Archive for the 'Poor people' Category

Life lesson: over-tip breakfast waitresses.

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

In fact, over-tip them handsomely. If you’re dining alone and paying diner prices, it’s not amiss to tip them as much as your meal cost.

My father taught me this when I was young. He also taught me to make steady eye contact with breakfast servers, and to strike up friendly conversation with them when they have the time.

Why go to this trouble?

  • They don’t make much money. Their wages are low, and — unlike your server when you sit down to a fancy dinner — they can’t expect a lot of large tickets that will call for large tips at 15%.
  • It’s often the best job they can get. Think about how you’d make ends meet if you lived off of tips from breakfast patrons.
  • They get up early. By the time you roll into the diner, they’ve already gotten up, maybe taken care of their kids, cleaned up, traveled to work, and served however many patrons got there before you.
  • You’re a perfect sweetheart, but some of their patrons aren’t.

When I was traveling earlier this week, I had a kind waitress who kept a smile on her face while she did the work of a couple of people. I had the cashier add a $10.00 tip to the cost of my food.

I’m hoping it put a smile on her face when she found out. She deserved it.

(Photo by Sarah Gilbert, used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.)

UNICEF is off my charity list.

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

No doubt UNICEF has had good success with their campaign of sending out mailers with nickels attached. Why else would they be doing it now, at least two years after initial complaints about the campaign? But I find it offensive that they would send me a nickel through the mail rather than using it directly for their charitable work. I’m not alone:

Please, UNICEF, use a better appeal.

Poverty and personal narrative.

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

This morning, on my professional blog, I quoted Steven Pearlstine’s current Washington Post column about poverty; Megan McArdle also quoted it on her blog, which led to an interesting series of comments from her audience. Some of her commenters seem stymied as to why poor people don’t save a dollar here or there to make their lives better. McArdle herself suggests that there may be many “threshold effects” in play in the lives of the poor, such that an extra dollar doesn’t — or can’t — make a big difference.

It’s late and I’m tired, so this is just a placeholder for now. But I wonder whether the poor don’t face both threshold effects and the kind of narrative problems that Dean Ornish finds in his cardiac patients: all the facts in the world won’t make an intelligent recipient of a triple-bypass operation stop eating triple cheeseburgers . . . if he doesn’t change the narrative about what he eats. Could the same be true for poor people, beholden to the culture of poverty in which they live?

Read this about American health care.

Monday, June 25th, 2007

My friend Redneck Mother has some strong words after watching the new film Sicko:

We’ve been told our system has to be the way it is. It doesn’t. And by the measures that matter — overall quality of health, infant mortality and longevity — it shouldn’t be the way it is.

Amen, sister.

Change the world.

Friday, May 18th, 2007

Guy Kawasaki has posted a great short interview with Richard Stearns, who leads the charity group World Vision.

Ten (or so) Questions with Richard Stearns

The most compelling bit, to me, was this:

To really change the world, values must change. Consider the civil rights movement. Racial discrimination was once openly accepted in the United States. Today it is unacceptable to our mainstream culture. Very few of us are civil rights activists, but we let our values speak in our work places, our schools and to our elected officials.

Today, we live in a world that tolerates extreme poverty much like racism was tolerated fifty-plus years ago. We can all become people determined to do something to change the world. We can speak up, we can volunteer and we can give. Ending extreme poverty will take money, political and moral will, and a shift in our value system. When enough ordinary people embrace these issues, things will begin to change.

Serious food for thought — and grist for action.

Interesting reading.

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

A Saturday-morning farrago . . .

–There are plenty of creative endeavors that are worth getting right before you release them to the world. For instance, if you want to publish an elegant book, you had better get the words and the design right the first time, because you can’t recall a print run to make changes. But in the online world, you often do better to gin something up, run it through a few iterations in private with no more than a small group to massage it, and then . . . you release it. You know it’s an imperfect, provisional effort, but you go ahead anyway, because perfectionism is a great way to diminish your impact (and your profitability etc.) online.

Here’s an article that reinforces this viewpoint, using the specific example of Netflix:

The Freedom of Fast Iterations: How Netflix Designs a Winning Web Site

–International tourism often throws issues of wealth and poverty into high relief. People from the wealthy world want to travel to exotic locales, but often these places are beset by poverty — poverty that often is walled off from any influx of tourist money. This item from Fast Company offers some intelligent points in this vein:

Go Ahead Stick Your Head in the Sand, Just Don’t Do it in Haiti

If poverty in Haiti concerns you, lay hands on Mountains beyond Mountains posthaste.

