Love your neighbor.

Bernie on a Journey - Part 23 - January 10, 2020


This week's vlog is an invitation to create a New Year's Resolutions for building the community you want to live in. It's never too late to start doing something different or better. Personally, I have been convicted to look at how I can do more to support a strong local business culture. Both by shopping local and by even looking for a bank that invests in local businesses, I can work towards the community I want to see. I was very inspired by two strong towns articles on this subject, and I encourage you guys to check them out:

One of my favorite parts of researching is that I get to stand on the backs of giants. I read and can pull the highlights from years of hard work by other people, while trying to add a small bit to the conversation.

"Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty" by 2019 Economic Nobel Prize winners' Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo has been one of the most recent works informing my perceptions on how to approach the work of revitalization and neighborhood development. While their book focused their years of work with people who live on less than $1USD per day,  I feel like many of the concepts and principles they explained are universal to how people feel whenever they are economically constrained and under-resourced.

"For the poor, every year feels like being in the middle of a colossal financial crisis [like the 2008 crisis]," said Banerjee & Duflo. This makes sense because the poor are in one colossal financial crisis after another, rarely having times of prosperity.

Banerjee and Duflo made the point - risk is everywhere in poverty. If there is political change, then the government programs that the poor rely on might be altered, then their lives can go from bad to worse.  Violence, crime, food & price changes, health issues, are all constant worries for those who live in poverty, explained the authors.With these worries comes stress and cortisol, a stress hormone, is released in the body, and as Banerjee and Duflo explained, cortisol is actually proven to impair decision making and thinking. Therefore, the poor have many crucial decisions to make every day, but have a harder time making the best possible decision.

Moreover, some things, like saving, are just difficult for people in general by the nature of how we understand time (Banerjeee & Duflo). And when you come from limited means, what you have saved up by scraping and limiting non-essentials can evaporate with one small emergency, which discourages future attempts to save. For someone to save they have to have hope for a better future, and it can be exhausting maintain hope in the face of daily struggles.  This is why people aren't meant to live in isolation, because we are meant to bolster each other's hope and provide a sort of informal network of support and insurance.

Reaching out to help one another in many cases is like a deposit in someone's bank of hope - I see this constantly with NeighborLink projects and with acts of kindness in general. It matters that we find ways to reach out to those who are isolated by poverty and other hardships and show them that they matter and people.

Moreover, when we band together we can strengthen our mutual resolve to do the right thing, whether it be a commitment to exercise more or spend responsibly. Life is easier when it is lived in a supportive community.

In my own life this plays out in a few ways. My friends and I have craft nights where we sit and work on whatever handiwork we want. Anything from painting and crochet to book binding and everything in between is welcome. Craft night allows us to have time together while still working on whatever we have been trying to accomplish alone.

Another way my own need for a supportive community plays out is with budget nights. Truly, I am a person who loves budgets and spreadsheets and the idea of a stable financial future. So, me and friends will periodically sit down to review our budgets and financial goals and discuss how we can be good stewards of what we have. Banerjee and Duflo's book on poverty explained part of why budget groups are effective: when we establish goals and norms in a group setting, there is a sense of social pressure to stick to them.

Based on other research I've been exposed to, though, my own financial sensibilities have shifted. I want to look for ways to become an investor in my own community, in local small businesses and in supporting my friends as they start their own. I also am doing research to figure out if I want to switch to a local bank. There are even resources to help rank banks involvement in the community (check out for more information). Even if I don't have much money, I want to make sure I am using it to make my community better.

One more lesson from Banerjee and Duflo that I am working into my approach of resolutions and research is moving past the three I's: Ideology, Ignorance & Inertia. I have to be willing to move out of what should be and look at things the way they are (ideology). I have to be willing to seek out information and learn where my assumptions are wrong (ignorance). Finally, I have to be willing to change course and possibly even stop entirely when new information arises (inertia).  Because, as "Poor Economics" points out**,** information alone does not make things change, people have to be willing to accept the information and  use it to direct their behavior.

I hope you all consider reading "Poor Economics" for yourselves - the Allen County Public Library has a copy! But more importantly, I hope you think of where you can build community to accomplish goals and support others in need in 2020 and throughout your life!