With my eyes widening, my nose sniffing, and my stomach growling, I walked the length of Noriega Street today and tried to ignore the windows displaying terikayi chicken, espresso, pork buns, heirloom navel oranges, donuts, Peking spare ribs, pizza, dim sum, Vietnamese sandwiches, ice cream, and Manila mangoes. Question: what do all these foods have in common? Answer: they are all things that I cannot afford right now.
Every day I pass countless restaurants and think "hmmm... I can't buy that right now, but I'm going to eat there after my 40 day experiment is finished." I am acutely aware that people who have struggled in a lifetime of economic disadvantage are probably looking at the restaurants and thinking "I will never be able to eat there." As someone who knows there is an end to my "poverty", I have an immense psychological advantage.
And furthermore, I have psychological and emotional advantages as a result of being able to go home to a nice apartment in a decent neighborhood every day. My place is clean, with lots of free books to read, and a comfortable bed. I think of my travels in India, Thailand, and the Philippines where "housing" for a family is nothing more than a few pieces of plywood leaned up against each other. How would I endure having $1 a day to spend if I lived in a lousy neighborhood, in a dilapidated apartment, with drugs, crime, and violence all around?
Even with a hungry grumbling in my stomach a few times a day, it's impossible for me to imagine the daily and hourly pressure of living in extreme poverty. Making choices like- should I purchase some cough medicine for the baby or buy nutritious breakfast foods for my children on a testing day? Should I turn up the heat so my grandmother stops shivering or buy a cake for my daughter's birthday? Part of me gets disgusted with myself for even suggesting that I can somehow identify with the poor by living on $1 a day, and the other part of me thinks that I should just shut up and do what I can. So I'm shutting up.
On a completely different note, I found 11 cents in the middle of the street today. I'm beginning to believe that there is a fair amount of treasure to be found in our city streets if you are only brave enough to dodge the traffic. I don't know yet what I am going to do with the 11 cents (or any other money I find), but I am open to suggestions.