Campbell column: Sharing their stories of poverty

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Iíve never sat across the table from a stranger and shared intimate details of my life.
But four women did just that within minutes of meeting me.
During the weeks I spent working on a poverty series for the Post, I listened as Candice Daughtery, Tamara Buchanan, Belinda Rojo and Yachannah Galloway told me their stories.
Daughtery cried as she thought back to the hopelessness she felt when her family ended up living in the shelter at Rowan Helping Ministries.
She was afraid she was failing her two sons, Roger and Cameron.
Buchanan is used to being a single mother, but she found a family and faith when she moved in with her neighbor.
The tears started flowing before any words even left Rojoís mouth. It was painful to think back to the times she spent crying in the bathroom in elementary and middle school because the other students were making fun of her thrift-store clothing.
Galloway shared what it was like living in abandoned warehouses, infested with rats.
These women could have easily turned me away when I asked to interview them about what itís like to be poor. Instead, they invited me to their homes and workplaces.
I ended up doing less interviewing and more listening than Iíve ever done before. I didnít have to ask a lot of questions. They opened up to me without hesitation.
The most striking thing about the interviews was their honesty.
They could have left out details, but they didnít want to hide anything.
It was pretty brave of them to trust me with their stories, considering we met as total strangers.
But I guess when you think about the things theyíve been through, talking to a reporter was probably easy.
About a week after our interview, Daughtery told me she was nervous. She was rethinking what she said. Going over it in her head.
She started wondering what people would think and say. She was fearful of how they would react.
But then it occurred to her that maybe there was a reason she was supposed to tell her story.
I could have easily just reported the statistics and left these women alone, but would the numbers have mattered without a face?
Sure, when you read that more than 21 percent of Rowan County residents live in poverty, an increase from 11.4 percent in 2007, it seems jarring. And it is.
But most people are only going to remember those figures for a couple of days. I hope theyíll remember the stories far longer, I know I will.
Iím so glad these women had the courage to tell what itís like to shop exclusively at thrift stores, to wonder where your next meal will come from, to sleep in a homeless shelter, to go without birthday and Christmas presents.
When weíre in our warm houses with cabinets stocked full of food, itís easy to forget about these people.
Letís do our best to remember.
Sarah Campbell covers education for the Salisbury Post.
Contact her at 704-797-7683.