Sunday, October 09, 2005


THERE are good poor people and bad poor people and invisible (white) poor people. The grateful poor and the ungrateful poor. The inspiring and the ones who need to be rebuked. The "good" poor woman in Nickels and Dimes with "a perpetual smile that masks her melancholy eyes," who has a back story (that is, we know some of the prior circumstances of her life) and who works and volunteers and takes care, as best she can, of her five children with very little money or support. Then there are the "bad" poor people of Scattered in a Storm's Wake and Caught in a Clash of Cultures. Those who aren't grateful enough for the help that is being given to them -- those who are asked "why they didn't get out" of New Orleans when they could. "Their time at the mission [where they would be sheltered] would become both an object lesson in the psychic strains of disaster recovery and a laboratory for the challenges of sheltering victims so different from their caregivers." Hmmm. Object lesson and laboratory.

"The three mission staff members - trained not as the social workers, job counselors or triage nurses the catastrophe called upon them to be but rather as camp directors - treated the visitors as they would summer campers. They set out a schedule of breakfast at 8:00, lunch at noon and so on, allowing about half an hour per meal.

But many of the evacuees chafed under the rules. They were exhausted, some were sick, and they wanted to sleep late and move about in their own time. They were working people - hotel maids, maintenance men, cashiers and nursing assistants - who were used to cooking for themselves on their own schedule and did not like being told what to do and when to do it."

BAD: Scattered in a Storm's Wake and Caught in a Clash of Cultures. "In the beginning, it seemed that wherever the Louisianans went, people stopped them on the street, figuring that because they were black, they must be from the hurricane. A man went up to one of them, Gerald Cooper, a former merchant mariner, and said, "Here, put this in your pocket," as he stuffed a $20 bill into Mr. Cooper's hand.

"It was like we were a fad," Mr. Cooper said." ...

GOOD: Nickels and Dimes. "Whenever I find myself in a difficult situation - I have one kid, and sometimes it's too much for me - I think of her," Ms. Owens said. "She's such an inspiration, with what she faces, and she'll come here chugging along like the little train that could, always smiling."


Post a Comment

<< Home