We want to share with you an excerpt from the speech our founder, Carrie Christian, gave at the Hearts For Hope event last weekend…
A few months back, I was sent an article called “Behavioral economics has a plan to fight poverty—and it’s all about redesigning the “cockpit””. The author, Karen Weese, wrote about how we should change the way people living in poverty are looked at and treated if we truly want to give them a chance. She told a story from World War 2. The military was plagued with a series of accidents in which bomber pilots would successfully complete difficult missions, but inexplicably retract their wheels during landing, causing their planes to crash on the runway. No one could figure out why. The pilots were some of the military’s best and brightest. Had they gotten sloppy? Fatigued? Forgotten their training?
This article goes on to explain that whether we’re doctors, or teachers, or anything else, we all have a finite amount of mental bandwidth, and if we use that space to concentrate on one thing, it can’t be used for something else. Sounds obvious, but research is now showing that it has profound implications, especially for people who are, financially, barely scraping by. While everyone juggles work, family, and financial obligations, for low-income families these decisions involve constant, agonizing tradeoffs (“Should I pay the rent or the heating bill? Should I fill this prescription or buy food?”). Choices NO ONE should have to make! And the process of making those painful tradeoffs day after day comes at a cognitive cost—the equivalent, researchers say, of living each day as if you hadn’t slept the night before. That’s the problem with the adage “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” someone is getting robbed and someone is getting paid funds that are needed elsewhere, and no one is winning.
So, what happened with the World War 2 bomber pilots? It turned out that, in the cockpit, the lever for the wheels looked and felt almost exactly like the lever for the flaps. In the flurry of activity during landing, the pilots were just pulling the wrong one. When the military changed the levers, so they could be differentiated by touch, making it easier for the pilots to make the right choice, lo and behold, the crashes stopped. Think about that. The military didn’t need to get into the pilot’s heads, lecture them about personal responsibility, or tell them to try harder.
They just needed to re-design the cockpit.
So, here is where we come in, YOU come in – re-designing the cockpit. We can use our time and resources to reach across the city and meet people where they are. One principle we stand on within our organization, is not judging those we serve for the decisions they make or where they may have found themselves, but instead we meet them where they are (both physically and mentally). We can be their social capital, making it easier for them to make choices and decisions that can hopefully get them out of this cycle of poverty.
We are re-designing the cockpit by providing them with the essentials they need to ease the burden of poverty in their lives.
We are a 100% volunteer organization, with little overhead, so your donations go directly to providing weekend food packs for children and their families, so none of them have to wonder where their next meal will come from. We provide 120 weekend food packs EACH MONTH!
We are re-designing the cockpit by providing them with a mentor, we call them Family Liaisons, that help the family find the resources they need and guide them through goal setting and whatever each individual family needs. Our Liaisons have connected families with job opportunities, much needed mental health treatment, and have connected them to assistance for their children. With your donations we can and have provided essential needs to the family like toiletries, home goods, and larger items like furniture or even help with repairing plumbing issues.
We are re-designing the cockpit by being someone in their corner – someone that cares about them. We have called organizations on behalf of a family to try to keep them in their home, and made many calls try to find them a transitional home to live in when they are losing theirs. We sat with families to help them fill out countless housing applications. We care if they succeed or fail, and we can make it easier for them to succeed with someone on their side and showing them the way.
We are so proud of these accomplishments. But, one of the things we are the proudest of and excited about is that we have made lifelong, personal connections… we have been the light in the dark for many of these families. The gratitude that we’ve been shown when providing the assistance, the essentials, the food, the gifts during the holidays, is beyond humbling. But what I keep hearing, over and over, is that they are thankful for someone being in their corner, for having someone care about them, and just having someone to talk to about their situation. Most of us can fight harder and longer when we know we’re not fighting alone.
How will you re-design the cock-pit for our neighbors living in poverty?