon me. The name sug­gests a some­what iso­lated lo­ca­tion rather than a busy street.

I envy those who live on this enviable Raleigh road: Clear Sail­ing Lane.

In con­trast, for years ev­ery time I drove past Jones Sausage Road across town, I sym­pa­thized with those who live there. But when I men­tioned my con­cern in a column, I re­ceived sev­eral emails from Jones Sausage Road res­i­dents as­sur­ing me that they’re per­fectly com­fort­able with their unique street name.

Af­ter all, my home ad­dress growing up was Route 2, Dobson. There’s cer­tainly noth­ing pretty or po­etic about Route 2, Dobson. Back then, I wished I lived on nearby Pos­sum Trot Road.

LONG­TIME PEN PALS

Thanks for the many reader responses to my re­cent item about long­time pen pals.

The 70-year cor­re­spon­dence be­tween Linda Tex­toris Helga Pfleger in Vi­enna, which be­gan in fifth grade, is by far the long­est pen pal re­la­tion­ship among those who wrote me.

“It was soon af­ter World War II and all of Eu­rope was in need of any kind of help,” Linda re­calls. “Our teacher con­tacted a teacher, a lo­cal Aus­trian woman, who had a teacher friend in Vi­enna. We sent boxes of clothes to the chil­dren in that teacher’s class.”

In the ex­change of the class rolls, Linda drew Helga’s name.

The two have ex­changed vis­its and still cor­re­spond.

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