Wednesday, March 20, 2013

#BlogExodus: Asking

Outside the McDonald's on 39th Street and Second Avenue this morning a homeless man repeatedly was asking various people going in if they'd buy him a cup of coffee.  I muttered, "Sorry, no," and made my way inside to the end of the line.

I've been stopping at this location on many mornings recently and yes, it's because a decent cup of coffee can be had for $1.09. From one day to the next, I see some of the same faces--the elderly man reading The Times with a hand-held magnifier, the two FedEx delivery guys, and of course the employees, some behind the counter, others wiping tables and restocking the napkin and straw dispensers.Often, the line is three or four deep and it seems that like me, everyone's looking for a bargain.

The dichotomy between this scene and Starbucks (where I generally go only when someone's given me a gift card) highlights the truism that New York City is losing its middle class and that if current economic trends continue, most residents either will be very rich or very poor.

I'm sure that Paul Krugman would have something profound and meaningful to say here, but from my perspective--and despite a full semester of graduate-level economics--it's just incredibly sad that in one of the greatest cities in the world, the American dream seems to be getting further and further out of reach and all but the city's wealthiest residents are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.
What will it take to create living-wage jobs for more New Yorkers?

What will it take to ensure that fixed-income New Yorkers don't have to choose between heat and medication?  Between food and medical care?

What will it take to balance out the increasing disparity between this city's haves and have-nots, and help promote some semblance of economic justice for all?
What will it take for all of us collectively to realize truly meaningful and long-lasting social and economic change...or are these things beyond our grasp?
By the time I headed for the door, coffee in hand, the homeless man was seated at a table.  On my way out, I handed him a dollar bill and a dime, and told him to enjoy the coffee.  Unfortunately, my action doesn't begin to answer these four questions, which increasingly are on my mind.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.