Posted by: Maggie Hutchison
After spending about two and a half weeks in Boston I have a ton of thoughts running through my head.
But at the end of the night, when I’m trying to sleep and the sound of sirens and ice cream trucks (yes, there are ice cream trucks that circle the neighborhood late at night) aren’t the only things keeping me awake, I wonder about the socio-economic differences that separate the people of this city.
There are a lot of well-off business people in Boston. If you walk around the Financial District at either 8:30 am or 5 pm you will be sure to know what I’m talking about. These people can also be seen at your family owned Italian gourmet restaurants on the North End and nice clubs all over town. High-end businesses do very well for themselves here in Boston, which has its pros and cons to raising the living standard for those in low-income neighborhoods.
However, I don’t work in the financial district; I don’t even get paid. I work in a non-profit in a diverse, low-income neighborhood, where our services are not limited to low-income individuals. I like that we serve everyone because it is a true testament to equality. But working in this neighborhood, living in the city, taking public transportation, and living on a strict budget has really showed me not only the struggles of poverty, but also the great community and ‘all-for-one, one-for-all!’ mentality that comes along with being in solidarity with those around you.
It is like walking through two different worlds when you cross from the Back Bay area, which is very nice and filled with high end bars, restaurants and retail shops, to some neighborhoods of lower income. In the neighborhoods of low income, the people are very diverse, as you will find throughout the entire city, and the languages that are spoken on public transportation and written on storefront windows are quite often not English. I felt that prior to coming to Boston I had spent time in inner cities, but my experience has not been similar at all. I am from a suburb about 20 miles north of Pittsburgh and my idea of a day in the city includes either riding my bike around town, stopping to play in the fountains, going to a Pirates game and maybe grabbing a bite to eat. Never have I relied on public transportation to get me around the city, nor have I ever really had to interact with people that I didn’t already know. Being in Boston with no familiar faces forces me to be social with the strangers around me, but it also has lead to me studying the people around me.
Living on $14 a day, including food and transportation, has been a struggle-especially with zero supplies in our dorm provided for us. I can get very caught up in the difficulty of our economic situation living here in Boston, but then on my bus ride to and from work every day I notice how much of a way of life this is for everyone else. The entire time I wait for the bus I am calculating how much quicker I could have gotten to my location if I had either a bike or a car, but everyone around me is living in the moment and enjoying the company around them. Many people get on the buses alone but find a friend in the back that they talk and joke with. The community in these low-income neighborhoods amaze me and fill me with joy.
I recognize that, for me, relationships are what fill me with hope, joy and love, but I always assumed that that was because I have been blessed to be brought up in a house of stable income, however relationships are what turn individuals into neighbors.
It is important for me to continue to work for economic justice, but it is important for me to remember that people have difficulties in every range of income and that at the end of the day it is the relationships that you have with people that will get you through your struggles.
With that being said, I continue to do my work here at Dorchester Bay, but I am striving to be more hands on throughout the micro-loan process and to get to know the clients on a deeper level than just the business level.
This experience has been extremely enlightening so far, and I cannot wait to see what else I learn by August! (And what else I can find in the city!)