Off the Beaten Path

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”- Robert Frost
Robert Frost’s poem is often quoted in regards to life, which is exactly why it was written. However, I think, I am going to take the words above and lean them in a different direction. On Wednesday I referred to the “Life is a Highway” song and the fact that I do not want to stay on one road all my life getting from point A to point B and I think Frost’s poem falls in line with that. I think we are made for adventure and I feel like God has given us a life that is meant to be lived by experiencing more than just one thing.
Let’s go in the different direction and look at these words from a poverty perspective. In 2010, the U.S. had 16.4 million children ages 0-17 living in poverty (America’s Children in brief: Key National indicators of well-being, 2012). The reality is rural poverty is a larger portion of that 16.4 million, but urban poverty is possibly the most acknowledged. This is not to say one is more important than the other, but I am looking at this from the perspective of Frost’s poem. If rural and urban were roads, rural would equal “…the one less traveled by”, in the words of Frost. Unfortunately, when thinking about the poverty in America more often than not we forget about rural America. It is not on purpose, but because of an unwillingness to get off the beaten path.
Poverty in the urban context is visible. You can see the pain on the faces of many walking the streets. Homeless men, women and children walk the crowded streets looking for a dime or some food or both and there will be buildings that are active alongside buildings that are inactive. Urban poverty is something you don’t have to work hard to look for, which makes it easier to notice and take action to eradicate it from the view of others.
This is not the case for those in rural poverty. We can’t see it. It is invisible. Out of sight, out of mind as the old saying goes and it is very true. If we don’t take the time to dig into the hills of Appalachia, or go into the reservations of Native Americans, or learn about the real life families and not the caricatures that we find in comics or television shows, then we will not truly know rural poverty. We will not know about the effects taking the coal industry away from rural communities will have on families and children. We won’t know about the absence of healthy food sources or the cost of healthy food to a low income family, which in turn causes the obesity rate to sky rocket. There is so much to learn from the people in “them thar hills” and many won’t know because they choose to take the path traveled the most often and complain about the traffic.
Take a trip off the beaten path. Learn about the unseen faces in America. Learn about the resiliency of these people that have been forgotten or neglected because they are invisible. It is true that not all are forgotten, but for most, it may seem that they are unseen. It may cause some dust to be stirred up and your clothes to get a little messy but, hey, Jesus and His disciples walked into some rough areas that made their eyes open to the needs of thousands. Maybe it’s necessary for the adventure to be taken off the interstate…”it could make all the difference.”

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