Stumbled across this piece in The Washington Post. It’s a thoughtful essay about how we look at the poor, written by someone new to being poor.
Darlena Cunha writes:
I grew up in a white, affluent suburb, where failure seemed harder than success.
But life happened to her, her husband and their infant twins and Cunha found herself driving to the food stamps office in her husband’s Mercedes. It’s judgement time.
But it wasn’t a toy — it was paid off. My husband bought that car in full long before we met. Were we supposed to trade it in for a crappier car we’d have to make payments on? Only to have that less reliable car break down on us?
The most embarrassing part was how I felt about myself. How I had so internalized the message of what poor people should or should not have that I felt ashamed to be there, with that car, getting food. As if I were not allowed the food because of the car. As if I were a bad person.
You never know what someone’s going through. You don’t. So instead of going to the judge-y place, engage in a creative thinking exercise: Under what circumstances does “whatever behavior that’s really none of your damn business but that you’re about to condemn someone else for doing” make sense?
People – all people – behave in what they believe to be their best interests at the time. It is the mature and empathetic thing to consider other possibilities to explain the scenario that befuddles you.
Or you could mind your own business.
For some interesting details about food stamps – who uses them, are they mostly buying junk food, etc., check out these infographics from The Christian Science Monitor.