January is Poverty Awareness Month.

According to the Census Bureau, 43.1 million people in the United States live in poverty. Of these, about 19.5 million live in deep poverty, which means their household income is less than 50% of the poverty threshold.

Furthermore, 105 million people live close to being in poverty. Their household incomes are above the poverty threshold, but they experience various degrees of insecurity in acquiring food, housing, utilities, and other necessities.

Poverty is something that affects a lot of people. What can we do to help?

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development offers two suggestions that anyone can do at anytime. They are good starting points:

Choose your words wisely. Using derogatory terms and/or making generalizations about people who are living in poverty works against people who are trying to get back on their feet. Instead, talk with people who are struggling and listen to their stories.

Show respect. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. Be respectful of people’s occupation and considerate of all types of workers we encounter every day.

Here’s an example to consider: when we sit down to eat, it is likely that many people at the bottom of the economic ladder were involved in providing our food, from the fields to the store.

Let our words and behavior show the respect that is due to all persons. From this foundation, an open heart leads to an open hand – a hand of welcome, a hand to help someone up.