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Money Can't Buy Happiness, but it Can Buy Food

Happiness is surprisingly subjective and often is centered around finding one’s purpose and fulfilling one’s potential. American psychologist Abraham Maslow is often sited when it comes to understanding happiness and an individual’s needs. His hierarchy of needs is an excellent diagram that shows what must be fulfilled in order to find self-actualization – fulfilling one’s potential. At the bottom of the pyramid are basic needs – food, air, water, and health. Next comes shelter and safety. Then comes what most people associate with happiness – love, inclusion, acceptance, belonging, self-actualization, self-esteem, power and recognition. The bottom half of the pyramid, our physical needs, must be adequately met before the top half – what's commonly associated with happiness - can be obtained. These “happiness” factors can’t be bought by money, but food, shelter and safety can.

Many disadvantaged people are struggling to have their physical needs met. “Low-income communities tend to have specific characterizations such as limited resources, poor houses, high crime and violence rates, and an inadequate school system” (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). All of which contribute to poor physical and mental health outcomes, and barriers to self-sufficiency. Having these basic needs met without help is incredibly difficult. An MIT economist found that “escaping poverty requires almost 20 years with nearly nothing going wrong.” And in those 20 years, these peoples are struggling to have enough to eat, have proper housing, find jobs that pay well enough, often can’t afford a higher education or additional certifications to advance their career, wear only thrift store clothes and try their best to pay their bills. Inch-by-inch crawling their way out of poverty.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Providing temporary aid for physical needs expedites that escape, whether it’s paying for a few months of rent, providing food or replacing old appliances with new, energy-efficient ones. Just providing someone with the opportunity and sustainability they need to succeed makes a significant difference.

Read here how a mom went from a successful career to poverty in just a few months, and what one of our agencies did to help her and her family become stable again.

Read here how a single dad went from an underpaying job that kept him away from home to a new career, new degree and better job that allows him to be “the ‘annoying’ dad that’s ‘always’ around” and how one of our agencies helped him accomplish his goals.

Once the physical needs are met, the intangible needs like acceptance, self-esteem and respect are achievable. And with them, self-actualization.

Want to Join our Fight Against Poverty?

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