The Thoughts that Linger

1. Hesitations:  Throughout the week, but especially in the beginning, I found myself hesitating and giving thought to a number of actions that previously would not have warranted either.  For example, I would have simply discarded the butt end of the carrot (it is really tough), the core of the apple, and the last drink of unwanted water.  The apple core and carrot would have found themselves in the compost bin.  That last bit of water would have found itself in the nearest plant.  Instead, I considered my alternatives.  They were all consumed.  Another hesitation occurred during the Monday lunch I had at home with my son.  I cut my first apple in half – saving the other half for tomorrow.  Dillon pointed at the apple, his way of requesting a bite.  I gave him a slice; but, I hesitated.  He pointed again.  I hesitated even longer and gave him another slice.     

2. The Emotional Discomfort of Poverty: The emotions that attended my participation in this project were so sharp at that check-out lane in Kroger’s; yet, those emotions were never felt again.  The remaining stages of the project were conducted within the confines of my community – the university community.  I was not asked to interact directly with others who did not know (1) about the project or (2) that I was a professor.  That was crucial.  Even when we were dumpster diving for bagels and gathering cardboard, I found myself thinking that it would have been obvious to on-lookers that this is university-related.  Regardless of whether I smelled, looked disheveled, or was wandering aimlessly around campus (which I found myself doing on occasion), I still commanded respect.  That respect may not have been forthcoming if was smelly, disheveled and wandering aimlessly in Central Park.  The discomforts that attend poverty, it would seem, are not simply physical – there are emotional discomforts as well.       

3. “Don’t cry over spilt milk”: This may be an attitude that only the wealthy can afford.  After spending hours boiling water, waiting for it to cool, and then transferring it to other containers, I can honestly say that when some of it spilled (which it did) it was not a care-free event.  I could not afford to be as laid-back as this attitude suggests I should be.  Indeed, the next time that someone suggests this to me or another I intend to inform them about the abundant wealth of our society that permits them this luxury of life.  Another conclusion I arrived at by week’s end is that my wealth makes it easier to be a patient parent.  On two occasions, I ate dinner with my son.  Dillon loves rice.  Beans and rice composed my main source of sustenance at dinner.  Necessarily, he desired to partake in my dinner.  After some hesitation (see above), we shared my dinner.  And, like any other kid under two, he decided to play with his food.  To be more specific, he proceeded to smash the beans and throw the rice we shared on the ground.  I patiently said “Dillon do not play with your food”, but I can honestly say that there was an undertone of anger.  I was not sure if the beans and rice I bought would get me through the week.  This uncertainty was the source of the anger.  I just was not sure.  If I was poor, would my patience have given way?  Being a patient parent…how much of it is due to your wealth? 

4. My Students: I truly enjoyed the time I spent with my students throughout this past week.  From the first day of entering graduate school I knew I wanted to accept a position at a smaller college or university, this experience reminded me of that original intent. Exchanging personal stories and favorite movies and throwing frisbee in Ball circle.  These events will be remembered.  And, after attending the Seder dinner where students shared their joys and concerns,    I wanted  – the stress that my students feel Bonding with students – exchanging stories and ideas getting movies.

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Thanks. – shawn

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