Life Lessons from 2 Professionals Who Lived on $0.39 a Day : A Response
When two American professionals with family ties to India give up their lives to live on $1.50 a day in America, and then 39 cents in India, we should pay attention to the lessons they learned.
I doubt the people who most need to pay attention will even read the headline.
I worked with people who sacrificed a good income and the American dream (as defined by Wall Street through years of marketing seduction — a long seduction to be sure, but seduction and successful seduction at that) in order to work for the poor or provide health care for immigrants and low-income families. I made the sacrifice too, although never for more than one or two years at a time.
I did a tour with a tent ministry eating turnips and beans and delivering the Gospel to the hopeless before discovering even tent ministries thrive by exploiting those willingly seduced with dreams of a different kind. I worked with social justice organizations, including a two-year tour with ACORN, who, in spite of the videos, organized a number of low income neighborhoods to improve their living conditions. 
When the rich and the mighty (or anyone) complain that our poorest choose to be poor (which is a joke), I challenge them to the one of the following ventures:
Challenge I: Job Search on the terms of the neediest Americans
1. Give up your source of income for six months.
2. Tear up your resume and start from scratch with no verifiable employment history on your record.
3. Don’t list any education past high school.
4. Forget your references. List only family members.
Now try to find work with a living wage.
Challenge II: Work one of those low-end jobs
Take work, if you can get it, at a fast food restaurant. Not a management position. On the line.
See how long you’re willing to put up with the crap and abuse for the pittance they pay.
My favorite memory was working for McDonalds in grad school because my fellowship didn’t pay enough. After weeks of scrubbing grills, mopping floors, cleaning vomit from the bathrooms and scrubbing the garbage building from top to bottom — including rinsing out used grease barrels and grime covered trash receptacles, the pimply-faced seventeen-year-old shift manager for line workers put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Just think, if you keep this up, in six months you’ll be wearing a yellow hat like me.”
I quit that night. Three weeks later they called me at eight on a Sunday morning demanding to know where the hell I was. I told them that, until that call, I’d been sleeping. They told me to get my ass down there because I was on the schedule.
I informed them I quit three weeks before and should never had been on the schedule. The scheduler informed me that was not his problem and he expected me in place and in uniform in thirty minutes. I said, “I’ll be there,” and went back to bed.
Dignity has as much value as money, even if you don’t see it.
Dignity is as important as earning a minimum wage. Wealthy Americans and many of the middle class have no concept that the poor could have dignity, but they do. They simply have it rubbed in their faces daily when ignorant managers berate them for mistakes they didn’t make, those with better social standing look down their noses at them for building their roads and cleaning out their bathrooms, and then they go home to the only entertainment they can afford — watching commercials telling them how they should be living the good life.
 ACORN exploited their workers as badly as the worst sweat shop mill, however they justified it as working for the cause. They convinced workers that they should earn no more than the members in the neighborhoods we organized, which made sense, if they didn’t constantly skip paychecks, fail to pay the office and utility bills and leave it up to broke, starving employees to spend their days off canvassing middle income neighborhoods to raise money for the bills and to cover the salaries they were already owed (and, had raised funds for).