Over the past 16 years, I've been involved in hundreds of conver-sations with people who don't enjoy the benefit of many material resources. In other words, my friends don't have much money, have never had much money and most likely most will not have much money throughout their lives.
Pretty obvious, huh?
"Poor" people don't have money.
Money aside, poor folks share many things in common with people who do enjoy the benefits, privilege and power that money supplies.
Poor people like books, movies, art, music, performance and various expressions of culture.
Poor people aspire to decent housing that also provides the reasonable benefit of being affordable, as in using up only a fair proportion of their available finances. Poor folks appreciate nice things and this is especially true when it comes to housing stock. Many with whom I've talked across the years also appreciate perservation. They dream of and are excited when restoration of their properties takes place.
Poor people care about the education of their children. Like parents with material resources, most all of my lower income friends want to see their chiildren experience more and better than they have when it comes to formal education.
Poor people wonder and worry about their health and their health care options. They express real concerns for the health and well-being of their children.
Poor people desire good food and good food choices, even though most of the time they don't enjoy the option to choose the most beneficial dietary selections either due to proximity or economic factors.
Poor people face challenges when it comes to transportation. Just like the rest of us, they need to move from point A to point B on a regular basis. They appreciate reliable options. At times, most of the time, they don't enjoy such options. Public transportation in Dallas is a real resource, but it remains underdeveloped in many parts of the city. And, the stories I could tell you about poor folks and old, worn out, broke down cars!
Poor people appreciate nice clothes and various expressions of fashion. Again, they just can't afford to make the same choices as those of us with money.
Poor people would love to land better jobs, but many cannot due to a lack prerequisite training and education. Deficiencies like this can be traced back to the limitations imposed by the realities of poverty, not to mention the systemic injustices at work in our educational institutions and funding mechanisms supporting both the education process and potential students.
In short, I've learned that if poor folks are different from me, most of the differences relate to differences in opportunity and choice, usually connected to some sort of built in advantage or privilege.
Sure, I've made fairly good use of all of my advantages and privileges. But I forget the real benefits of my privilege to my own peril when it comes to understanding my friends and their families who must deal with poverty as a central part of their lives.
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Larry James' Urban Daily
A repository of ideas, resources, commentary and opinions concerning the issues facing low-income residents of the inner cities of the United States and how mainstream America largely forgets or, worse, ignores the day-to-day realities of urban life for the so-called "poor." Written and edited by the President & CEO of CitySquare. Please visit CitySquare.
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