'The Line' gives firsthand accounts of escalating poverty

Man reaches for a can at food pantry
"The Line" movie from Sojourners features vignettes, including the story of a banker who loses his job and must depend on a food pantry to feed his three children.

LAKELAND – Call it the bread line, the unemployment line or the poverty line. 

The bottom line is that however you distinguish the population of Americans living in comfort and security from those who scramble for daily survival, the dividing line is moving to show more and more people facing stress and misery.

Florida Conference staff members gathered at the Florida Methodist Center this week to view a movie,

“The Line,” produced by Sojourners that puts the spotlight on the growing numbers of impoverished people in the U.S.

Rev. Rick Bennett, interim director of outreach and justice ministries for the conference, said he hopes the film will inspire church members to actively advocate in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., to shift public policy in favor of the disadvantaged.

“The poor usually have really bad lobbyists,” Bennett told about two dozen who watched the film Wednesday.

“It’s primarily for churches to learn how they might want to respond.”

The U.S. Census Bureau reports a whopping 46 million Americans in poverty. Through first-person accounts, “The Line” follows the stories of four Americans plunged into poverty through unemployment, disability, lack of job training, or environmental disaster. A pastor of an inner-city church also discusses in his role in addressing the problem.

Among the storytellers is “John,” a former banker in Illinois making a six-figure salary who lost his job to downsizing and his wife to divorce. He was left to support three children. He tells how he just sat in his car, unable to bring himself to step inside the food pantry the first time he visited. For shelter, he was renting homes in foreclosure at a reduced rate.

Bennett said the film helps bring the plight of the newly impoverished home to people who are not living on the edge.

“Statistics are great,” he said. “But it’s really hard to ignore a neighbor or a real human being that’s in a situation we have not found ourselves in.”

The film, a discussion guide and a hosting toolkit are available from Sojourners at www.thelinemovie.com.

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