Change Begins with One New Idea

During the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette uttered her famous words “Let them eat cake.”

Far from being a callous scorning of the starving masses, it was practical advice given from the rarefied vantage point of one of the wealthiest people in France. Because to Marie, if you ran out of bread, there was always an abundance of cake to eat.

We seem to be revisiting those rarefied heights of economic separation in our own community. Here in Silicon Valley there are 55,242 households who are living below the self-sufficiency level, and of those 11,165 households are living below the poverty level. That translates to 29 percent of households who cannot meet their daily needs.

On one end of the scale, we receive contributions of snowboarding gear, golfing clothes and shoes, and other items that reflect the affluence of the people who can afford such things. It may not occur to them that our families don’t have enough money for groceries, and their children have never been to the ski slopes at Tahoe.

And I can see why they are unaware of the privation in their midst. Traveling around San Mateo County, those disadvantaged families are nearly invisible. Here at Samaritan House, we see a steady stream of individuals and families who are working hard, yet don’t have enough money to pay their rent and still eat.

As the gulf widens between the affluent and the needy, a social shift is also taking place in our children.

Children of affluent parents are being raised to value achievement and personal happiness as their top two values, while caring for others and fairness rank low on the list, according to a recent Harvard study.

The study sounds the alarm, that we can’t just stand still and produce a nation in which the affluent don’t believe in the idea of community and caring for others. There are things we can do, as individuals, families and as communities to reverse this trend.

Samaritan House is embarking on new programs that will bring all children in the community together to learn about what it means to have less, about income inequality through real life experiences, and will give them the training and tools to create their own social enterprises to reduce poverty and raise social awareness.  To learn more about the issues and some possible solutions, please click this link to our publication: Samaritan House Concept Paper

Here are the statistics from Insight Center for Community Development.

Below Poverty Below SSS Below SSS
Above Poverty
Below Poverty Below SSS Below SSS
Above Poverty
All 11,165 55,242 44,077 5.9% 29.1% 23.20%
With Children 5,565 32,148 26,583 7.2% 41.9% 34.70%
Without Children 5,600 23,094 17,494 5% 20.4% 15.40%

Samaritan House is actively seeking your participation to create meaningful programs to address these issues.  Please contact Mary Dunbar at mary@samaritanhousesanmateo.org if you are interested in funding our work and Carol Laughlin at carol@samaritnahousesnamteo.org if you would like to volunteer in our future programs.