I just read (well, skimmed though some parts) two books – Out of Poverty and Made to Stick. I thought I’d combine some of the concepts of the two books and repeat a story from Out of Poverty. Here is the story of a pavement-dwelling family that lives underneath the balcony of Paul Polak’s colleague Zenia Tata at the IDE. Her family has known them 25 years (the book was published in 2008):

The mother and father in this sidewalk family are both lame, crippled by polio, and they live with their healthy five-year-old son on a spot originally settled by the husband’s parents. The husband makes a living darting in and out of the heavy traffic of the street next to the sidewalk where they live, washing car windshields for twenty-five paisa (and half a US penny). He occasionally washes taxis at a taxi stand down the street. His wife, who gets around on two crutches, earns money stringing and selling marigold garlands.

The couple and their child live with no shelter. When it rains hard in the monsoon season, they move to a nearby park where they attach a tarpaulin to a fence and weight the sides down with rocks. Each morning, they and other sidewalk dwellers life a heavy steel manhole cover above a major city water-delivery channel, and members of the entire community of pavement dwellers lift water by rope and bucker for an hour or two. The parents in this family go to the toilet in a public lavatory in the park, but their five-year-old son squats down in the gutter next to their sidewalk home and defecates there, with the encouragement of his mother. At his age, it may be too difficult to train him to use the toilet in the park.

Imagine a life like that. I don’t have any specific purpose for this post other than to make you consider the question of “What are you doing to make the world a better place, and increase the chances that stories like this become less common/acceptable?”

I hope this story sticks; it certainly did for me.