To the Editor:

I read with interest the article on experiencing poverty put on by the Norman Justice Alliance at McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church. The article stated that the purpose was for participants to spend a night experiencing what it feels like to be in poverty.

I want to ask the Norman Justice Alliance to put on a program that looks at the reasons people are in poverty in the first place. Not everyone who grows up poor has to be poor. Statistically, if you don't have children until you are married, finish high school and stay married, you only have a 2.5 percent chance of having an annual income below the poverty level.

Why don't we ever see a study of the life choices it took to get people in situations where they earn less than the poverty level? I got the imppression from the article in the newspaper that poverty was something like cancer. You might try to not get it but in spite of everything you do, you might still catch it. While income levels change in people's lives, there is no indication that poverty is some random event that will strike you down, no matter what you do.

I see a group of teenagers gather behind a fast food store on Main Street every day after school. They gather there and smoke cigarettes that someone has obtained. They dress in a very unusual manner and I know that some of the stuff they wear is expensive.

They appear to be without any direction in their lives and not be connected with any school activities. Wouldn't there be some interest in tracking what kids did in school, what level of courses they took and what activities they participated in while in school?

I am 64 years old. Many of my generation grew up below the poverty level. We knew that it was our choice to either do something to raise our income or we would stay at that level. It was our responsibility to do what we needed to do to get out of that situation. Many of us had up and downs in our earnings, but it was always our responsibility to restore our earnings and to save for that time when things got bad.

It seems to me that since 1970, what was a personal responsibility has become society's responsibility. And no matter what society does, it can't replace personal responsibility.

TED H. SMITH

Norman

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