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"Low Income," and History

by Bonnie Hurd Smith

posted in News and Society

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Well, it happened again. A polite conversation at a friend's party turned into a thinly disguised comment on "them." "Those low income people" who "we" don't want any more of. She stopped short of adding that the "they" she had in mind were Spanish speaking, but everyone listening knew.
At issue was the recent news that our Mayor, Kimberley Driscoll, is hoping to add another 5,000 residents to the City of Salem and increase the availability of affordable housing.
Uh-oh. "Affordable housing." More dreaded words.
Even without asking the Mayor what her reasons were for making clean, safe, attractive, affordable housing more available, I know that Salem has long been on the rise; businesses are expanding and opening and they need workers; and commuting is a dangerous, environmentally appalling waste of time.
I was also reminded of the article that's now floating around the Web titled, "Your Adjunct Professor of English is Probably on Food Stamps." Because "low income" these days refers to a whole lot of folks-adjunct faculty, social workers, freelancers, writers, artists, patient care assistants, nonprofit employees, and on and on.
Are they/we (yes, I include myself because these last few years have been a real struggle, as some of you know) not somehow WORTHY of a clean, safe, attractive place to call home that we can actually afford?
We know from study after study, news stories, and personal experiences that our environment makes a HUGE difference to our mental/emotional well being and the subsequent ability to thrive-in every area.
We also know from history that some of the most remarkable women and men we hold up today came from humble circumstances-including Jesus, and let's remember who he hung out with and cared for.
I tossed him in here, Unitarian Universalist that I am, because I find all too often that people like the woman in this story who are quick to judge and condemn others also embrace Jesus as their savior and spiritual leader. Really? (In Salem, we learned a long time ago that judging and condemning doesn't lead to good things.)
And, of course, I've been listening to Pope Francis whose challenge to us to rise to "our better angels" is stunning.
So... yes. History is political and personal. "Low income" could mean any of us at any time, but we are all deserving of a home that sustains us and allows us to contribute.
Who knew?
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