Episode 450 (201)
This is retirement talk. I’m Del Lowery.
I've entitled this podcast "Each and All".
Why should I care if other people are poor? What do I gain if my neighbor is rich or poor? Well, it doesn't take much thought to figure out that it effects me a great deal. One thing retirement brings is time to reflect on life experiences that are have helped shape us and the way we look at the world. What is out the door affects us- each and all.
Many years while in Kenya I had been told Lammu was a small place and had some great snorkeling. When on a trip I always like to range out to some place I have never heard of before. Most any place will do. Just so it is “off the beaten path”. I had taken the train from Nairobi to Mombasa and then a short flight north to Malindi and then Lammu.
An open gutter ran just in front of one of the best hotels in town. You stepped from the street over the gutter and into the hotel. The gutter was part of the city sewer system. You can imagine what one saw floating by. A little bridge spanned the open sewer. It took the edge off my entire visit. This open sewer system threw me; the stench in the air was hard to stomach. The room might have been okay and the mosquito net didn’t have holes but the visit was not pleasant. Having money in your pocket doesn't help much when you’re in an impoverished city.
It feels good to walk down a street that is clean, that is filled with people who are busy shopping, walking, sitting in coffee shops or lingering over a glass of wine. My mind drifts to another experience a few years later around the square in Salamanca, Spain. What a place! No cars, Moorish architecture, tables and chairs, music from buskers, young lovers holding hands and leaning against each other laughing and trying to impress each other. There were older couples strolling slowly around the plaza. The men had on suit coats, hats and vests. The women wore long coats and colorful hats. They were in conversation with good friends who were dressed smartly. Then there were young children dressed in shorts, white shits and ties chasing each other. The odors were of chocolate, steaks, coffee and fresh baked goods. Rich and poor enjoy this public square.
Poverty isn’t good for anyone. When the least fortunate suffer we all suffer. No one wants to live in poverty. And who would want to live in a mansion that is surrounded by squallier? That’s why real estate agents always talk tell us; "location, location, location". What is outside the door is so very important in evaluating how nice your place is.
We bought a very small condo in Vancouver several years ago. Heavy emphasis on very small. However, it is right downtown; an area called Yaletown. What’s outside the door makes our condo a great place to be. For the same money we could own a big house with acres of ground in many places in the world. But it would not have the same amenities just outside the door.
I know there is a moral reason that requires we help the less fortunate members of our community. It is the right thing to do. But besides being the right thing to do the moneyed class of people gain a better place to live by raising the income level of all.
Years ago I found myself enroute to Katmandu. I was flying out of Alaska and knew that I would be severely jet lagged by the time I arrived. I told my travel agent to book me a hotel somewhere along the way so that I could rest up.
She booked me into The Oriental Hotel in Bangkok for five days. I had never heard of the place but I couldn’t believe how luxurious it was. Movie stars and kings and queens sometimes stay at The Oriental. The swimming pools were clean and empty. The dinning room was elegant; the food unbelievable, the serving dishes sterling silver. I remember very well the smoking dragon dish in which my ice cream was served. Dry ice lay hidden in a false bottom that kept it cold and mysterious. White coated wait staff stood at attention everywhere to cater to my every need or wish. I was uncomfortable, very uncomfortable.
A big wall ran all the way around the hotel and grounds. I left the enclosed walls each day and was amazed at the city outside. Poverty was every where; narrow streets, noisy/busy alley that were lined with cloth booths where merchants squatted on their haunches smoking something. The wealthy might be served well inside the walls but outside they were noticeable absent. I saw no other tourist lingering along these streets. It was crazy. It wasn't safe. I had been told by hotel staff not to go there but of course that made it all the more compelling that I see what it was they didn't want me to see.
Election time in America always pushes my thinking towards existing economic inequities. Middle class America is said to be disappearing. Poverty in America is on the rise. Higher education is becoming so expensive that only the wealthy can afford it. Empty houses and buildings line sections of our cities and countryside. All the candidates talk of lowering taxes. I just don’t understand it. It seems to me we would all gain through wise spending of our tax revenue. And perhaps even more tax revenue.
We all profit by making sure our neighbors do not live in poverty. Our economic system allows for super wealth to be held by a few. But the middle class is shrinking and many live in poverty or on the edge. That isn't good for anyone. Reflection on a lifetime of experiences shines another light on what is to be valued in life.
This is Retirement Talk with something to think about.
If you have questions, comments or suggestions contact del@retirement talk.org