So in an alternate reality, how would the ideal version of “Poverty Thoughts” have shed an empathetic light on the plight of impoverished Americans? I posed this question to one of America’s most renowned poverty experts, Kathryn Edin, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. “She should have written, ‘My life is a disaster and I’m only below the median — how can we even imagine truly poor people making it?’ “ Edin says. “Or, ‘I have a relatively privileged background and education, and yet my decision-making skills have been impaired by the stress of my situation — how on earth are the poor getting by?’ “
Such scruples and perspective perhaps aren’t the stuff of a viral blockbuster or brimming GoFundMe coffers. But they are an admission that a person can absorb the terrible, traumatic impact of what feels like hitting bottom, only to look closer and see how far down the bottom really goes.