I hate that I often get asked about money here in The Phillies. It seems to me that most Filipinos believe that all Americans are rich. I always dispute this claim, but well . . . I put it in perspective.
A 14yr. old in Anywhere, Wyoming can get a job at McDonalds making $5.15/hr.* Now, let’s say this kid can only work 4hrs on school nights and 8hrs on Friday and Saturday. So, the kid is only working 20hrs/wk. He is doing this because he wanted to make his own money and his parents were more than willing to pick him up and drop him off. With a minimum wage part time job in America this kid is making TWICE the amount of money my 45yr. old single mother full time teacher counterpart makes. Working three days a week a snot-faced bratty kid in America can make DOUBLE the money a college educated middle-aged teacher does in The Phillies.
When I think about it like that . . . I understand why they think all Americans are rich.
Something I wish they could see, the drones shuffling aimlessly, lifelessly, and emotionally detached to and from work selling their souls and time to be a cog in the capitalist machine.** That’s something I haven’t witnessed here in The Phillies. In the states, I see so many listless and more commonly detached people walking around, that I find myself shaken up by the amount of life going on in this country.
You rarely see people walking alone or looking lonely, everyone is always having a conversation, and even though they have the same technology that seems to drive Americans deeper inside of themselves; Filipinos seem to use technology to become closer to one another.
I really do wish they could see all of the empty hearts with full pockets.
But the Capitalist doctrine is screaming loud and clear. I just wish that the world would throw away this particular part of the American gospel. Why buy in (pun intended) to this tenant of American society? Americans also value creativity,*** they are insanely curious about how the world works, we seem to like the idea of helping people! Take these away from the American gospel! Don’t join the first church of the consumer!!! *sigh*
BUT, I want to go back to my original scenario in order to put THAT in perspective. Most Americans realize that (in America) a single mother making roughly 400 dollars a month would be struggling to survive.
One of my co-workers asked me smiling and laughing if there are homeless people in America. I must have been looking serious because her flippant and joking demeanor ceased immediately. I said, “Yes, um, actually we have many homeless people on the streets. Here I only see it in the larger cities, but even smaller cities in America have homeless-” Cutting me off (which happens quite frequently and it drives me nuts) she responds, “What!? Why!? In America, they must be lazy” and as she says this her flippant demeanor comes back.
Naturally my knee-jerk reaction is to list several causes of homelessness like: Physical and Mental illnesses, being a child, losing a job, etc. But then I thought about that whole “perspective” thing again. My co-teacher sees her fellow Filipinos going to America and not getting skilled labor jobs, but instead getting jobs at department stores! They take bottom feeder jobs because they comparatively make a large amount of money.
I can’t blame her, her logic isn’t flawed. I mean a well off Filipino, and I mean a VERY well off would still be under the poverty threshold in America. Thus, it does beg the question . . .
If there are foreigners coming into America and getting minimum wage and entry level jobs to have a better life, why in the world would there be homeless people? Why would there be people who were born and raised in the midst of American opportunity?
I tried once again mentioning addicts, and the under educated due to failed school systems, and um . . . umm . . . as I spoke I realized she wasn’t buying it . . . and neither was I. Because I have been face to face with poverty, I loved working with the Jesus House and the City Rescue Mission and Habitat for Humanity and other homeless/poverty focused organizations back home, and you know what?
A lot of our homeless could honestly change their situations with nothing more than the right motivation.****
Naturally, I failed to mention that a lot of our outreach programs just enable the people we are trying to help. We love to continually toss fish at the homeless, but there are very few Americans that would actually teach them to fish. And even when we do . . .
I mean, why should I, as a homeless person, waste the time fishing when I can find SOMEONE who will just give me a fish?
It’s hard to know what to do, I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though we have a lot of opportunity and we make a lot of money . . .
*Wyoming and Georgia have the lowest minimum wages in the United States at $5.15, but the federal minimum wage is $7.25. I just wanted to make the illustration as clear as possible.
**I talk a big game, but a lesson that was duly noted from one of the latest books I read (Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance) gave me a different perspective on that idea. He mentions that cogs are necessary. Even if we didn’t have capitalist cogs we’d just invent new ones, because something has to keep society running. I agree with this statement, but I DON’T agree with the thought that cogs need to be lifeless and depressed.
***I hate when I can’t site my sources, but trust me when I say that I read an article or a book somewhere that said one edge Americans have over other countries is the fact that we are in love with creative thinking. And that there is also a consciousness of American creativity being on the rise.
****Realize ladies and gentleman, I said a LOT not all.
p.s. – I really enjoy this