I have been trying to make sense of the discrepancy between people who are born into a life with many resources and those that are born into a life with few. Los Angeles is a city where I see these differences daily. I am aware that there is a large gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” all over the world, and I am aware that the discrepancy continues to widen. In LA, the “haves” and the “have nots” live within miles of each other and the gap is vast.
I was watching TV the other day and saw a reality show of a famous family that lives in Los Angeles. It was an accident that I came across this show, and it was a lapse in judgment to continue to watch it, as I usually do my very best to stay away from exposing myself to the greed and materialism associated with this type of show. The entire show was about the family’s difficulties associated with whether to buy a 1 million dollar house or a 2 million dollar house for their son. The family already has several multi-million dollar mansions in Los Angeles. In looking for the new piece of property, the family was filmed driving around in their Porches and Ferraris. I was struck by the fact that this family was living in the same city that I live in, where I am daily seeing clients and families who are living in a small 1 bedroom house with 12 family members. I am deeply saddened by how unfair these discrepancies are.
There is a large spectrum of individual and familial concerns that people I work with have. The family on the reality TV show, and a small number of the people I work with, spend the vast majority of time talking about which handbags to buy, which designer clothes to wear, which small family conflict to discuss ad nauseum. When I see a family in Watts, South Central or Compton for crisis response, they are talking about how stressful it is that they do not have enough money to feed their family or keep their electricity on. Those family’s drive cars that often don’t run, they wear clothes that have holes in them, bullets fly by the house on a regular basis, and the moms carry handbags that they bought at the Salvation Army or if they are lucky Target. The father’s in those families, if they are still in the picture, are working manual labor jobs for 12 hours a day, every day. Moving up the spectrum, many of my private wellness clients are dealing with concerns not nearly as serious as life and death but rather family conflict, self-improvements, communication, weight loss. The reality show family is indicative of the far other side of the spectrum, they were eating dinner prepared by several live-in chefs on solid gold forks and knives and was filmed dealing with conflicts surrounding who was on their cell phone too much. My internal question, as a consultant to these varying families, is how can this lack of equality be tolerated?
The simple solution is to wonder why the wealthy family does not give money away so that other families do not have to suffer without the necessities. The deeper question is how this greedy and individualist behavior is tolerated by our culture. The real question for me is how to advise people with no resources to be healthy and well. I don’t know a good answer to this question, but I know what I find myself saying to the families I serve that have less than enough. I tell my clients with few resources, that a positive attitude, humility and gratitude for the gifts that they do have is the combination of curative factors to sooth the pain of not having enough. Obviously having a positive attitude and gratitude is very difficult when life is so hard. However, I tell these families that remaining positive and grateful comes down to keeping hope that things will get better. Of course maintaining hope is unbelievably difficult when each day is a struggle, but my experience is if a family can maintain hope, they can remain healthy. Humility comes down to living as a good person, avoiding harming others and knowing that being a good person is the most important achievement in life.
This is a significant topic for me. Dealing with the discrepancy between those that have and those that don’t is one of the main themes that is woven through the fabric of my work in LA. I struggle to make sense of it daily so that I can be helpful to the clients I work with. I truly believe that a positive attitude, humility and gratitude are the answers to how those people that are without remain healthy. I will dedicate the next three weeks and posts to talking about maintaining a positive attitude, humility and gratitude. I suspect the upcoming posts will be filled with questions as these are very challenging health and wellness achievements. Of course, as always, I welcome your thoughts as I am certain many of you have even better solutions than I can come up with to maintain a positive attitude, humility and gratitude.