Poor in NYC – Could you do it?

Throwing it back to the year 2014. A team of us in New York City.

Our team was led by CSM (City Service Missions) for a week where we served at different food pantries and soup kitchens.

One day our leader gave us a challenge. She took us to an area in Greenwich Village (I believe) and gave us boundaries. The purpose was to put us in an area with a higher income. She gave each of us one dollar. This dollar is all we had to pay for our dinner. She also gave us a list of tasks to accomplish while we were there, most of which involved starting a conversation with a stranger. Then our leader left and we were on our own.

We walked around and searched all the blocks within our boundaries searching for a cheap meal. In some parts of New York, it is easy to find a slice of pizza for a dollar or something along those lines. However, if you were in this area in Greenwich Village, you would have no luck finding a meal with so little money.

An hour went by and our team was getting quite frustrated with one another and the whole process. After plenty of arguing, we gave up.

Luckily, we had leftover bagged lunches because we were unexpectedly served a meal for lunch at one of the soup kitchens we served at. This goes to show, if someone really only had a dollar to spend on food, how much one free meal could help, and how much these soup kitchens are really helping the low-income communities.

We ate, and then we started to focus. Each of us decided separately yet at the same time to go start making conversation with people. Some of us even got to share our lunches. Talking to the people who actually live in the area helped us learn and understand low-income life in NYC more than anyone could have taught us by lecturing. We then put all our dollars together and bought one meal that we gave to a hungry man on the street which was a much better use than any of us spending it.

Although, this challenge did not go as it was supposed to, and you could probably say we cheated… it still delivered an important message. We got a glimpse of how hard it would be to live off of a low-income in a place like NYC. We also realized how silly it was of us to get so frustrated about not finding someplace to eat when we weren’t even starving and we had a back up lunch all along. While talking to the people we met, we were able to get our priorities straight once again and stop focusing on our own wants.

This trip to NYC was probably the first time I was introduced to poverty. I was young and still learning, but every experience has an impact.

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