Looking Through the Lens

May 22, 2013

lens-poverty.jpgJoe, Suzie and Fran went out to eat at their favorite restaurant. Each ordered identical meals from the menu, ate their food and then sat back to visit. The conversation gravitated towards food. Joe asked if everyone had enough food. Suzie was concerned about the quality. Fran was disappointed in the presentation.

Each person had the same entrée but had diverse opinions on the meal. What happened? Different socioeconomic classes were represented here. Joe, Suzie and Fran had their own set of hidden rules that caused them to look through different lenses.

Ruby Payne authored an excellent book entitled What Every Church Member Should Know About Poverty. Within her book, Payne details the hidden rules of three socioeconomic classes: poverty, middle class and wealth. Payne describes why we might see things differently than our neighbor.

For example, when I think of the word "possessions," I visualize my house, car, clothing or furniture. I am looking through the middle class lens. Many of our Sioux Falls Ministry Center guests are in poverty. They might view their possessions as important people in their lives. Legacies, pedigrees and one-of-a-kind objects could be important possessions for the wealthy.

Maybe there have been times where you have scratched your head and wondered, "Did that person really do that?" It looked crazy to you. Could it be possible that you looked at it through the lens of hidden rules of your class?

One situation that I have seen played out over and over again regards the handling of money. I have watched people give their family members money for an emergency situation when that person could have paid off outstanding loans. Why didn't they keep the money to pay off debt? For them money is to be "used," not necessarily "managed." It might be difficult for them to see beyond today. Again, we oftentimes look at things like money, clothing, food, time or education through the hidden rules of the particular class that we represent.

Joe, Suzie and Fran represented the three major socio economic groups in our society: poverty, middle class and wealth. Each looked at their meals through a different lens. These opinions came from the hidden rules within their group. Payne believes that hidden rules of classes are different but one isn't better than another.

What class do you relate most to? Has that affected the way you look at others' decisions? It's something to ponder the next time you scratch your head as you watch your neighbor (in your mind) make some crazy decisions.

Carrie Sustad, Director of Operations