Love Your Neighbor: Where are They Struggling?

Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.?

Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.?

BY CHRIS KERRJuly 1, 2014

Did you know that in West Virginia’s McDowell County the life expectancy is 68.4 years (76 years is the nationwide average)?  Or that in Louisiana’s East Carroll Parish the unemployment rate is 15.7% (6.3% nationwide)?

These were a few of the facts I discovered while looking through a recently published map in the New York Times they titled, “Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.?”  I might give it a different name, maybe something like, “Where are my brothers and sisters struggling?” or “Thought things were challenging in your community?”  The map illustrates the vast differences between family incomes, education and access to medical care that exist throughout the United States.  The earlier mentioned 68.4 year life expectancy in McDowell County, West Virginia ranks them below a number of  our neighbors in Central America who are struggling with poverty like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.  In Jefferson County, Mississippi, the median household income is $20,281, well below the 2013 Federal Poverty Guidelines for a family of four ($23,550).

Our Neighbor

What is life like for our neighbor?

It only takes a few minutes of looking at the map to see that many families in our country our struggling with challenging realities.  While your own county may be prospering with high incomes, lots of education, and positive health indicators; this may not be true for those who live nearby.  What is the situation of those in adjacent counties and states?

It’s probably not surprising that Pope Francis has something to say about how we treat our neighbor:

Love your neighbor.  Be in solidarity with those who are struggling.  Francis’ words come straight from the Gospels, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27).  As we explore resources like this map, we grow in our sense of the realities confronting our “neighbors” across the U.S.  What hurdles are created to living life more fully when families are inhibited by unemployment and a lack of access to healthcare and education?  Where are people in difficulty?

Faith in Action

“Love is shown more in deeds than in words.” 
― St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius teaches us that our faith is one of “action.”  We must seek to act on our love of God and our brothers and sisters, while constantly experiencing, praying, and discerning next steps.  The realities that many face in our country illustrate the need to continue taking action through acts of service, works of mercy, and as advocates for justice.  How can we be people of solidarity with those struggling in our own communities, with those highlighted here, and with those far beyond our borders?


1 reply
  1. Derrick
    Derrick says:

    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to open our minds to the plight and experience of the US as a whole. Personally, this was something I appreciated reflecting on today!


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