Service of Being Blind to Poverty

May 14th, 2017

Categories: Authors, Poor, Poverty, Unaware



I consider myself observant, empathetic and sensitive but unintentionally I’ve been at fault when it comes to being blind to poverty. Here’s just one of many instances that still haunt me. I was planning a visit to a city for business before Yelp and Google existed and asked a couple what their favorite restaurant was as I wanted to invite them for dinner. They said diets prevented them from going out to eat which is why they didn’t have a favorite. I later learned that they didn’t go out because they were in dire financial straits.



I had a college roommate whose family was affluent. She stood on every picket line and joined any and all protests and I felt she had real compassion for the less fortunate. Yet she didn’t realize that the reason one of our dorm members didn’t eat on Sunday night when the dining room was closed was because she didn’t have the money for even a hotdog.

Ivanka Trump is only the latest wealthy high profile person to pontificate and share advice in a book “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success.” The subject is life/work balance. Apart from the reviews that trashed the book, I’m not rushing out to buy copies for friends who are stretched to the limit juggling jobs, kids and board positions who don’t work for their fathers and whose excellent salaries don’t reach the ankles of Ms. Trump’s income and the support it affords. In addition to paying for the best nanny care, should she want cooks and social secretaries to keep track of play dates and after school activities, all would be available at the snap of her smartphone. My friends and colleagues could teach Ms. Trump a thing or three. She would have done better interviewing them for her book.

FuneralSheryl Sandberg’s second book, “Option B,” is about dealing with loss. The Facebook COO’s husband died suddenly leaving her to raise young children alone. Her grief is poignant and her advice heartfelt and well meant, I’m sure, and writing about her pain was no doubt therapeutic. I saw a snippet of an interview with her on “60 Minutes.” Nevertheless as I heard her speak this jumped to mind: Can she fathom the circumstance of a poor widow with an hourly part-time job faced with losing her home, with no access to childcare and with insufficient resources to think past cobbling together something for the kids to eat tonight? Would a high powered technology executive’s thoughts resonate with those caught up in survival mode with little if any time to grieve, console the children or even think?

Have you been inadvertently poverty blind? Have you observed instances of such blindness?





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4 Responses to “Service of Being Blind to Poverty”

  1. hb Said:

    Yes. I have been both inadvertently and intentionally poverty blind. Likewise, I have also been with or around others suffering the same malady in varying forms and stages. I’d say it’s a curse worse than the “Let them eat cake!” syndrome because it reflects a cynical, “I want to look good, but I really don’t care” attitude whereas the other at least is honest about one’s disinterest in wellbeing of the poor.

    Poor mother earth is suffering from the accelerating depletion of its natural resources and the increasingly severe damage being done to its atmosphere by an ever expanding human population. As never before, it needs mankind and womankind to work compassionately together to figure out how to survive the looming crisis. If we do not help each other, we will, inevitably and painfully, soon self-destruct perhaps even taking all known life on the planet with us.

    This is no time for poverty or any other form of blindness.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    An acquaintance complained a few years ago that she’d been reduced to wearing a $250 summer handbag. Guess she doesn’t know about TJ Maxx. She could have done splendidly at the time for $50 or less sending the rest to a food bank.

    What about people who complain about overpopulation who are blind to the fact that they and theirs may have contributed?

    I agree that this is another instance in which we would do well to work together but in the current climate, apart from a miracle, I fear it won’t be soon.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    All one need do is to remember the recent GOP inspired government shut-down which added handsomely to existing hungry families, to realize that it’s PC to ignore poverty. The country, or possibly the Electoral College, went on to cement this policy last year.

    Ivanka isn’t to blame. it’s those who were gulled by Pappa. Poverty will be swept under the rug unless and until this unfortunate regime is dumped in ’18….and even then, there are no guarantees.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t blame anyone–Ivanka or Sheryl–for being wealthy. I merely point out that the complications in the life of a wealthy person are far different from those of a very poor one. A book based on the experience and advice of someone who may not remember what it was like to choose between eating and paying the rent or electric bill, if they ever lived in a household that had to make that choice, may not be that helpful to those in the general population. These women meant well, I’m sure.

    As for the regime being heart-numb, that they are for sure. I can’t imagine pulling out the rug from so many and celebrating as members of the house did after they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

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