By John Berry, CEO, St. Vincent de Paul Georgia
Last week Mero Atlanta was shaken by the fire and collapse of a significant portion of Interstate 85. Thankfully no one was hurt or injured; but the routines of thousands of people across the region have been turned upside down. How one gets from one part of the city to another moves from being a routine exercise in stop-and-go traffic to a complex and challenging puzzle. Going from home to work no longer involves a well-known ride on well-known roads.
There are some people for which this kind of routine in getting from one place to another is a regular challenge. And while most of us whose routines are complicated by this temporary disruption of our daily lives know that it will probably just be months until things are back to ‘normal’, there are some people who know that their challenge will last for a long time. They have no idea, in many cases, if and when their challenges will end.
Although we are inconvenienced in getting from point A to point B, we can still put the kids in the car seats and put the groceries in the trunk and get there. But there are some of our neighbors who face a daily puzzle of getting from point A to point B while trying to keep control of small kids and carry multiple grocery bags home from the supermarket that might be two or three buses routes and a few blocks walk away. Maybe in the rain, or the snow, or the intense summer heat.
The working poor, the disabled, those living in areas with no access to public transportation, and those living in food deserts are just some of the people who daily have to face the challenge of getting from point A to point B without the benefit of normal road and car commutes.
Imagine for a minute living in a neighborhood where there is no grocery store; no healthy, fresh, reasonably priced food to feed your family. Imagine then having two kids under five in your household. And now imagine that to shop for your family, with no car, you need to walk three blocks to the bus stop (with those kids in tow), take one bus, switch buses, and then walk two blocks to the grocery store. Shop and then do it all again in reverse to get home – with four bags of groceries. Not so much fun is it?
Take this little mind exercise and expand it and change the parameters as you choose. No bus, more kids, in a wheelchair; take your pick. The reality is that what you might imagine in fact exists for a lot of people in Georgia and across this world.
The fragile nature of our daily routines which cause us so much consternation when they are disrupted are in fact often the daily realities of life in poverty, dependence, and need. Let’s put as much energy, urgency, and money into fixing those lives as we do fixing broken roads.