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Thinking about poverty on Blog Action Day

On a day when I’m in New York to cover a major Condé Nast Traveler event on Twitter, I want to take a moment to think about something totally different….poverty in the U.S.

What brought this on?

It’s Blog Action Day, which is

“….an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters to post about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion.”

You can also keep up with everyone’s efforts today by following the Blog Action Day Twitter stream.

For one man’s perspective, take a look at my friend and colleague Mike Chapman’s Twitter stream as he spends a night on the streets of Austin with the homeless, in support of this effort to make people think differently about poverty.

What does this have to do with a family travel blog?

Actually, I started really thinking about this several years ago on a road trip with the kids through the American South, particularly during our stay in the blues mecca of Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Thanks to a wrong turn by Navigator Mom one afternoon, we ended up in a pretty poor section of town. I don’t think my kids had ever come face-to-face with grinding poverty in their own country; it was an uncomfortable moment for all of us.

It’s nice and noteworthy when people go far away to other countries on various volunteer missions to help others, but after that day in Mississippi I usually think, “Are you sure that there aren’t people in desperate need right in your own hometown, your own county, your own state?”  Normally I would never advocate against travel, but in this case, check around locally first.

If you’re like most people, it’s hard to know where to start or what to do.

I feel that way too, but now that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a few of the great people at my local food bank in Austin, I think that’s where I’ll start. Even something as small as dropping off some food items and diapers makes me feel that I’m doing something concrete and useful.

We’re in a time of economic struggles right now, and people may be finding themselves a lot closer to the poverty line than they’d ever expected. Simple, basic hallmarks of security like a home, some food and clothes to wear are not something to take for granted, and a lot of people scramble every day to find one or all of them.

Let’s take time today to think about how we can help each other.