Friday, November 25, 2011

Yes! We can end poverty.

There's always going to be bad stuff out there. But here's the amazing thing -- light trumps darkness, every time. You stick a candle into the dark, but you can't stick the dark into the light.  Jodi Picoult
We lit a lot of candles yesterday at the YWCA and Action to End Poverty conference -- Dream no Little Dreams.

We lit up a lot of darkness.

I asked the question yesterday. I asked it of the small group I was part of, and it was asked of the large group when our 'spokesperson' reported back to the large group.

"What am I doing to contribute to someone else's poverty?"

To highlight my question, I shared my belief it was important for me to tip servers more than I would have in the past. "I give a minimum of 20%, especially if it's a restaurant where alcohol is served."

"But you're letting the government off the hook," said one of our group. "They made the decision to make minimum wage for servers less than for others. Why should you pay for it?"

"Because it's 'my bad'." I replied. "When the government brought in legislation that increased minimum wage to $9.40 for all employees except those who serve liquor, where they set the minimum wage at $9.05, I did not speak up. I did not write, phone, email my government representative. I did nothing. I figure I need to pay for my mistake -- and I need to speak up! Now."

And there's a bigger question attached.

Why do we have a minimum wage of $9.40 ($9.05 if you serve alcohol) when the 'living wage' in our city is...

$12.50.

Seriously?  Why do we have a legislated minimum wage that keeps people in poverty?  And why am I doing nothing about it?

Heck, even at $12.50 you can't really afford to live in this city. And dreams of owning your own home? Taking a vacation? Buy your children Christmas gifts?  I don't think so.

We contribute to other people's poverty everyday. From not tipping, to paying the handyman below living wage, to supporting company's that do not pay a living wage, we are contributors to other people's poverty.

It was a great day yesterday at the conference. Lots of inspiring people, great information and a sense of purpose. As one of the speakers said, we can 'abolish' poverty.  "Imagine," he said. "If when the abolitionists took action they had said, 'we're going to start with the goal to  decrease slavery by 25%'."

Yup.

Imagine.

It was a day of dreaming big dreams. Of casting ideas and creating a net to catch them and carrying them out of the seas of possibility into the clarity of a dream that says, YES! we can end poverty. We must. We will.

Namaste.

5 comments:

Maureen said...

Some cities in the U.S. mandate a "living wage" above "minimum wage". I put both in quotes because neither is enough to live on, which I define as being able to meet the basics of food, shelter, clothing, and especially health care. What many people do not realize is how extraordinarily few minimum wage jobs offer health care, forget any other kind of benefit. I've been at the end where no benefits mean no health care and have had to seek public assistance. Yes, I was young then; but I was also sick. The only thing that's really changed since then is the cost of everything has gone up. I worry about my son constantly. He graduated when the economy had already gone south; he considers himself fortunate to have a job in the service industry, as do I; but his job offers no benefits. Thankfully, the Obama administration made it possible for him and others up to age 25 to be put on parents' plans. That will change if Obama loses the election. People need to wake up to the facts. We're all contributing to poverty and, by extension, all the awful consequences of it. We all lose when we fail to speak out, fail to vote, think it's only the 1%.

Anonymous said...

my dear Elgie,

you can end poverty?

noble goal, but without a plan and measurement tool - to say nothing of resources - how?

if we want to end something, lets start with apathy!

seriously, we can't eliminate starvation, but we can find ways to feed people

we cannot end poverty (some might say the struggle out of poverty has motivated many to greatness) but we can help some of thos who are sick, starving and homeless . . . something you know a great deal about

as we see a 'new world' of activism (ie: the Arab spring) driven by technology, maybe there are social media tools to get the message on poverty to a new generation in a new way - perhaps bring action to bear on a problem ... locally .. and then scale it up ... to everywhere

if these new tools can bring 100,000 people to a town square, or hundreds to a food-truck location . . . maybe they can be used to bring food to an empty fridge, help to those who need it (like an old-fashioned barn raising) and many hands to help someone who needs it


your passion is laudable

what is your plan?

can it be measured?

will it accomplish your goal?

if not, then it becomes a quetion of which needs tweaking (or tweeting), the plan, or the goal?

Cheers,

Mark

sharmishtha said...

very true if we all try we can eradicate this disease.

Fi said...

Am I seeing a hint of your future direction in these posts or just your normal passion?

My word verification today is 'turds' - sorry had to mention that because it kinda fits my mood and at least made me smile

Joyce Wycoff said...

Just catching up with your posts ... which are inspirational as always. Perhaps we can't end poverty. Perhaps "the poor will always be with us." That does not give us an excuse not to try or to turn our back on the fact that we have participated in the creation of a system that allows companies to financially abuse their employees. And, we have participated in this ... with almost every purchase we make ... from celery to eggnog, from throw away shoes to flat screen TVs. The stuff we eat, drink and surround ourselves with comes to us on the back of the working poor, here and abroad.