“Poor” is not a four-letter word

One of our main SPACIOUS tenets is that we are FOR things and not AGAINST things. And because of that I almost refrained from posting this op-ed piece from CNN because it got retitled from the title I’ve given this post, above, to a politically motivated title as the day wore on today. And we’re not ever going to be about espousing candidates or parties, nor certainly about criticizing them either. There’s too much that we can all agree on to get into all that.

The author, LZ Granderson, doesn’t speak for me in every word any more than I could do that for him (we don’t know each other anyway). But he does speak for me in the general sentiment and many points expressed in his opinion piece: that there is no shame in being poor, that the poor have made many contributions to our country, that they are not all the same, and that we would do well to empathize and not make assumptions..

I love author and activist Shane Claiborne’s oft-quoted comment that goes something like this: “We all talk about how we care about the poor… but what are the names of the poor we care about?” Boy, has that one statement impacted my life. 

And Granderson’s article encourages us to connect to people, if only with eye contact, instead of to think of the generic poor (of whom there are, by the way, 46 million in this country).

I’m heartily recommending this article, and I’d love to have some conversations with people (in fact, I will) about your views on this piece. We may not disagree on it, but we’ll be richer for having the exchanges.



(I’ve taken the image here from Granderson’s twitter feed; he can be found @Locs_n_Laughs)

5 thoughts on ““Poor” is not a four-letter word

  1. Love what your doing Cary! And Joey too!
    The poor… wow big subject! I think LZ was right to refute Newt’s assumptions but at the same time. Newt is a guy who at least names specific plans and doesn’t just say he wants generic programs that ‘help the poor’. So I give him some points for at least getting specific. And when anyone does that, there will always be issues with the details as LZ points out. I think that kids who live in multi-generational welfare homes do need something to intercept the ongoing cycle. I don’t know what that is. The kids like LZ, have done what their parents had hoped and prayed they would do.. grow up to choose the right path and be gainfully employed to the extent they can be self-supporting.
    The poor is an elusive term. It all depends on what you are referring to.
    I lived with refugees in Africa- I know their names (Agnes, Mwanga, Dorika to name a few) They all lived in the dirt, with a small fire as their kitchen. So when I see the ‘poor’ in American complaining about not having cable TV and their own car, I have a hard time feeling very sympathetic.
    At the same time, lives are very complicated and the needs not one dimensional, so how does one ‘help’?

  2. “One relationship at a time” is where I tend to start.

  3. Thanks for commenting, Mary Ann 🙂

    Tangible relationships are absolutely the way to go. I’m all about ACTION and DOING SOMETHING with my thoughts, ideas, words…

    Along those lines, check out a new initiative started by friend Anjali to improve poverty education in schools: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOTQtmspYsA. Her work is the next step in a much needed paradigm shift.


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