Through out this class, my knowledge about wealth and income inequality and all the issues that come with it has grown tremendously. Inequality is something I knew existed, but I have never been so attuned to it as I am now.
This week, I went into New York City for a hockey game. I grew up just north of the city, and travel there often. Because of this, I’ve often seen homelessness in the Big Apple. This Tuesday was my first time back to New York since we started our journey learning about wealth and income inequality. That journey had a big impact on my trip.
As we boarded the shuttle from Grand Central Station to Times Square, there was a young man who stepped through the doors. I thought he probably was homeless. Once the doors closed and we started our short trip, the gentleman asked people on the train for spare change. He said he had not eaten all day.
This is not unusual in New York City, to ride the S train with a less fortunate individual asking for help, even though it is illegal. I looked over at my mom, who started to reach for her purse with a look for compassion on her face, deciding whether she should give him some money, while my dad and I advised her to stop.
After everything I learned, and after all of the blog posts I have written on this issue, I still was not willing to reach in my pocket and give to someone less fortunate than me. As we walked away from the train into the bustle of the 42nd Street subway station, I couldn’t help but think about how this man got to a place in his life where he was asking his strangers for money for a simple meal. He could have grown up in a middle-class home, gone to school and lived a life in a home with a family.
He could be any one of us.
Although this time I stuck to my hard New Yorker ways, I think that through my life, the lessons I learned in this class will impact the decisions I make in situations like these. It is important to always remember that homelessness is a real problem in this country, and we need to start thinking of ways to resolve the issue beyond giving our spare change to a homeless person on a subway in New York City.