I am reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit. Teddy Roosevelt was taken on a tour of cigar making in the tenements of New York by Samuel Gompers. Exposure to the realities of the horrible conditions changed Roosevelt’s mind about a bill in the NY state legislature.(More)

Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

When my sons were in high school in the 1990’s it was popular for church groups to take high school kids on mission trips to build schools and see poverty mostly in Central and Latin America. Perhaps those trips were admirable but I always wondered why assigning poverty to the third world was how we educated our kids. We have poverty here at home. Why not exposure to our own problems?

At about the same time, the company I worked for passed out turkeys and the trimmings to our employees at Thanksgiving. We had lots of extra turkeys. I took my boss and my oldest son to deliver turkeys to some immigrant families. People were crowded into unheated spaces with plywood over the windows. We found citizens in living in the same deplorable conditions and managed to distribute all our thanksgiving meal kits in just a couple of buildings. The three of us talked in the car between stops. There was lots of disbelief that people could be living like this so close to the relative affluence that was our lives. Where were the social services? Where was the assistance that we assumed was available? How did this happen?

(The next year I convinced my boss to stock up on rice and beans as a better menu choice for the immigrants and easier to prepare in the camping like conditions.)

I am contemplating poverty tours for our legislators. I would love to sit them down in the worst conditions that exist in our country and let them get to know the real people behind the programs that they vote on. I don’t want to turn this into something akin to a visit to the zoo and don’t want to dehumanize the poor people. Forget about photo ops like Rep. Paul Ryan washing already clean pans in a soup kitchen.

There has to be a way to dent the mindset that is so popular on the right. There has to be a way to embolden the left to speak for the voiceless and the invisible.