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As a nation, we have now spent more than $22 trillion to combat poverty. Best estimates of the number of people in poverty today include at least 10 million more people in poverty, then 1964. We’ve gone from about 36 million people in poverty in 1964 to more than 46 million people in poverty today. Poverty among Americans between ages 18–64 has fallen only marginally since 1966, from 10.5% then to 10.1% today.

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Many years ago, I walked into our Dayroom for men. About 30 homeless men were seated, having conversations as they waited for job interviews, counseling appointments and various services. As I was walking through the room, Terrence, a homeless man of approximately 30 years old asked me:

“Barry, what do you hope we learn while we are here?”

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Before Tom got sick, he and Jennifer had been my personal friends for several years. He was a successful production supervisor at his work and she was a mother at home nurturing and equipping their three daughters and two sons for a successful life ahead of them. They were a good family, living in a modest home, and both serving at their small church. Tom loved serving as the youth Sunday School teacher and Jennifer was the coordinator of the children’s programs. They would regularly bring their family and youth group to the Mission to serve meals to the hungry.

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Yes, 50,000 is a really big number regardless of what you are counting … 50,000 dollars, 50,000 pennies, 50,000 steps, 50,000 cupcakes, or 50,000 light years. These all represent a large amount of something. When we equate it with people though, we might think of a huge sports stadium, a music concert, a town or a city.

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When my wife and I were first married, we lived directly across from Randolph Elementary School, and often saw kids walking to school. One Monday morning, as I walked out the front door of my home to head to work at Topeka Rescue Mission Ministries, I saw a little boy in tears sitting next to his bicycle on our driveway. This little boy was probably 7 or 8 years old at the oldest. I was in a hurry, had a full day of projects and meetings ahead of me and leaving just a bit later than I had intended.

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