Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Here’s a thought for a Vincentian Mindwalk…

“What is it about asking for money… When you’re poor it’s begging. When you’re rich, it’s a fundraiser.”

A member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul sent me a link to a post on the Bored Panda website. “Someone Asks ‘What’s Classy If You’re Rich But Trashy If You’re Poor” It contained a number of such questions/statements.

The replies they received were Illuminating. Virtually the same action was perceived differently according to perceptions of “zip code”. Actually it is a question that has been bouncing around the internet for at least five years in various forms as documented by the Bored Panda.

Here are some of the other contrasts offered.

  • If you are weird and rich people just call you eccentric, If you are weird and poor people call you crazy.
  • Substance abuse. Rich people are ‘troubled’ whereas poor people are just junkies.
  • Dressing provocatively. When you’re rich it’s a fashion statement, when you’re poor you’re a “working girl”.
  • Rich people collect. Poor people hoard.
  • Rich guy buys fast food: “He’s just like us!”… Poor guy buys fast food: “He should really make better choices.”

Some more statements viewed differently according to whether you are rich or poor.

  • Having multiple kids with multiple partners
  • Wearing “vintage” clothing instead of hand-me-downs
  • Police escorts
  • Being on a first name basis with a judge
  • Having a lawyer’s business card in your wallet.
  • The most expensive thing you own is a really old car
  • Having other people raise your kids
  • Getting money from the government.
  • Not cleaning your own house
  • Going to the horse races
  • Being really into wine
  • Living at a hotel
  • Stealing from the middle class
  • Walking around all day in a bathrobe
  • Having a wedding in your yard.

No doubt there are many interpretations and reactions to the above.

I post these responses because they give insight into the perceptions that exist and affect our ministry.

Twenty years ago the Ladies of Charity USA invited Ruby Payne to present her pioneering work initially titled “Understanding Poverty”. For me, it was an eye-opener. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul now uses an updated version.

Among the points that fascinated me “We use the same words but speak different languages.”

Language of Poverty…                        Middle Class …                          Wealthy

MONEYTo be used, spent.To be managed.To be conserved, invested. 
FOODKey question: Did you have enough? Quantity important.Key question: Did you like it? Quality Important. Key question: Was it presented well? Presentation important.
TIMEPresent most important. 
Decisions made for moment based on feelings or survival.
Future most important. 
Decisions made against future ramifications;
Traditions and history, most important. 
Decisions mode partially on basis of tradition and decorum. 

I am not sure where to go with such differences of perception!

One thought is that Vincent would see the “other side of the coin” in both rich and poor.

Vincent wrote…I shouldn’t judge poor peasants, men or women, by their surface appearance, nor by their apparent mental capacities. … But, turn the coin, and you will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, Whose will it was to be poor, is represented to us by just these people. (XI Conference #19, p.32)

What are your thoughts?

Click below for an audio version of the Mindwalk…