Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

December 7, 2013

The meaning of poverty

(Continued)

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.

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