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Deliberate Plunge Into Poverty–And Out

Those who with any regularity read my columns know of my disdain for the actions of able-bodied persons who refuse to work, or who are quick to whine about there being no jobs available, or who live with the mantra; “The pay is so little at any job I can find, I am better off living through government programs.” Equally–no to a greater extent–do I admire those who despite challenges of every description–from ill-health, little privilege, severe disabilities, poor job market, inferior education, and racial prejudice–despite these hindrances, they scratch and claw their way into a job which supports them and their families, and that spins them on an upward trajectory.

From the Christian Science Monitor and picked up by ABC News is a splendid story by Adam Shepard who, as an experiment, left the “good life,” and took to the wrong side of the tracks. In this fascinating article, he chronicles his ascent from poverty into success. I’ve printed some of the writing here with a link to the entire article.

Alone on a dark gritty street, Adam Shepard searched for a homeless shelter. He had a gym bag, $25, and little else. A former college athlete with a bachelor’s degree, Mr. Shepard had left a comfortable life with supportive parents in Raleigh, N.C. Now he was an outsider on the wrong side of the tracks in Charleston, S.C.



But Shepard’s descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents’ home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year.To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts or mention his education.During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company.Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.The effort, he says, was inspired after reading “Nickel and Dimed,” in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty.

He tells his story in “Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream.” The book, he says, is a testament to what ordinary Americans can achieve. On a recent trip to the Boston, he spoke about his experience.

The entire interview is here:

I’m interested in hearing your opinions on this subject. Should every healthy person in America be able to climb out of poverty? Or, are there families who have lived so long with a “welfare mentality” that it is virtually impossible for them to think differently, and thus they are all but unable to pull themselves upward?


My devotional blog is here.

By Shirley Buxton

Still full of life and ready to be on the move, Shirley at 83 years old feels blessed to have lots of energy and to be full of optimism. She was married to Jerry for 63 years, and grieves yet at his death in August of 2019. They have 4 children, 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren...all beautiful and highly intelligent--of course. :)

2 replies on “Deliberate Plunge Into Poverty–And Out”

Sis. Buxton:

Here is a true story from a very popular radio person in our area. Last year they were needing some help with a project around their home. The saw a man with the age old sign, “Will work for food.” They stopped and tried to engage this person to do some work for them, even at $25.00 per/hour the person declined, “just some money please.” The radio person, somewhat distraught, made several other stops where this type of person stood. They did not get anyone to help them.

I do believe that those who are will to perform an honest days work in exchange for an honest days pay. Can achieve the American dream!!

Should you like to read more about the, “Welfare mentality,” May is suggest a columnist and educator by the name of Walter Williams. Just type his name and you will find his columns.


Good morning, Mervi. I want to be sure I’m understanding you. Are you saying a person who held a “work sign” refused to work for $25.00 an hour? Several people refused at that price? Shameful.

Having said that, I know there are areas and certain times where jobs are scarce, but there are so many people who just do not want to work.

Many years ago while we lived in San Diego, and before Jerry pastored his first church, he needed a job…….and could not find one. Everywhere he went they said he was overqualified, etc. Finally, both Jerry and I took temporary jobs delivering telephone books. It was hard. We walked up and down the hills of San Diego, and at night, literally, I could hardly straighten up. Jerry also for a time cleaned telephone booths, at so much a booth. Here he was a preacher, a college educated teacher, and because of a recession, in San Diego could not find a good job. BUT HE WORKED…menial? Yes. Low paying? Yes. Did we struggle? Yes. Did we climb out of that pit? Yes.

I just have little patience with people who will not work, while at the same time, knowing there are difficult places and seasons of our lives. But if we want to work…..maybe we won’t have a job today…….or tomorrow……..but soon, we will have something.

Thanks for your response.


Right now it is extremely hard to find a job with the way that the economy is. The reason why I know this is because I been out of work for quite a while. And every job application I’ve filled out recently had told me their not hiring.

Angela, I’m sorry about your difficulty at this moment. I suspect, though, that this is a temporary situation with you, and that you are one who routinely works and contributes to society. Tell us more. Have you been out of work a long time?


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