Surviving a Broken World

We just went through the season of celebration, but, really, is there anything to celebrate? There are hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, fleeing war, persecution and violence in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and many other countries. The indiscriminate terrorist attacks killing 130 people in Paris were so senseless, as was the loss of 224 lives in the Russian plane crash in Egypt. [W]e continue to have mass killings in our own country; [i]n the three years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, [which claimed] 27 people, [including] 20 […] children, another 340 Americans have died in mass shooting incidents. Any of us with young kids or grandchildren have trouble explaining why our modern day world is so violent and unhappy.

This constant bad news has got to be taking a toll on our younger generation, who has instant access to information with their daily exposure to the Internet and smartphones. Add to this the [number of] kids who live in poverty, and you have to question whether the upcoming generations are going to be better off than their parents. According to USA Today, 22% of children in the United States live below the poverty line, which is a higher percentage than during the Great Recession; [by contrast], in 2008, 18% of kids were in poverty. [I]n this great country of ours, poverty is highly unequal, with 39% of African-American children, 37% of [Native American] children and 33% of Hispanics living in poverty. The U.S. Department of Human and Health Services’ official poverty line is [an income of] $23,624 [annually] for a family with two adults and two children.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation found 18.7 million [U.S.] kids, or one in four, live in low-income households, which are defined as families using more than 30% of their pre-tax income for housing. [C]hildren raised in low-income households may get insufficient food and nutrients, which can negatively impact physical development. When children go to school hungry, they are [also] unable to focus [on] learning, [while] inadequate housing can expose children to toxins or other health hazards.

For any parent, juggling work, child care and transportation is challenging. Add in the stress of struggling to pay the bills, [and] parents battling with low income[s] have a higher risk of depression, substance abuse and domestic violence, which can affect a child’s social and emotional development. On top of this, 54% of our kids do not attend preschool, 66% of our fourth graders are not proficient in reading, and 66% of our eighth graders are not proficient in math. By ignoring the needs of these 18.7 million kids, we have a formula for the next generation to fail.

This failure for our society to improve itself has already begun. Bloomberg Business just reported that our middle class—[defined as a] family of three [that] has a minimum income of $41,869—has lost their majority status in the United States [for] the first time since 1970. Over 120.8 million adult Americans live in middle-class households, [including] 51 million [considered higher]-income and 70.3 million […] lower-[income]. The middle class holds 43% of U.S. aggregate income, which also is the smallest share since 1970. Generations have grown up with the goal of becoming middle-class. What do we tell our newest generation?

We need to worry about our kids, [a]nd we need to help them deal with the world around them. […] Each of us can’t teach 18.7 million kids, so we must rely on caring organizations to work with those who need the most help. There are great organizations we can contribute to like Save the Children and the Children’s Defense Fund, [both of which] help these less-fortunate kids. Communities in Schools help students while in school, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America help create a safe place to learn and grow. […]

Children should be growing up [and] worrying [only] about playing and exercising and eating the right foods so they can become stronger and smarter. Our over-connected technology world, though, throws a wrench into the traditional way Americans have raised their kids for generations. Many times, our children know before we [do] about the tragedies afflicting this world because of their instant connection[s] to computers and cellphones. We can’t protect them from this anymore. We also can’t rely on our government to do it alone, because it is such a huge task that is getting worse as each new year unfolds.

We all make personal New Year’s resolutions, like “exercise more,” “lose weight,” and “spend more time with family and friends.” As a country, our resolution for this year needs to be “help all of our children.” Our children are our hope to change this broken world.

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