What if you were $500.00 away from debt?

Gaps by class –wealthy, middle and low, economic opportunity and well-being are growing wider in our country and indeed in the world.  Yes, the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer and you don’t have to take a political stance to appreciate this trend.   

Fifty-seven percent of Americans don’t have enough cash to cover a $500 unexpected expense   

“If you have a car, a house or apartment, a pet, or a kid – if you’re a member of the human race – something that costs money is bound to go wrong

Imagine being $500.00 away from disaster when an unexpected event occurred. The reality is that most of us cannot and we wonder why someone could end up in such a situation—they need to work harder, save more, spend less.

However, if you could imagine being in such a situation you  can probably see how stressful it is to worry that when the  refrigerator stops working you won’t have the money to fix it.   A constant state of stress, worry and fear with the ripple effect:  not able to pay your rent, borrowing from friends/family knowing you will not be able to pay it back or going deeper into credit card debt.  And with these actions comes shame and isolation:  don’t tell anyone.

I wonder if the real divisiveness we are experiencing is between these new categories of have and have-nots who are both connected and isolated in various social media.    We feel for some and not for others; we reach out a hand, shake a finger, or close our fist to some. 

 In his book The Empathy Gap:  Building Bridges to the Good Life and the Good Society, J.D. Trout begins by offering the following definition: 

Empathy is the capacity to accurately understand the position of others—to feel that “this could happen me”.

If you are going about your daily routines, dropping $500.00 on a shopping outing or much more on vacation you are likely to be far from “this could happen to me”.  We think that we are far  from the person hoovering near debt.  But, think again.  Think about the people around you—especially the ones providing a service:  I think about my shoe salesman at Lord & Taylor as I shop the year end sales for my favorite brand — Stuart Weitzman’s .  I noticed that his shoes are well worn, he could use a new heel—a new pair.  I wonder, what does he earn per hour?  Could he purchase these sale item shoes that I am looking at for his wife? 

There is a gap:  for the most part we ignore it.  A simple action is required:    we can fill it with understanding, kindness, generosity, compassion and our empathy. 

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