Poor people move in quiet ways that spotlights need, edgy hopelessness and resignation.
I've noticed it again and again. The struggle to overcome the moment robs folks of voice, agency and hope. Poverty poses an existential threat to those forced to battle it.
Few choices emerge beyond daily struggle. The struggle can seem crushing, sapping energy as well as voice from life after life.
But poor folks walk on with rare exceptions in the quiet. Loud voices represent a minority report. Those determined to overcome, to persevere, save their energy by retreating into almost silent places. The few boisterous voices signal at least the edges of mental illness and its extreme despair.
Our large courtyard at the Opportunity Center serves as a laboratory for the study of quiet. People sit and rest. Or, they walk about without a sound. Poverty produces voiceless life.
Yet, I've noted many times that when a person feels respected, the desire for conversation returns. Usually the words are found to tell a personal story, as if even the appearance of appreciation unlocks a room for evaluating options and life once more.
Still, the volume tends toward the lower settings, but voice can be rediscovered if others seek to hear and to learn out of basic respect for a fellow traveler.
The silence can lead to deeper depression, unless someone comes seeking to hear the voices of others, extremely important voices.
When respect interrupts the silence, hope returns.
How do we take conversation to scale?
Building spaces for cultivating respect inevitably leads to breaking the hard silence.