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Getting that check started

I saw a group of pretty young girls last week. Just released from the confines of high school for the summer, they were sashaying down the street in short shorts and tank tops. They reminded me of my friend. My friend happens to be black. I happen to be white. It makes no difference, really. My friend has worked for us on and off. We have spent a lot of time together over the years. We like the same music. He appreciates classic rock. I appreciate classic soul. We did not attend high school together. Had we, neither our races nor our tastes in music would have sent us to separate proms. My friend is a talented plumber and painter. He could easily hold down a job with a firm in business doing either and be an asset to it. But, he doesn’t. The girls reminded me of my friend because of something he said when we saw a similar group in similar, alluring clothing years before. He said, not in a derogatory manner, that most of the girls in the group would soon be pregnant. When I asked why he answered, ‘They got to get that check started.’ Despite my friend’s likable personality and many talents, he often showed a deference for those on the dole. He would point out individuals and report ‘You know, he/she gets a check’ as if it were something to be proud of. It pains me to think that ‘getting a check’ is all that some in our society aspire to. But, it is true. They have grown up like my friend admiring those who get something for nothing. If getting that check started requires them to bear children out of wedlock or fake some sort of disability, they are willing to do it. And, unfortunately, society in its current state is all too happy to mail them that check for their lack of effort. Under the guise of helping such people, we are only hurting them. They are like seagulls around metropolitan coastal cities. These gulls no longer dive into the ocean for their meals. They prefer the easy pickings at the landfill. They tolerate the stench of rotting garbage for an easy meal rather than diving for fish that may or may not be there beneath the salt water. The garbage does not taste as good as the fish but it is always available and requires less effort. I hate to think of the lives of poverty that lie before the girls we saw if they decide to follow the route my friend predicted. Walter Williams, the superb syndicated columnist, opined recently on such poverty. Williams, who also happens to be black, wrote, ‘If you are a poor adult in America, for the most part, it’s all your fault. That’s true, at least today, whether you are black, white, brown or polka dot.’ Williams argues that poverty is not preordained. He notes that a married couple both working fulltime at jobs paying minimum wage would earn an annual income of $20,600 – well above the poverty rate of $12,000. Many disdain minimum wage jobs. Such work has become the fish to the landfill that is the check. Seemingly speaking directly to the girls my friend spoke of, Williams continues: ‘Having children is not an act of God. It’s not like you’re walking down the street and pregnancy strikes you; children are the result of a conscious decision. For the most part, female-headed households are the result of shortsighted, self-destructive behavior on the part of one or two individuals.’ It is the season of graduation ceremonies at all levels. Pomp and Circumstance rings in our ears. Today’s teens need do only three basic things to out swim the tidal pull of poverty. Finish high school. Get a job ‘“ any job. Avoid pregnancy until you are married and can afford to rear your children without assistance. Believe me, they’re expensive. Do these simple things and direct your life down the path of true independence. Aspire to greatness ‘“ not to getting that check started.

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