Perhaps it is fitting that we celebrate the beautiful places to travel in America alongside the 50th anniversary of our nation’s War on Poverty. From the hill of an Appalachian farm, to the cellar of an abandoned metropolis, we have all witnessed two Americas in which we live.
Yes, we can choose to ignore the other America or we can learn a valuable lesson about our own favored humanity. How lucky are we to be living in a cherished America? Today, we certainly know what glory and honor feels like, don’t we?
Yet, children from that other America grow hungrier for their next meal.
Never mind that they are living across the street, or maybe a few blocks from where we live. Perhaps this is the real lesson we are supposed to learn whenever we think about where we’d rather be.
When you live in Cleveland like me, you are constantly reminded of how the other half lives. Come along on a ride, and drive with me via the Harvard or Hough neighborhood.
Now you will see how blessed you are.
We are no different than our poorest brother in Columbia, South Carolina, or our rural sister in Johnson City, Tennessee. Everywhere you turn, you see the privileged and the poor.
I witnessed it too, when I started on a journey in mid-December of last year. I traveled to see the flip side of America, logging 3,600 miles, just so I could gain a better understanding of this War of 50 years. From Charleston to Boonville, Sumter to Miami, I saw the privileged and the poor seated side by side.
Just like here in Cleveland.
Over in Orlando, I drove to feed the homeless near Lake Eola Park on Christmas Day. After hundreds stood in line for a meal and a change of clothes, I walked to my car and wept for the family who will never get to see the honor and privilege that I know. This War in America, in all its segregated north and south, has been built by embattled politicos and a lineage that determines whether you and I will end up in a bread line. Why is this? If we think this is the answer, we have no one but ourselves to blame.
In Ocala, the hungry huddle together in a national forest just to survive. They rely on Good Samaritans who remain anonymous, just so the hungry can disappear into the woods with a little food and a warm blanket. Over in Dekalb County, Georgia, why would we ever want to turn a blind eye to the boarded-up homes that mirror our own? This is our two Americas, everywhere you turn.
We all know we should reflect a bit like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who spoke of those very same two Americas. And we can either speak out against such atrocities or risk beating that dreadful drum we have been pounding on for the last five decades.
There are some of us who live in a different world, but don’t believe for a second that you are too privileged to become a part of that other America. Take a look.
It’s just outside your window.
About the Author: Maria Dimengo is a freelance writer and graduate student living in Cleveland, Ohio. She enjoys traveling in the U.S. and learning about people, cultures and neighborhoods.
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