The Working Poor and the Privileged Parent

The Working Poor and the Privileged Parent February 3, 2015

Creative Commons Art
Creative Commons Art

I just heard that another parent in the privileged enclave known as Highland Park, a small, rich area in Dallas, TX, has objected to one of her little innocents reading David Shipler’s excellent book, The Working Poor.

According to the KERA report, the mother in question said, “the book was Marxist and socialist. ‘It’s almost as if they want the children to apologize if they aren’t the working poor, or if they have capitalist ideals.'”

Good heavens! Expose one’s children to alternative cultures and ways of thinking? Such educational travesty–those little hothouse plants might actually learn to think for themselves.

I’ve read the book–it is excellent, powerful and disturbing. Shipler describes the life of the financially frail and vulnerable, the ones who work and work hard but cannot get ahead. The slightest bump can derail them because there is simply no slack in their lives.

It’s a near-desperate, often degrading, and fear-filled way to live. The very ones who need to know about this are the privileged who may take roles in public service and can give voice to the voiceless.

But no. . . let’s protect those little tender psyches from knowing that much of the world suffers daily deprivation in ways that are inconceivable to those who have known only abundant provision from before conception often to the ends of their pampered and buffed shiny lives.

Many wealthy people live in awareness of these words of Jesus, “To whom much is given, much is required.” All those who live in some comfort should, in the name of the common good, expose and teach their offspring of their privilege and the commensurate responsibility that accompanies it.

Money is not the problem and never has been. The problem is the worship of money and the intentional setting of high barriers that make compassion and public service impossible.

Children and youth born to wealth and comfort need to know that poverty may be found just a couple of miles from them–and likely is the daily companion to many who make their lives so easy–their nannies, housekeepers, and gardeners, to name a few. The ones who pick their oh-so-carefully-shopped-for organic vegetables, who make their designer-labeled clothes, who make sure the toilets in the high-end establishments they frequent are clean and pleasant often live so close the precarious financial edge that they are one step away from a deadly fall.

So, as I end this rant, I do so with the plea that we who are more comfortable must not forget that we carry deep obligations live with the blessing of wise generosity to the world around us. Closing our eyes to the tragedies on our doorsteps will not make them go away.

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