Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Neighbors

For years, I have been aware of the sociological reality that wealthy people and poor people often live close to each other -- usually in cities.

But, last night, that reality became very clear to me as I stood on East 1st Street on NYC's Lower East Side. I had just left a political fundraiser in a condo building that looked normal on the outside but was amazing on the inside. The fundraiser was in a tony apartment boasting a huge kitchen (by NYC apartment standards) and what was likely several millions of dollars worth of artwork on the walls. (A set of four Marilyn Monroe silkscreens by Andy Warhol -- said to be real -- graced one wall.)

The fundraiser had been headlined by the majority leader of the New York State Senate along with another state senator and four members of the State Assembly. Edward Cox, President Nixon's son-in-law and the head of the McCain campaign in New York, was there too.

When I came outside, I paused for a moment only to see that this building was literally next door to the Catholic Worker "House of Hospitality" for many of the city's hungry and homeless. It was founded in the 1930s by Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin and the other pioneers of the Catholic Worker movement.

I felt guilty for passing it without notice as I had arrived. I felt guilty for never having been there to volunteer. My first visit (in recent memory, anyway) to that block shouldn't have been for a cocktail party.

But, the maxim proved true: immense wealth and the homeless, next door neighbors. Although, I must say, seemingly co-existing peacefully.

The photo above is from

1 comment:

HowiTown said...

Key word: seemingly

Nothing is as it appears. The rich people are most def. grossed out by the homeless pulling down their property value and putting fear in their hearts. And the poorer community is most def. grossed out by the ignorance and waste of the rich.

Come on, tell me that you wouldn't think one of those things if you were on one of those sides.

The only reason we can look at such situations and not feel those things that the rich and the poor must feel, is because we are neither rich or poor. We are average middle class individuals who are able to look at the situation from a neutral point of view.

We don't feel the fear of the woman getting into her cab with her jewels and her fur coat as a homeless man who is smoking a cigarette and looking at her is standing one door down. We also don't feel the disgust of the homeless man as he watches the rich woman get into her hired car, looking at him with those eyes of distrust.