#2: Social Actions Interviews


Blog #2

An interview with some trusted advisors:

So mom, if you could stand up and support one human rights issue now what would you choose? Without losing a second she answered “human-trafficking” and began a sort of lecture as I tried to listen, but with a growing disappointment. We Vermonters are so far away from human trafficking issues right? These problems happen in India, not in our tiny state- how could we ever meaningfully impact such a terrible and enormous underground crime?

“But mom, it’s supposed to be a local issue—something I can actually do something about,” I interjected as she took a breath to continue.

“Human trafficking is global AND local Caroline,” she explained. Those who have less power are at higher risk of being trafficked  whether they’re homeless kids living in the streets or poorer people looking for opportunities in America and accepting the first offer they get to be brought oversees. Human trafficking happens everywhere, but it’s just so well hidden in many cases because by nature of the industry it must be an absolute secret or those involved would be incriminated. I thought about it. That topic would be fascinating, but for me very difficult because finding people connected to this would be nearly impossible.

           When I asked my dad he thought about the question for a while—“so is minimum wage a social justice issue?”

           “I think so…” I replied. It involves human lives and inequalities so I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be.

           “What would you do about minimum wage?” I asked bracing myself for a long contemplative silence as is rather common in conversations with my father. He responded immediately. Maybe he’s spent a lot of time thinking about this?

           “I read a book. Umm…I don’t know the name of the author.”

           “That’s ok”

           “So basically this women-the writer, she decided to shine light on the impoverished lives many Americans are stuck living in. For a year she would work a minimum wage job, live off only that salary, and chronicle the daily struggles she faced. She found the daily cost of living was so high she couldn’t put away enough money to even rent an apartment for a month. All se had was enough to get her through the day. Feed herself one more meal, buy one nights sleep. She ended up staying in a hotel for nearly six months because she just had enough money to pay for a night or two. Of course hotels are more expensive so if she’d been able to just have enough of a financial boost to rent for a month or two she’d have been able to save enough to continue renting—but she couldn’t. She got stuck in this terrible cyclical issue of paying for something more expensive because she ironically couldn’t afford the cheaper alternative,” he paused and turned on his blinker.

           “and so…?” I prompted

           “Well, she argues so many people live these lives tossed around by the vicious cycle she found herself in. Minimum wage just isn’t enough for a decent existence as a human being in America.” This issue though just as global and local as human trafficking felt like something so many people faced that it made a lot of sense to devote time and energy towards it. My parents weren’t done yet. I guess no one ever asks you what social justice issue you’d want to work for, and my mom was just getting fired up.

           “I’ve always wanted to work with elderly people,”

           “Okay, but does this have to do with social justice?”

           “Yes- you didn’t let me get to the reason. I think there’s a huge and under-addressed issue of elder abuse. So many elderly folks die without dignity or respect. The ends of their lives are so meaningless because few people value or are willing to listen to their opinions and the wisdom they have. It’s like people don’t care any longer.” My dad chimed in:

           “I know a lot of research has been done on the relationship between nursing homes and unhappiness. All the homes try to do is entertain their residents, fill their days with bingo, mini-golf, movies- fun things, but only fun when there is a balance in your life between enjoyment and purpose. Many people in nursing homes are depressed because they feel worthless and disposable. Nobody asks anything of them any longer.”

           “Yes that’s true,” my mom added, but my dad wasn’t done- in fact quite the opposite. He was on one of his professor rolls where he starts spewing facts and research and psychological experiments continuously until someone asks him to slow down and repeat.

           “One fairly recent study decided to break the rules. They brought cats, dogs, other animals into the nursing homes- completely against the rules of any nursing home you’ll ever visit. They gave each subject (resident of the nursing home) an animal to keep them company, to walk, feed, pay attention to. Suddenly these people’s reported happiness rose dramatically. It’s kind of incredible. Just a cat can put meaning and purpose into their lives again, they feel like something needs them. This cat depends on them for survival, and so this deep human instinct to nurture kicks in. It makes them feel human again.”

           “I just think I would be able to listen, to make them feel heard and important,” my mom interrupted. My parents continued to talk, but I began to ponder the ideas they had put out. All three are fascinating and tragic, topics I would feel barely qualified to even begin researching. There is such an extraordinary amount of need in the world and no need is more important than another need. I believe that someone in a nursing home could be living an existence just as difficult to bear as someone scraping by on minimum wage. My normal criteria for choosing something: “what’s more important?” is not going to work in this situation, but I will continue to think deeply about what topic to pursue this year.


