People unlike You
Before Thanksgiving break, I attended the showing of a video about poverty in the United States called “The Line.” Although I have heard about poverty and know what it is, I rarely think of how it differs depending on an individual’s situation, but rather how it is defined as a whole. Unfortunately, I admit that I thought similarly to some of the stereotypes mentioned before seeing how poverty affects people in different ways. From viewing this video, I now further understand that poverty cannot and should not define how someone is viewed, but rather that poverty should be seen as a situation in which we can offer our support and service to. Similar to “The Twelfth Night,” there are many characters that have situations that cannot be explained or understood solely by looking on the surface, but are only understood when others take the time to see who they are as an individual. Therefore, when situations become clear to us, we start to realize that our judgments of surface appearance and stereotypes are not how we should view someone.
Stereotypes and predetermined judgments can cloud the image of who a person really is. This is true in both Shakespeare’s “The Twelfth Night” and in the video “The Line.” Shakespeare portrays the Clown, in comparison to the others in the play, as a character who is looked down upon and considered a “fool.” Between the conversation of Olivia and the Clown, Olivia states, “Go to, you’re a dry fool; I’ll have no more of you” (10). Since there is a difference in power and status between Olivia and the Clown, there may already be a stereotype developed on who is intelligent and who is not. However, when the readers look past the stereotype that goes along with the image of a clown and look deeper into his individual character, they see him in another, more intelligent light. Stereotypes limit us from understanding the truth in people since it locks us in a state of mind of not accepting anything different. Similarly, this is how some uninformed people in the United States see families below the poverty line. Someone directly affected by the pains of poverty stated that “prevalent and damaging stereotypes about poor people are that they are lazy, stupid, have no skills, prefer poverty, and can’t take care of their families.” In reality, however, this video revealed that people who experience poverty were once in comfortable situations, but experienced a tremendous hardship they have yet to overcome. If families in poverty are viewed in this light to the rest of society, not as many people will be willing to step-up and help since they believe they brought these hardships on themselves and should solve them on their own. This only furthers their struggles because relationships that offer help, assistance, and care are often what help people overcome their poverty stricken life.
When in difficult situations, it is not always enough to depend solely on one’s self. There are many situations in which we need the love, support, and guidance of other people to get us from one place to another. John, a single dad with three teenagers, is one of the many who is currently experiencing poverty in a suburban town in the United States. Although people in these situations often feel “shame for having to beg for every little thing” they get, they often need to allow others to help them. For John, this means going to the food pantry in order to feed his family. Though he feels embarrassment, he accepts the help of others. When Olivia states, “O world, how apt the poor are to be proud!” she reveals an issue that restricts many people in poverty to seek help (38). Some people, unlike John, refuse to face this embarrassment of receiving help and continue to live in the detrimental cycle of poverty. For those that are able to overcome their pride and accept what their situation faces them with, however, are able to receive help in order to get back on their feet. Through these relationships, people below “the line” find comfort and are given the strength and support to fight their way out of poverty.
These people are able to see past the poverty and stereotype that defines John and provide him with help. As a result, they see John not as an unemployed, lazy person, but as a courageous father who tries his best to make ends meet while he continues his search for a job. Even a lady working at the food pantry said “we can’t do it alone, we need the resources of the government to help” and that providing food to those in poverty is “a partnership.” These partnerships and relationships of support and assistance allow people to overcome challenges in their lives, which lead them to a brighter future. In “The Twelfth Night,” relationships between the characters function in a similar way. Although driven by love, Antonio considers the support he offered to Sebastian by assisting him to Illyria as a “kindness that I have done for you” (52). When Antonio decides to assist Sebastian in the first place, however, Sebastian states “I can no other answer make but thanks” (42). This shows that, in these situations, the one being helped sometimes can offer nothing in return for the services they are provided. Only true support and assistance, however, can be defined by whether or not those who give are looking to receive anything in return or are doing it for the purpose of good.
Surrounded by the comfortable lifestyle that goes along with attending Loyola, I rarely hear of this poverty or even understand exactly what it means. Adventuring into the city a few weeks ago for the transportation assignment, however, allowed me to see how this way of life occurs only twenty minutes outside of Loyola. Being asked for donations of food and money, I felt an obligation to help in some way. Stereotypes, unfortunately, have made it difficult to differentiate those who genuinely need help from those have other motives. Similar to situations presented in “The Twelfth Night” and “The Line,” you can never truly understand someone by how they are collectively viewed by society. From this video I realized that poverty does not define people, but is only a challenge that requires help from themselves and others to overcome.
What I found most interesting about this semester were the event analyses. Although I found myself struggling to make connections at first, I started to get the hang of it and found that I have continued to make these connections to my surroundings. What I also think was interesting and made me grow and mature as a person was seeing myself in relation to the city. Considering how my surroundings affect me, I have opened my mind to situations I would not even think of otherwise. I thought I liked living in my little bubble of knowing everything I need to know and being dependent on other people. I learned, however, that I do not need to be nervous about being a part of something I have not yet experienced. What also surprised me about the event analyses was how they revealed what is available in the world around me. Not only did they allow me to connect myself to new things, but they also exposed me to things I would not have previously taken interest in or cared about. I also realized this through the Transportation/ Neighborhood/ Cultural Institution Analysis since it exposed me to many things the city so close to me had to offer. By immersing myself in the city, I learned so much about how to interact with my surroundings. Therefore, the overall most surprising thing I learned about myself this semester, as a result of this class, is how I have the ability and freedom to explore everything Loyola and the city of Baltimore put before me.