–A basic law of the Internet: There are a lot of cool bands out there that you’ve never heard of. My example du jour: The High Dials. (Thanks to Belle.)

–Writing coach Lisa Gates asks a pertinent question in this post:

Friday Coaching Question: What are you committed to?

Her basic premise: You say you’re committed to doing X, but you spend your time doing W, Y, and Z. That means that you’re actually committed to . . . W, Y, and Z. That’s okay. No need to beat yourself up about it. But you do need to get honest with yourself about where your commitments do lie versus where you think they should lie.

–Worldchanging Austin has more analysis of Austin’s Climate Protection Plan, which I talked about last week.

–Like RG4N in my own neighborhood, Austin, Draw the Line! is using the Internet as a key tool in its grassroots effort to steer the future of Austin’s downtown.

–It never ceases to amaze me how the Internet enables specialists with a very specific passion to share their zeal and expertise with the world. Exhibit 1,453,763: John Wood’s Functional Hand Strength. (Thanks to Seth.)

–Thank you, Doc Searls, for pointing me to Joel Johnson’s column on not buying crap.

Acumen Fund

Monday, October 30th, 2006

I’m always heartened by antipoverty initiatives that take a smarter approach than classic direct aid. Don’t get me wrong: sometimes the direct application of food or medicine or cash is just the ticket for helping out people in need in the developing world. But in general, I tend to think that those efforts work best in cases of emergency. For the long haul, we need better, smarter, durable methods that foster sustainable changes driven by the recipients themselves.

A great example of this is discussed in this TED Talk by Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder of Acumen Fund. This is what you get when people who are savvy to Western business and philanthropy are willing to let the recipients of aid help to build the process by which the aid is administered. Novogratz’s story of native entrepreneurship around bednets in Africa is exactly what the world needs more of.

Don’t vote for Kinky, redux.

Friday, October 20th, 2006

The other day I appealed for folks to drop Kinky Friedman’s schtick in favor of an actual public servant — my pick being Chris Bell.

My friend has said it much better here.


Monday, October 16th, 2006

Thanks to two posts on Foreign Policy‘s Passport blog, I’m reminded that today is World Food Day. I think that most of the blog-reading world has very little clue what it’s like to live with hunger — I know I don’t. It’s easy to say that people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, that it’s parents’ responsibility to do right by their children, and so on . . . and much harder to turn that into reality for people who simply don’t have enough to eat from day to day.

Ponder the lead question from World Food Day’s site: “Why are there still 400 million hungry children?” We have plenty of food to go around.

This story reminds us that Comrade Kim’s worst depredations have been against his own people.

This quiz on world hunger from the BBC is sobering.

My church here in Austin does many things well, but the thing I’m proudest of is its strong record on feeding the hungry, not just by donations to faraway lands, but directly, by feeding hungry people who live right here in our city.

He replied to them, ‘The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.’

On being poor.

Friday, August 11th, 2006

Good fortune allows me and my family to live in a comfortable little house in a quiet, safe neighborhood. My children attend good schools that stimulate and interest them. While none of my paying work is especially lucrative, I have more jobs than I can do, and the door seems to be always open for more. I am grateful for this abundance.

It can be easy to forget that a lot of folks face poverty that puts them many rungs below my level of comfort every day of their lives. I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck for long stretches, and I know what it’s like to look at your bank balance and wonder how there can’t be enough to cover all of the bills fully this month. But I’ve never been poor.

This compelling statement by a formerly poor single mother moved me. Too many of our political debates forget that there are decent, hard-working people like this who face long odds and try to make the best of it each day despite those odds. These are not slackers or layabouts — they’re just poor. As the writer says, “I think its time I wrote another round of letters to my elected officials, to remind them that being poor isn’t a character flaw.” Give this a read and re-think what you do — and what you could do — to improve the lot of the working poor.

(Tip of the hat to John Scalzi, who’s “Being Poor” remains one of the most searing things I’ve ever read on the subject.)

I seldom quote the Bible here, but it is worth remembering that it refers to the poor constantly, and it never says to revile them. E.g.,

“. . . for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

“Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

For another perspective on this, see Prof. Randall Balmer’s recent essay, “Jesus Is Not a Republican”. (“The Bible contains something like 2,000 references to the poor and the believer’s responsibility for the poor. Sadly, that obligation seems not to have trickled down into public policy. . . .”)