Saturday, August 25, 2012

We Are All in This Together

We aren't living in the time of the French Revolution.  You know why I say that? Because we aren't divided into the wealthy nobility and the impoverished peasantry, although sometimes we might wonder - to hear people talk - if some people think it is "us" and "them".

Let me explain. Yes, we do have the very rich and the very poor. I fully acknowledge that. But we also have a whole rainbow spectrum of people in between those two points on the economic number line.

In part of that in-between spectrum, I know a few people who probably make as much as $200,000.  You might think the person making $200,000 is super wealthy...unless you look at their taxes and expenses. No, please, stay with me. Unless you are talking about a large corporation with huge loop-holes, the more someone makes, the greater percentage they pay to, not just the greater amount, the greater percentage, which means a greater-greater amount.  If someone has a business of their own, they also have to pay all kinds of expenses and overhead, and possibly pay employees and their benefits.

Or, if it's a high-paying job (rather than a business), employees often buy a house, lose a job, and in order to find another job, have to find another place to live in another state, but sometimes find themselves unable to sell the house in a bad market. Or maybe the company they work for transfers them to another state and they either have to take a loss on their house or commute to another state to work each week, going back home to the family each weekend. No, companies don't often pay for those expenses after the first few weeks.

Yes, it would be nice to make that kind of money...maybe. Maybe not.I haven't tried it but I've tried a variety of other places on the continuum.

People make all different salaries, including some of the people I met several years ago who worked at J.C. Penney as salesclerks in addition to their regular jobs.  Among them, I remember a teacher and an accountant, working two jobs because, for one reason or another, their families needed the money.  

And then there are those people for whom the salesclerk job I worked to supplement my family's income at the time - or some other, similar job - may be their only source of income. Some of them don't get enough hours. Some of them cannot live on the income they they seek aide, or roommates, or move back home with the folks...or some combination.  Some manage alone but it's always a struggle.

I've lived in various places on the economic spectrum. When we moved from California to Kentucky nearly 20 years ago, we were able to buy a five-bedroom house, on an acre and a half, with an in-ground swimming pool.  In California, we could not have afforded that. And I hoped that people, who might be tempted to be jealous, would realize that we had been forced to move and leave all of our extended family 2,000 miles away. Still, too, we had to cut corners and pinch pennies in other ways in order to maintain that home and make ends meet. And today we live in an apartment in a city even further from most of our relatives, and we had to leave our young adult children behind to come here for the work.

On another place in the spectrum, my last job when I was young and single brought me about $4,000 a year.  I just did a search and ran a calculation.  In today's dollars (in terms of food, shelter, etc.) that would probably be an annual income of about $13,400 (and yes, I had to pay taxes on that).  With that income, I never considered myself poor but thankfully I never needed medical care (I was without any benefits). First I lived with other people, and then I rented an inexpensive studio apartment that had formerly been a storage room. The walls looked like an unfinished basement, and I had a sink, stove and a mini-refrigerator, plus my own sparse furniture.  Although there were times when life was a tight stretch, making me feel relieved when pay day came so I could buy gas and food, I never actually went hungry. I even treated myself to a donut while I did my laundry...not every time, not every week, but now and then. I loved my job and I was happy.

If you're reading this on a computer, I'm guessing you are probably somewhere on this spectrum, somewhere in between those who might be homeless on the street and always hungry and those who make upwards of a million dollars a year.   

We're really all in this together.  It seems to me, and maybe this is just my perception of what I hear, but it seems that we need to stop either being jealous or angry of those who makes more money than we do or, conversely,  looking down on someone who makes less. I suppose sometimes, since most of us are somewhere in the middle, we may even be tempted to do both.

When we can, let's help those who need it, whether it's giving a homeless person some food or giving food to our local pantry, or whatever way we are able to do. If you are someone who needs help, I hope you seek it, whether it's from government, charitable organizations, or individuals. But at the same time, if a particular person won't help, don't assume they don't care. That person, as I know from personal experience, may already be helping with someone else's support, someone in addition to those living in their home...sometimes they are contributing on a regular basis to more than one relative or friend outside their home.  

Mostly, let's try to remember the respect that says "this person is valuable even if he or she isn't making much (or any) money right now, whether due to disability or the job market or for whatever the reason."  And let's remember the respect that says "it's okay that this other person is making more money than I do and doesn't seem to me to care about the poor. They may be helping someone in ways that I know nothing about, or they themselves may be struggling in ways I haven't even imagined." 

Most of all, let's all try to keep the love flowing among all of us, whatever our economic status at a given time, whether we are very rich, very poor, or somewhere within the myriad of economies in between those extremes; regardless of our religion, our political views, or our other differences and similarities.

We are all created and loved by the same good God.

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