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The American Dream: Eating a Stranger's Leftover Hamburger

Updated on February 5, 2014
Diagram of a typical person's American Dream.
Diagram of a typical person's American Dream.

The American Dream was once home ownership and a nice, stable middle class job where enough income was brought in to comfortably support a family of four or more. This is how Americans became known for excessive living habits. Big sport utility vehicles and expensive mansions are an ideal part of that American Dream. Consequently, the Earth's natural resources are quickly being depleted and a majority of the world lives in poverty. Now, there is a global recession and the question of asking a stranger if you can finish their meal is posed by more and more American families and the American Dream, for some, has shifted to simply wanting enough food to feed their family.

A few decades ago a high school diploma was sufficient to obtain a decent job with enough money left over to make monthly mortgage payments; however, today even a master's degree is more desirable by employers than a bachelor's degree, and even with a higher education there is no guarantee that a lay off is not far ahead. In the last ten years we have seen huge companies tumble into oblivion, money investors take every penny from their clients for their own personal use, and everyone from CEOs to engineers and janitors can quickly become unemployed. The recession has also hit personal finances and even investing in realty and property is extremely risky now with the housing market collapse. For the American family, this leaves little or no sense of job security and, for many, the dream of owning a home disappeared with the latest round of foreclosures.

American families have to live with less and less and budgets get tighter and tighter. Your child's wish to see Disney World may have to wait because of how tight your budget is. The tourism industry saw sharp declines a couple of years ago and has just begun to recover. Savings accounts and investments may be tapped into to help pay for the monthly bills and saving every penny is crucial to get from pay check to pay check. Dance classes and eating out have to be decreased or eliminated all together. The question of survival, rather than living, has become a reality for many American families.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15.1% of Americans were living in poverty in 2010. This means 46.2 million Americans were living in poverty, the highest since the Bureau started tracking poverty rates in 1959. In addition, 22% of American children were living in poverty. Since these statistics are relatively new, we can assume that poverty is still present in our 2012 society when we, as a nation and a globally, are still trying to overcome the biggest recession since the 1970s. However, when you really think about statistics, they are more than just numbers. They could be a child in your son or daughter's class, a child you see at the park or on the street, a person you work with or see at your favorite coffee shop every now and again. These people matter because they are not just a number. These people have wishes and dreams that most likely resemble yours. On the path of life we are given choices and not every one makes the right one but in America we are at least given an equal opportunity to obtain our American Dream and it is not sitting in a restaurant waiting for someone else to finish their meal so you can eat the rest. Yet, with the recession in place, people will continue to look for employment and children will go hungry. So, next time you see someone struggling or asking for help, please do not be afraid to lend a hand. That person may have a family to whom they must provide food and shelter.

If only we had a "New Economy" button to press to make all of our budget problems disappear.
If only we had a "New Economy" button to press to make all of our budget problems disappear.

© 2012 morningstar18


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    • morningstar18 profile image

      morningstar18 5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      Thank you for commenting. I apprecite your feed back and I could not agree with you more. It is times like these when sharing even a little bit can go a long way.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thank you for this important and well-written essay. Times have changed and people are suffering and in distress and we need to be reminded of that and willing to lend a hand wherever we can. SHARING