Being back in New York City has been fantastic. The weather has been very hot, and the city is slowly becoming more alive with plenty of restaurant patios setup for socially distanced eating. Parks and running paths have also been pretty packed with everyone trying to dust off the quarantine cobwebs and enjoy the sweltering heat with no tourists!
One thing that I immediately noticed when I arrived back in the city after my nearly three-week Connecticut visit, was the diversity that New York offers. People from all walks of life have moved to this small island to try to advance their career or enter a new industry and live the city life. The diversity also prominently displays the immense wealth gap that exists both locally in New York and as a proxy for the rest of the nation.
Just this week I went for a run and my path took me up Fifth Avenue. As I got closer to Central Park, I passed all the high end shops with no price tags and well-dressed security guards standing out front. Think Fendi, Dior, Tiffany’s, Bvlgari, etc. I also (accidentally) ran into the new Black Lives Matter Street art prominently displayed right outside of Trump Tower. I kept running and saw the Plaza hotel and the outrageously expensive hotels and apartment buildings lining Central Park on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street.
However, I also passed many homeless people along the way, often sitting right around the corner from these businesses that flaunt a handbag in the window worth more than many New Yorkers’ annual incomes. They’re also commonly in Central Park trying to find a bench for a rest, seek shade from the heat, and use the water fountains, just a few hundred feet from penthouse residences, and the President’s former home.
It got me thinking about something Dominic and I discussed while I was at his house a couple weeks back. He was reflecting on being a bit frustrated when struggling with some manual labor to build a section of the chicken coop. It was also very hot outside so he was getting just punished by the sun, and when something wasn’t working, it’s easy to lose your cool.
As he was reflecting he very thoughtfully stated “why am I complaining when tons of people do this sort of work 8-10 hours a day in the sun, grinding out manual labor for minimum wage!”
We discussed how important perspective was and how it can be so easy to lose sight of one’s current situation relative to others outside your close circle.
This spawned the idea of Perspective Day:
Once a year, anyone earning above a certain threshold, let’s say $75k, must trade places with someone who falls below the poverty line. Not only would you need to work their job, but ideally you’d have to follow their typical day. This might include caring for children, cooking meals, helping with homework, waking up at 4am and taking multiple modes of transportation to work, etc.
Again, in a perfect world, this swap would be in place for 24 hours so you could get a good sense of the change in neighborhoods and living arrangements as well. But at least starting by understanding how others earn a “living” that falls short of the poverty line would likely be a huge eye-opener to many.
I think with this small experiment, we’d all be a lot more respectful of people who don’t necessarily look or act like us, or who don’t have the same education. Hopefully we’d also feel a little less frustrated when our bonuses are smaller than expected, or the WiFi is a bit slower than normal.
Happy Sunday, thanks for reading!
Leave a comment below with what you’d add to Perspective Day.