I recently moved into my own place, and because of the nature of my situation I am living in a “low-income” apartment.
As my friends and family have come over to see the place and help me unpack, I have noticed a recurring reaction to the place that has come to bother me. By no means are they trying to be hurtful, nor am I upset with them directly. Rather, my issue is with how we have become so comfortable with things being “less than” that it is now the norm.
People keep telling me something along the lines of: “This is such a nice place, especially for being low-income,” or “I was worried about what you were going to wind up with when you were looking for a low-income place.”
These statements seem innocent enough, but what is concerning is the level of surprise. It says much more than the spoken words. If this is surprising, then what was expected? Well, they were worried about me ending up with a place that was run down, unsafe, dirty, because that is what we are so used to seeing with “low-income places.”
When this is what we expect, then it becomes normal. When it becomes normal, we become comfortable and numb to it. And this is where it becomes rocky, because the change often becomes stagnant. I’m not saying we should run out and fix the entire situation right now, because it doesn’t really work that way. Rather, I am saying we cannot let this become the norm.
Our hearts should still flinch when we see places that are not kept up with or are unsafe, yet we often shrug our shoulders and mutter something like “I’m not surprised.” There is a difference between providing the basics that every person should have and “getting what you pay for.”
This concept goes beyond this scenario. We must continuously ask ourselves what issues we have let become “the norm.” What issues do we look at and say “I’m not surprised” or “well, it doesn’t directly affect me.”
We must keep our eyes open and vigilant in order to not fall into the trap of becoming complacent. Being upset, sad, or mad isn’t a bad thing. It can even be a good thing, because it is what we do with it that matters, and it can be a positive driving force.