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  • Jelena Woehr

    The story about the woman who shares her trailer with others in the same situation is really moving. I think another element is simply being able to approach others as fellow human beings. People who have never experienced real poverty have to work consciously at overcoming the tendency to make poor people invisible/inhuman in their worldview. Anderson Cooper talked about that recently, in a segment where he said he now can't understand how he ever thought it was acceptable for him to live in a neighborhood and say hello to all of his neighbors by name, EXCEPT the homeless neighbors who he saw as often or more so than people in his own income bracket. When I was volunteering as a victim advocate (until just before I moved to CA three weeks ago) I saw a lot of similar stories of compassion, and invariably the people who are most prepared to provide direct, ongoing help like long-term housing to others are people who have experienced severe poverty themselves.

    I posted a link a while back here about the effect of reading literary fiction on empathy. People who read literary fiction were more able to empathize with real-world fellow humans, not just with the fictional characters. I wonder if one way to create more compassion in people who are unlikely to ever personally experience severe poverty would be to increase literary fiction's presence in education, diversify the authors presented, and start teaching from literary fiction earlier, even if it means a lot of reading aloud and explaining by the teacher?

  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    Fascinating part of the research. I wonder how big name philanthropists and CSR programs fit in? : "Likewise, psychology experiments suggest that affluence may erode compassion. When research subjects are asked to imagine great wealth, or just look at a computer screen saver with money, they become less inclined to share or help others. That may be why the poorest 20 percent of Americans give away a larger share of their incomes than the wealthiest 20 percent."