Economic Empathy and the Women’s Convention

This may be a strange place to write these thoughts.

Here, I am supposed to write about how to ensure my own guaranteed comforts, the financial finagling that’ll grow my share most quickly, or most completely. And as I write these words, I realize that’s not entirely incompatible with the dominant thought I took away from the first Women’s Convention of my lifetime, but it’s hard to marry.

The term/theme that echoes and screams for attention and intention is Economic Empathy. I have long felt its absence in the world, but never had a word for it. Didn’t know it was an actual thing. 

Now that I do, the concept is pretty clear: work to understand and actively feel the financial constraints of people in different scenarios. The focus is on haves really considering the experience of have nots – at the ballot box, when shopping or dining, when hiring, etc. Even when it comes at a personal cost. Or especially then?

An example. As I walked through a small marketplace called Social Justice City, among my purchases were 4 artisanal chocolates. They were made in Detroit, and I felt good about supporting a local small business.

Later the same day, I learned that the scholarship recipient we’d selected in an essay contest had flown from CA with $3. Total. For a three day trip away. She was entirely at the mercy of the conference and her hosts to feed her. To get around.

The fear that induced in me was palpable, but I could imagine it.

Could someone who’d never been without? Who’d never had to consider the ‘what next’ plan of not being able to afford general basics?

And how can I best work toward a redistribution of wealth — or wellbeing — while also working to solidify my family’s assurances (if we can ever claim to have them)?

I know a few ways. Shop with stores and eat at restaurants that pay ethical wages; support small businesses; frequent neighborhoods and cities whose local economies could use a boost. And does paying my housekeeper extra before she takes her kids to Disneyland count? Or would all that money (to her, at the struggling boutique, etc.) be better spent affecting policy? Or in the hands of a nonprofit?

Maybe my goal should be to tighten all spending – most of what I do, if I am honest – that is done with neither intention nor empathy. Or, frankly, with an eye on the investments that’ll secure my future.

This shit is hard. Any thoughts?

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