I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how easy my life is. (This isn’t to say I won’t complain about how challenging things are and how busy we all are and how many balls I’m dropping all the time.) We’re a two-car family which means we have a lot of flexibility in our lives. We are financially able to purchase the things we need when we need them. We have good health care so we’ve been able to see specialists when needed and get prescriptions. We have steady jobs with paid leave. We take a lot of these things for granted. All of them probably. But so many people don’t have these luxuries.
Someone on twitter today shared this Atlantic article. It’s a few years old, but no less true now than it was when it was written. Please take a few moments and read it. If you don’t yet understand the realities of living in poverty (and I am sure I don’t fully understand them) this will help give you at least a small window.
Barbara Ehrenreich writes about taking different entry-level jobs that are available to women (hotel housekeeper, waitress).
What I discovered is that in many ways, these jobs are a trap: They pay so little that you cannot accumulate even a couple of hundred dollars to help you make the transition to a better-paying job. They often give you no control over your work schedule, making it impossible to arrange for child care or take a second job. And in many of these jobs, even young women soon begin to experience the physical deterioration—especially knee and back problems—that can bring a painful end to their work life.
She goes on to detail some of the challenges faced by people living in poverty. Problems that are little bumps in the road to those of us in the middle class are often huge obstacles for people in poverty. Recognizing this is one small step toward making a more equitable society.
It’s time to revive the notion of a collective national responsibility to the poorest among us, who are disproportionately women and especially women of color. Until that happens, we need to wake up to the fact that the underpaid women who clean our homes and offices, prepare and serve our meals, and care for our elderly—earning wages that do not provide enough to live on—are the true philanthropists of our society.