Blogger Liza Purdy

Confronting Reality: Wade in the Water

Have you ever taken a personality test? The Enneagram, or Myers-Briggs or even what house you would be in if you were a wizard? I take them all, and every single time, I am embarrassed by my category. I’m a Seven, an ENFP, a Hufflepuff for heaven’s sake. I avoid pain pathologically. If it hurts, I’ll feel it, but only for a minute. Then I have play some music or read something beautiful or pet my dogs or do something that restores my hopeful stance.

I have been made very aware lately that I can’t gloss over the pain and get to a happy place without repercussions. We can only reach a place of wholeness and goodness if we acknowledge, name, and confront the pain that faces us. I know this is hardly new. But I guess I’m just finally getting it? Sometimes we have to sit in the bad stuff. 

One of my all time favorite music groups in the entire world, Sweet Honey in the Rock, has a terrific live album that they put out sometime in 1987. They sing a sublime version of Wade in the Water. At the beginning of the song, my hero, Bernice Johnson-Reagon says “And when there is the promise of a storm, if you want change in your life, walk in to it. If you get on the other side, you will be different. And if you want change in your life, and you’re avoiding the trouble, you can forget it. So Harriet would say ‘Wade on in the water. It’s going to really be troubled water.’”

I’m taking a look at the pain in my personal life. I’m also trying to look at the pain in my profession. We have had a lot of pain over the last year, and I’ve written a lot about that on this blog. But I feel like we need to take a good hard look at the trouble that is happening in the lives of the children and families that we serve. Let’s let these statistics sink in.


According to the Children’s Defense Fund, “child poverty is related to both age and race/ethnicity. The youngest children are the poorest and nearly 73 percent of poor children in America are children of color.

  • More than 1 in 6 children under 6 were poor and almost half of them lived in extreme poverty.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 Black (30.1 percent) and American Indian/Alaska Native children (29.1 percent) and nearly 1 in 4 Hispanic children (23.7 percent) were poor compared with 1 in 11 white children (8.9 percent).”


A recent report from the World Bank states that “COVID-related school closures risk pushing an additional 72 million primary school aged children into learning poverty—meaning that they are unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10.”

Racial Inequality:

 “By 2016, black families had just one cent, and Hispanic families had eight cents, for every dollar of wealth held by white families, according to a new study by Northwestern University.”

Literacy Rates:

Forbes magazine reports that “according to the U.S. Department of Education, 54% of U.S. adults 16-74 years old – about 130 million people – lack proficiency in literacy, reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level.” 

Child Abuse:

A pre-pandemic 2020 report from the Administration for Children & Families states that:

  • New federal child abuse and neglect data shows an increase in the number of victims who suffered maltreatment for the first time since 2015.
  • Of the 3,534,000 million children who were the subject of an investigation or alternative response in fiscal year 2018, 678,000 children were determined to be victims of maltreatment
  • 60.8 percent of victims were neglected, 10.7 percent were physically abused and 7.0 percent were sexually abused.

The statistics are not going to look any rosier after we’re accurately able to tabulate the impact of the pandemic. This is reality. We have a lot of work to do. 

One comment

  1. Leslie M - Centerville Library, Utah

    Thank you, Liza. I have a new favorite song now. I also appreciate your careful research and concern for the most vulnerable in our society. I firmly believe libraries are a part of solving these problems.

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