The Haves and Have-Nots
Monday was my regular day off from work. Among the errands I had that day was dropping off a couple bags of books and videos at the Goodwill store in my neighborhood. That same afternoon, I headed down to my wireless carrier and finally got an upgrade for my iPhone. Moving up to the 3GS for free left me feeling pretty good about my choice. I didn't have a compelling reason to invest in the just-released 4S, which came with a hefty price tag and quite a bit more cultural cachet.
On Tuesday, as I was scanning my daily newspaper for local news, I came across a news brief that said St. Vincent de Paul was closing both of its thrift stores in the Salem area. The stores were costing more to operate than the revenue they were bringing in. Eleven of 14 jobs were being eliminated -- on top of 5 warehouse positions axed in May. I winced.
The stores were supposed to support the nonprofit's emergency services programs, which provide food and help with rent and utility bills. And no doubt these 11 folks being laid off were earning the minimum wage or something close to it.
Seemed totally out of sync that I could marvel at the improvements in my new smartphone while these faceless employees in Oregon's capital city were losing their jobs because not enough people were buying used goods in their stores. I couldn't help but think of the Occupy Wall Street movement and how, if nothing else, it has served to point out the obscene disparities in personal income in our country.
Obviously, the scale is far different but, for a fleeting moment, I could imagine what it would be like to be part of the 1 percent. Carried away with the latest gadget and far removed from the hardships of those who work for struggling nonprofits. Coming on top of last month's news that the Boys and Girls Club was closing two of its clubs near Eugene for lack of money made me wonder yet again about our country's priorities. What a shame that consumers -- like me-- flock to the latest gadget while our charitable organizations, and the people they employ, scrape to make ends meet.