One thing I hate are people who say and think that poor people are stupid, lazy, or useless. They don’t say it out loud, but you’ll usually find them when somebody shares inspiring rags to riches stories. They are the commenters who say that “rich people got rich only because they’re lucky” and “it’s impossible for a poor person to get rich because they don’t have the education, the opportunities, the skills, etc. to do it.” They’re also the ones who say that “hard work is useless” or “there are many who work hard but still end up poor” and never offer any encouraging solution.
Many of those people completely misinterpret the intent of inspiring posts to mean that “poor people are poor because it’s their own fault” or that “hard work works for some but it never works for everyone else.” They are the example of how our thoughts and perspectives affect our worldview: while many of us see those posts as sources of inspiration (“If they can do it, we can do it too!”), those people see them as insults (“Successful people just got lucky and everybody else will fail so they must NEVER even TRY!”).
While they mean well by trying to point out the problems that poor people face, by degrading and demeaning the message from inspirational posts they do far more harm than good. The end result is that they’re discouraging the poor by implying that they can NEVER rise above poverty, and that they are so weak and helpless that they can never earn prosperity unless somebody gives them charity.
Never bring Excuses: Give INSPIRATION and show them the way FORWARD
“Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.” – Norman Vincent Peale
There’s an old saying that “if you desire it, you’ll find many ways. If you don’t, you’ll find many excuses.” Some people say that, “realistically,” most of the poor people’s problems are too difficult. Well REALISTICALLY, every problem and obstacle has multiple solutions, and I believe they are smart enough to find the right solution for their situations, and they are resourceful enough to use them well when they learn that these exist.
The poor cannot afford education.
There are scholarships (like ones street children like Rusty applied for) and government programs out there that can help the poor (TESDA’s Student and Scholarship Assistance programs). They may not always be available, but they are there for those who need them. They can keep trying until they get in, or they can try another path in life that would not need formal education, like entrepreneurship.
The poor do not have the money or the capital to start.
Some banks offer micro financing loans for starting small businesses that can help people earn a decent livelihood. All they need to do is have a solid business plan and ask their banks to see what they qualify for. If that doesn’t work, they can try the dozens of other banks and they can also ask their friends and families for financial help. Aside from that, they can save some of what they earn from work until they have enough to start a small business.
It takes too much work to rise above poverty.
We all have two choices: We can either work hard for a chance at prosperity… or we live our lives as it’s always been, cursing our children and grandchildren in the cycle of poverty. Again, if we desire it, we’ll find many ways.
There are no opportunities.
Indeed, if we stay in the middle of the Sahara desert or in the slums of Payatas and Tondo, we likely won’t find many customers for our shop or any sources of employment… but if we move to where the customers and the opportunities are and start searching for them, then we’ll find them or learn to create opportunities ourselves.
Rich people get rich because they got lucky.
This has to be the WORST idea ever. What does it imply for the average poor person? That they’re NOT lucky so they’re destined to STAY POOR FOREVER and there’s NOTHING they can or should do about it. It also makes them think that even if they keep doing low-value things, they might someday get lucky and become instant millionaires. Really, you’d think that a homeless beggar “got lucky” and BOOM, five seconds later they accidentally built an international company. Luck never happens unless you work to make it happen. You can never make a 3-point shot unless you keep throwing that basketball, and you can never have a million-dollar business if you never start a business in the first place. “Luck” is what you call the years of hard work and perseverance that people never see.
Rich people got rich by abusing workers.
I take that previous one back. THIS is one of the worst ideas ever and I’ve explained it before in the “rich vs poor” myth. The implication of this one is that getting rich means abusing people, so it’s “better” to stay poor and suffer. That idea is wrong: People get rich by creating things that people value, and we each get paid according to the value we give. The farmer who is able to produce ten sacks of rice is paid less than the farmer who produces one hundred. The janitor who sweeps floors is paid less than the doctor who saves a dozen sick people’s lives every day. The worker who mixes cement and lays bricks is paid less than the one who hires a hundred workers to build homes for a thousand families. People’s earnings differ, but they are paid justly according to the value that they produce. If you’re being abused by your employer, do what sensible people do: quit and find a better employer or start your own multinational corporation.
Offering Discouragement: Try Telling a Beggar they’re Useless, Lazy, Worthless, or Stupid
Try telling this to a beggar: “You’re going to stay poor forever because you’re stupid and uneducated, you’ll NEVER have ANY opportunities in life, and you’ll NEVER become successful because only the “lucky” people get rich and you and your children are destined to stay poor forever.” Every time someone denigrates or ridicules an inspiring “rags to riches” or “how people get rich” post by talking about how it’s impossible for most people, that is the message that they imply.
Bringing awareness to the problems that poor people face helps us find solutions and it has its own value, but constantly ONLY telling the poor about their problems don’t help at all. Why? THEY ALREADY KNOW ALL OF THEIR PROBLEMS, and they know them better than we do! It’s what they DON’T know, the things they COULD DO to earn wealth DESPITE all their problems that will help, and that is what we must teach them instead.
You can keep telling that unemployed army soldier about why finding jobs with only a military background is difficult… or you can inspire them to do something else like starting a business selling food similar to how Cerilo Delfin sold puto and kutsinta.
You can tell that jeepney driver about all the problems they face and how won’t be able to do more in life because of their meager income… or you can teach them how to handle money properly so that they can someday become wealthy.
You can keep telling that poor tricycle driver about all the hardships he faces every day and how hard it is to live in such a low income forever… or you can tell him that he can start delivering or selling food from his vehicle to earn an extra income like what Noel Ramirez did (Go Negosyo: Joey Concepcion’s 100 Inspiring Stories of Small Entrepreneurs “Tagumpay Mula sa Kahirapan”).
You can tell that street kid sniffing glue on the streets that they’re destined to stay poor… or you can inspire them to keep trying for a scholarship in order to attend school like Rusty the street kid and study hard in order to earn better opportunities life.
You can tell that poor kid that, due to her poor background, she’ll never amount to much and that the most she’ll be is a maid or labandera (laundy girl) on the streets… or you can inspire her to study hard and graduate with honors in order to earn a better life for her future family like what my own mother did.
Focus on Problems and that’s all we get… Focus on Opportunities and…
The more people talk about the problems that poor people face and how hard it is for them to earn a decent living, the less confidence they’ll have on their own skills and talents as well as their ability to learn NEW skills and talents.
For those who devalue the inspiring rags to riches posts, I’ll tell them this: “You can keep thinking that it’s IMPOSSIBLE for the poor to earn better lives, but please keep that idea to yourself. You can believe that it’s impossible for you, but for those who suffer and wish for wealth and prosperity, please don’t crush their dreams and drag them down with you.”
I admit, it will be difficult for the average poor person to find the path that will lead them to prosperity, but the alternative is living the rest of their lives in suffering and poverty. One of the best things we can do is inspire them with the stories and methods of those who have already succeeded so that they can learn to do it too.
I believe that, rich or poor, we all have the capacity to rise above our problems and failures… but we can only do that when we find the knowledge we need, the inspiration to start, and the courage to persevere.
That is the reason why people like me keep writing. Never forget: Ideas change lives.