Dark Clouds/Silver Linings

Yesterday, Scott Pelley from CBS’ 60 Minutes program presented a follow up segment to the eye-opening “Hard Times Generation” piece that aired eight months ago. Both stories detailed the plight of homeless families with children. It is telling that when the producers of 60 Minutes selected a community to profile such families, they didn’t choose an inner city setting, or Appalachia, or some rural community out West. Instead, they chose Central Florida. 

Why? Because of all the homeless families in America today, fully one-third exist in Florida. Regular people, accustomed to earning a wage and making their own way in life, who have found themselves with few options for sustainability during the Great Recession.

As someone who works in human services every day, I recall being a little puzzled by the widespread shock and dismay in the community following the airing of the first story. After all, the organization I work for has tried hard for many years to tell the story of our neighbors in need. It’s a rather stark portrait of  need that we strive to paint day in and day out, in an attempt to enlighten those who haven’t considered the tragic and preventable issue of hunger in our community.

I wondered what it might have been about the 60 Minutes story that succeeded so wildly in this regard, in comparison to our own efforts? I think I know. It was the realization by many that the images we tend to carry in our minds about who might be hungry in our area might be incorrect. Instead of conjuring the image of the bedraggled man holding a sign at the end of the off ramp, viewers instead saw young faces.

People trying to get by as best they could in the most trying situations of their lifetimes, and still managing to go to school, study, and eke out an existence. Parents desperate to find the money for another week at the cheap motel, so that living in the car wouldn’t become the next rung down on their ladder. Viewers didn’t see lazy loafers and drug addicts at all; they saw people that actually appeared to look like … them.

And worst of all? Children who voiced that they consider themselves to blame for their  poverty because they feel like a financial drag on the family.

The follow up story was not much more pleasant than the original segment earlier this year. Families still struggling in large numbers, and many actually living in vehicles as they search for a way out of the hardship they endure every day. Clearly, a dark cloud of poverty and need still hangs over our community, and so many others across the nation. These stories helped to illustrate that desperation in ways that allowed caring people to relate to it—some for the first time.

It occurs to me that there are actually a few silver linings in the dark cloud that the 60 Minutes stories brought to light. First, it dramatically reinforces something that I’ve known for a long time;  that we live in a very generous and caring community. After the first story aired, millions of dollars appeared seemingly out of nowhere to help the causes engaged in providing services. That’s a huge silver lining. Second, the stories showed us all that the American spirit and determination is alive and well, even among those who are facing incredibly long odds about their future.

As one young girl living in her family’s truck put it, almost cheerfully, “It’s life…You do what you have to do, right?” Right.

And thankfully, for many of us who still find ourselves in a position to be able to help, what we ‘have to do’ includes finding a way to get involved and make a difference. For that is the only way that communities, and nations, get through such difficult times. By looking after one another.

As our Holiday season approaches, I urge all of us to redouble our personal efforts to lend a hand. Choose a cause that matters to you, and write a check. 

Volunteer some time. Make a difference. Change a life. Feed some hope

60 Minutes story:

Greg Higgerson, CFRE
Vice-President, Development

5 thoughts

  1. We like to get the information to contact Beth, so we can help these families with food and the children with gifts this Christmas. We are a partner agency with Second Harvest and will have a Christmas event on December 17th.
    please send us some information ASAP. We would like to help these families in Seminole and Orange County as we have 2 agencies one in each county.
    Thank you.
    Dora Libreros

  2. Good evening Greg…
    I read your article in response to the latest 60 Minutes segment by Scott Pelley…

    I am a life-long member of FBC/O and have known Robert Stuart since we were in Jr High (grew up at FBC together) … I am so excited about the difference that our LOVE ORLANDO campaign has begun to make but it’s obvious there is much more to be done and the need will be around for much longer than we like to think it will… and as you’ve said… it’s been here for a long time already…
    I believe the “face” of the homeless has changed dramatically… from those on the side of the road to that of the family next door… quite a dramatic change.

    Anyway… I wanted to share with you (in case you didn’t already know about it)… just happened to discover it while surfing I guess… CITGO has a program where they are giving away gas to non-profits… and since you mention that the cost of fuel is a growing concern with your trucks making 300+ trips a week… well… I filled out the online form with Second Harvest Food Bank info… you can read more about the program here… http://www.fuelinggood.com/registration

    I hope to get involved in volunteering with you in the near future… if not me… then my husband.. I have been mostly unemployed over the past 2 yrs and he was just laid off a month ago from the only job/company he’s ever worked at (41 yrs)… He did utility coordination for a local civil engineering firm … and there was just no work for his department… Praise the Lord… His timing is so perfect… my hubby turned 62 in September and was laid off the end of October… and he got his SS benefits “turned on”… ; )
    God is Good… all the time…

    My area of expertise is that of desktop publishing/ editing/proofing… I would love to offer those services to SHFB in any way you might be able to use me… even remotely…

    Thank you for all you do for Central FLoridians who are in need of hope.
    Kathy McDaniels

  3. Hi Dora,
    We sent your message over to our Agency relations Manager Erin Gray. She will be able to help you.

    Thank you so much for the link to the CITGO program and for filling it out for us. Thank you so much for offering your services to us. I will make sure to reach out to you if we ever need someone with your expertise.

    Maria Diestro
    Online Services and Communications Manager

  4. As a family, we are trying to make a donation to Beth in support of her efforts for the students of Central Florida as featured in Hard Times Generation. However, after much research, this is as close as we were able to get to making one…..can you please provide the best contact information for making a contribution?
    Many thanks

  5. Hi Devon,
    You can make an online contribution at http://www.feedhopenow.org you will see a donate button on the right hand side. Please let me know if you need further assistance. Thank you for thinking of others.

    Maria Diestro
    Online Services and Communications Manager
    Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida

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