The Carr Report: What’s the best thing you can do for poor people?

I receive some interesting questions. What’s the best thing you can do for Poor People? This is one of them.

I recall sitting on a panel at an Urban League event some years ago. It was myself and two other panelists. First question was, “How do you explain the wealth gap between Black and White people?” The question was posed to the other two panelists first. They gave some elongated, philosophical responses. As I sat and listened to their respective responses, I’m thinking to myself how in the “opposite of heaven” I got selected to be on this panel? This is not a typical financial planning question. I’m thinking I dodged this bullet for they answered the question. As I sat there anticipating the next question, I heard the moderator ask, “Mr. Carr—what are your thoughts? How do you explain the wealth gap between Black and White people?” I retorted, “White people had a head start—400 years to be exact.” For about 30-seconds, dead silence. You can hear a pin drop. Guess they were expecting a more elongated, philosophical response. Nope. That’s all I had. Next question.

What’s the best thing that you can do for Poor People? Should poor people be awarded a monthly stipend to help boost them to lower middle class status? Not going to happen. Many people classified as poor are already given SNAP for food assistance and Section 8 to reduce the cost of housing, as well as various programs that assist with basic utility costs such as lights, gas, and water. Problem with these programs is poor people become dependent and reliant upon these programs, thus killing the drive to better themselves. In the end, many people live their entire life as poor people. Not exactly a winning proposition.
The best response I’ve heard on this subject came from comedian Steve Harvey. Steve said that his father told him, “The best thing that you can do for poor people is NOT be one of them!” Don’t get all cockeyed reading those words in my column. I didn’t say it. Steve did—but I AGREE! Neither one of us is joking! Don’t trip; He’s (God) not through with Steve or me yet!

Hear me out. There’s no “Captain Save a Po man” coming to save you from poverty. The answer to the underlying question is this. It’s a choice! You have to decide for yourself that circumstances beyond your control may have caused you to be born into poverty or may have caused you to stumble and fall into poverty. But it’s your choice to remain there or do what is necessary to get out of poverty.

Back when I was in High School I recall a conversation with a young lady. She was about seven years older than me. She had two children. She was receiving governmental financial assistance and living in Section 8 housing. Both she and I were classified as poor at the time. She was talented and skilled in doing hair. A job opportunity presented itself in Columbus, Oh. She had family there. She planned to move to Columbus and stay with family until she got on her feet. Me, a 17-year old kid was curious as to why she would leave a situation where she’s not required to pay any rent. She responded she wanted better for herself and her children. She made a “choice” to better herself. Fast forward—30 years later. She’s had a successful career. More importantly, her children were able to witness firsthand their mother’s work ethic and sacrifice. She was a living example for them to follow. They too who are now parents have escaped the confines of poverty. They’re hardworking individuals and successful in their own right. They made a “choice” to break the cycle of poverty.

Why am I writing this article? Poor People cannot afford my services. This mindset is how poor people become disenfranchised. Many of us who make it out of poverty don’t do enough to come back into our respective communities and provide the information and tools that will aid in poor people getting ahead. What many people who are classified as poor need to understand is help isn’t always monetary. It can come in the form of information, motivation, vision, or inspiration – which can be the spark needed to change a poor mindset into an inspired, winning mindset. Choose a mindset that will fill a person with the hope to make a change in their life. In order to escape the constraints of poverty, you have to first eradicate poor people’s thinking and poor people’s actions.

I grew up poor. Most if not all of my childhood friends come from similar circumstances. Many of us have broken through the cycle of poverty. Does that make us special? Do we possess some miraculous talent? Were we destined to be successful while many others that we grew up with still remain in an impoverished state? No! Those of us who have made it out the Hood and are working hard to provide a better life for our respective family chose to better ourselves.

Only you can decide for yourself to remain poor or do what’s required of you to change your destiny. The best thing you can do for poor people is to not be one of them! It’s your choice. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Living a lifetime of poverty isn’t easy either. How will you proceed?

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