Perceived wealth and neighborliness

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There was an article in the Post that got my attention. Michelle Singletary's "When Charity Takes On A Familiar Face," which touched on two separate topics I'd been thinking about. Perceived wealth or poverty of others and neighborly charity.
Let's start with neighborly charity. I'm happy to shovel snow off sidewalks in front of my neighbors' homes provided no one complains about what the shoveling looks like. Our street has a number of neighbors who will do things (watch your cat, move your car, lend tools, etc) for each other for free. Doing these things adds to the awesomeness that is our block. And I must thank Brian by name as he regularly picks up trash on our and nearby blocks on a regular basis, which I really appreciate when I walk on other blocks strewn with trash. It doesn't matter if neighbors could pay someone else to shovel or clean the street or rent a really big ladder. By needing each other and relying on each other we get to know each other better.
When I started to read Singletary's article, I wondered if it would talk about something that used to happen around here, neighbors' begging for money. Not random strangers who come up to your door, saying they live in the neighborhood begging for money (that has happened to me once), but people you know who live nearby. Yeah, I can't offer any advice, all I know is that it doesn't happen just once for some folks. Singletary's advice that you demand to see the other person's finances, seems a little, I don't know, invasive, if they are not family members. Particularly if is only a few bucks here and there.
Which brings me to the second thought, perceived wealth. In the talk of gentrification, new residents are called wealthy. We don't know that for sure. Last month I was reading about David Guggenheim, the marine biologist suspected of being involved in attacking his wife. The thing that caught my eye was information about the couple's finances. They live in Kalorama, but have a boat load of debt (taxes owed, cc debt) and together only earned $49,853. We don't know what a person's wealth is by looking at them or where they live.
The well worn narrative of gentrification is wealthy or wealthier new comers move in and displace poorer oldtimers. Unless the oldtimers are on welfare and in subsidized housing, we don't know for sure how big the wealth gap is in a neighborhood. When I first showed up there were lots of 20 & 30 somethings buying up run down places, working for peanuts at non-profits, and patching up their homes. Boundless energy, youth and knowing how to swing a hammer or wield a drill made up for the low income. But as the narrative went it seemed the wealth factor was overblown and we've forgotten that the banks back then would loan lotsa money to anything with a pulse.

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