Open your eyes and hearts to people in need around you

To the Editor:

How do you picture the number 46 million? I mean, have you ever seen 46 million of something? Is it even possible to picture something so colossal?

Here’s the truth. There is something that massive. It’s called poverty.

Just in the United States, alone, there are 46 million people suffering from poverty each day. How did we let this go? How can we let something so bad get so large?

Here’s the answer: We just don’t care.

People wake up, go to work, come home, eat, and sleep. We don’t think about how lucky we are to put on new clothes every day. We don’t even think that eating a minimum of three meals a day as being lucky. We don’t even consider the roof over our heads as being a necessity in our lives. It’s just part of our lives, nothing special, right?

No, not right.

The fact is that this is a big issue. Forty-five million people are on food stamps, according to Geoffrey Canada, who delivered a graduation speech to the University of Pennsylvania in 2012. That means 45 million Americans are struggling to have at least one meal a day and 20 million Americans are living in extreme poverty.

You might think, “Well, figures aren’t going to change anything,” and you’re right. But maybe lives will.

Researchers at the University of Michigan stated that people who earn $10,000 per year or less died early in their lives. Poverty isn’t just a social issue, it’s a killer. Some of our fellow citizens are dying everyday because they starve, freeze to death, or dehydrate. This needs to be exposed.

It’s not just adults that suffer, but the children as well. In 2008-09, poverty for children under 18 hit an all-time high with 20 percent of our nation’s children living in poverty

In November 2012, my Girl Scout troop and I served in a soup kitchen. Standing in a very long line were people who were homeless or just couldn’t afford to feed themselves or their families.

I saw so many kind eyes pass by my bread station that day. They were so incredibly grateful for being served a nutritious, hot meal.

As I was serving a roll of bread and butter to a woman, she told me, “Use your brains. I didn’t even get a high school education!”

That touched me. I know now the importance of a good education and how crucial it is for all students to graduate

My Girl Scout troop also re-did a playroom for a homeless shelter. It was called the “Bright Space” because kids about 6 years old and under played in there. We repainted the room using bright and cheery colors. We painted a huge butterfly, trees, birds, flowers, and grass.

We created a peaceful sanctuary where kids could pretend to be whatever they wanted to be. The new playroom allowed them to “spread their wings and fly away” from their troubles.

After these experiences, my eyes opened. I was within a foot of someone whose life was so different than mine. It was a gift.

Many people don’t get to experience what I did. More volunteer involvement is needed so that people can see for themselves the issue of poverty that faces our communities.

Just get involved! Volunteer in your local soup kitchen. Donate to charities — anything from old clothes that are still in good shape or stuff you no longer use.

Adults and children should volunteer their time either through Scouting or just getting friends together to help in the community. This will help to open your eyes, but most importantly, it will allow you to open your heart to the people around you.

Erica Kirchhof