Caroline Kimble

4 Responses to “#2: Social Actions Interviews

  • Caroline,

    First of all, wow! You wrote this blog entry like a novel I could not put down; one that was so engrossing that I stayed on the bus too long and missed my stop, metaphorically speaking that is. I loved the easy banter, the heat of the conversation, the reminders that Dad was driving. Wonderful craft!

    I also really appreciated you asking two very thoughtful people about their ideas. I felt as you seem to, that their social issues are huge and complex, quite daunting to think about solving, or even fully understanding. The book your father read, about the woman who tried to live on minimum wage seemed very much like the example Tim told at the first WTS meeting, about the students who only ate locally for a month. Both experiences give you just that, experience, which is perhaps even more powerful that facts and stats. Worth considering as part of any study.

    Keep digging, you are well on your way! BTW: the pond photo is gorgeous!!

    Moira Donovan

  • Lillian Reeves
    6 years ago

    Hi Caroline,
    I’m coming to your story from South Carolina, and like Moira, I was really engrossed. I love the conversation that you had between you and your parents as you search for a topic to pursue with WTS. Like your parents, and you, I understand the urgency of each of these issues.
    One story that your post made me think of, which I recently saw, or sort of recently saw, was when Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey tried to live on food stamps for a week to draw attention to how perilous the situation really is for silenced and invisible Americans who depend on social services. Booker took this on shortly after New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, vetoed the bill to raise the minimum wage. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/11/newark-mayor-cory-bookers-food-stamp-challenge/

    From what I can tell, a little under 12% of Vermonters live in poverty. (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/VT/AGE775216) and about 13% of Vermont’s children live in poverty. (http://www.nccp.org/profiles/VT_profile_7.html). So Vermont also has populations of people who live in poverty who may benefit from an increased minimum wage. How would you go about discovering how workers making minimum wage now might benefit from a 15 dollar wage?

    As for your other issues, the human cost associated with trafficking and loneliness certainly cannot be minimized. I currently have a student who works at an over night facility for young girls. My student recently told me one of the young women being held in the facility (and they are held and are not there on their own free will) was trafficked out of the midwest and into South Carolina when she was 11. That certainly is enough to provoke us all to action. I really like how your mom localized this issue, too. We are often lulled into a sense of safety in our country, thinking that the buying and selling of human beings can only take place in countries or continents that are far away from the law and order and democracy of the US. The devastating reality is as your mom; it is happening right here. That also makes me think of teenager homelessness, too. As you wrote, a lot of young people who become victims of trafficking are homeless, in need of food and shelter, protection, money. They are incredibly vulnerable and become preyed on with devastating consequences. Does Vermont’s local and state governments have any programming in place to prevent trafficking? Or to assist victims of trafficking?

    Finally, I really like the idea of taking pets into nursing homes! I’ve seen a number of videos on Facebook about nursing homes. To help address loneliness in nursing homes, some Dutch nursing homes are allowing college students to live in nursing homes to help occupants stave off loneliness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb6eXELXs7o I also saw the video of some young kids (4 yr olds) visiting a nursing home in the UK and really getting everyone riled up and enjoying themselves. http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/im-crying-documentary-four-year-10928364 Your post made me wonder why we don’t spend enough time make sure that folks at the end of their lives feel loved and like they have contributed to society’s fabric? Why hide people away when we should be celebrating them, caring for them, and making sure they are not left in solitude and silence?

    These all sound like incredibly timely and important issues related to human rights and human dignity. Like you, I would probably have a difficult time choosing which one to pursue…or rather, which one to pursue FIRST.

    I really look forward to reading more of your writing and learning about where your research takes you. This is a really exciting time to be conducting research, which so much information at your finger tips and so many stories to tell.

    Looking forward to next time,


  • Hi Caroline,
    Wow, what an amazing way of telling the story of the interviews. I’ve never thought to do it like this and you do it so well too!

    You are asking the right questions to find out what you want to do and you’re right, there is no need that is greater or lesser than another. But I have to think, some things might have more support more available than others with people already working to make it better for them. I would keep doing what you’re doing, but be sure to look into what already exists and then decide what needs the most help. At least, that’s my philosophy. You don’t have to listen, I’m just suggesting some tips on how to narrow your decision making process if it’s helpful.

    I can’t wait to see what you decide and what how you chose whatever topic you chose to do. You will do great work with that attitude and energy towards making a difference in our communities.

    Keep up the good work,

  • Oh jeez, just reread that after I published. Sorry for all the errors; there won’t be as many next time.


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