America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful

A Story by Hannah Eloise

An essay on the essence of compassion in America.


The U.S. has always been esteemed as a prospect of a hopeful and successful future to people from all around the world. The patriotic song “America the Beautiful” portrays this country as a symbol of brotherhood, whose “ mercy more than life” (Bates). Now, taking a walk down the street does not offer quite the appeal that it did once upon a time. Over the years, the roads have proved not to be paved with gold, despite the international rumors. Likewise, the hearts of men have not promoted the idea of beauty. In the economical state that our country is in today, Americans should join hands and unite in pride for our homeland. Instead, life is stolen from the innocent, misplaced blame is bestowed upon all but the guilty, and arrogant judgment is thrust on the less fortunate. What happened to the true heroes of the red, white, and blue - acceptance and nobility?

Roughly 313 million people live in America today, and around 30 million live below the poverty line. For every ten less-fortunate, one is without a home. A misconception of society states that all homeless people can be grouped together into one large melting pot: lazy bums who choose to be without work in order to take advantage of charity. This, however, is false. At least half of the homeless population have a paying job, although minimum salary is often susceptible to be waged. Lack of work usually turns out to be the last domino before everything around a person collapses. For instance, little savings and missed paychecks can easily lead to a downfall after an unexpected crisis, such as a health emergency, occurs. If this happens, the person will be forced to take off at least a month from work, contributing to unpaid bills, car payments, and mortgages, chancing eviction.

An uneducated background affects a person’s ability to rise above the lower class level as well. A cycle of poverty offers little hope for the generations to come. An immense amount of financial, mental, emotional, and physical support would be necessary to prevent a person in this situation from throwing in the towel on living comfortably. Also, 25% of homeless single adults are either affected by or suffer from serious mental illness. Other factors that succeed in increasing the homeless rate in America are domestic violence, divorce/lack of child support, physical disabilities, and severe depression. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) counts lack of affordable housing a major contributor as well. “Estimates indicate that there are twice as many low-income families searching for homes as there are affordable units available ( Studies show that out of the handful of homeless families eligible for housing assistance, only a third actually receives it. When all of those seemingly irrelevant issues add up in a person’s life, more often than not, the end result is living on the streets.

You never know what life is really like for someone unless you’ve walked in their shoes, or in this case, lack thereof. If people would take time out of their day to fight the battle against the socioeconomic factors leading to ravaging homelessness, the world would brighten a little with each smile exchanged. Bring a bag or two of groceries to the older man asleep on the bench near the bus stop. Anonymously pay for the items of the struggling single mom, counting out pennies at the Walmart checkout line. As Jesus words it, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me” (New International Version Bible, John 12:8). It’s up to the people to take care of one another. Money and resources fad away, but in the end, we are all we have that will last. If everyone made a point to reach out to the brokenness around them, maybe the final verse of Katherine Lee Bates’s “America the Beautiful” will prove true. “O beautiful, for patriot dreams that see beyond the years. Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears! America, America! God shed His grace on thee. Till nobler men keep once again thy whiter jubilee!”

© 2012 Hannah Eloise

Author's Note

Hannah Eloise
Thank you for reading.
I wrote this after a five-day inner-city mission trip. Working with the homeless enlightened me on the brokenness of the people in my community.
Feedback is welcome with an open mind.

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Added on September 19, 2012
Last Updated on September 19, 2012
Tags: essay, America, USA, patriotism, homelessness, poverty, compassion, love, world


Hannah Eloise
Hannah Eloise

Heart pounding, I deeply inhale and exhale in an attempt to slow down the fierce adrenaline coursing through my veins. My stomach clenches in a knot as I, against my will, remove my hand covering the .. more..