Though very thankful to have a home in Maine, this year I have an hour commute to Bowdoin. Audio books have been great for me, as I feel that I am accomplishing something worthwhile in the car. I just finished Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America and I’m about halfway through Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
As you know from President Mills's emails regarding the Brunswick-Bowdoin Community Read, Barbara Ehrenreich will be on campus for a presentation next Friday (January 27) in Pickard Theater, and there will be discussion groups about her book. Working with at-risk youth and underprivileged families for many years, I was still surprised with some of the challenges Ehrenreich faced, and the privilege I take for granted most days despite my efforts to appreciate all of the blessing which I have. I knew that some of the students I worked with at an alternative education facility would come to school, and not know where their home would be that night because they needed to move constantly to another hotel, family member’s house, or shelter. Ehrenreich’s book shed some light on housing woes for the poor including: lack of deposit and first month’s rent up front keeping employed workers in hotels which may charge over $1,000 per month; lack of affordable housing near workplaces which prevent workers from taking better paying jobs, especially if they don’t have reliable transportation; and lack of a ‘livable wage’ for over 60% of workers in our country which would help them provide licensed child care for their children and have health insurance and a telephone. Ehrenreich certainly challenges the old adage of people in poverty simply being lazy and choosing not to work, and outlines her belief that the poor are philanthropists who endure hardships so that inflation stays low and stock prices high. This book is an interesting read for anyone who wishes to better understand the plight of the poor in America (and Maine, as one of her employment trials was here).
I picked up Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin because it was on my reading list since last year when I helped out with a middle school class which was reading the young adult version of the book. I have been inspired by the stories of those who are trying to improve education for the poor in Afghanistan and Pakistan and wage a peaceful war on terror by providing balanced education for both boys and girls. Further research turned up some questioning by CBS about how this organization keeps their books. Despite this questioning, I am encouraged by organizations such as this which seek to improve the world and wage a war on terror with education and understanding. I choose to be inspired by this type of work rather than disheartened after the CBS story, because I believe in the message of equal, fair and balanced education for all. What keeps me reading is the imagery of lands and people I will never see. I appreciate having a human face to put on the news headlines of unrest in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and hope the book will help me, and others, make good decisions about and hold to our promises of aid in these countries.