Barbara Lazear Ascher shows the meaning of poverty, social class, and the thought process of people in “On Compassion”. By encountering some homeless people in New York City, the author explains the reasoning behind the acts that she sees happen right in front of her. She sees: a woman give a dollar to a homeless man out of fear and the safety of her baby in the stroller, storekeeper giving food to a homeless man as he enters, and the homeless are being moved off the streets into a shelter by the mayor’s decision. After each story she recalls, the author asks, “Was it fear or compassion that motivated the gift?” (47) because she is unsure what to think and how to respond to it. From this, the reader can decide whether people are feared by the homeless and tend to give out items to make them disappear, or do they do it out of compassion? After stating “We do not wish to be reminded of the tentative state of our own well-being and sanity” (48), the readers can understand how the society does not want to see how it would be if one day they become homeless as well. Thus, people become afraid that they are dangerous and just want money, so they give them what they think they deserve to prevent them for asking for it in the first place. She shows that people are definitely uncompassionate when she says, “I think the mayor’s notion is humane, but I fear it is something else as well.” (48) The author explains how we do not understand the life of the homeless and just want to get rid of their “troublesome presence.” Towards the end of the piece she states “I don’t believe that one is born compassionate. It must be learned…” (49) This shows that people do not give items to the homeless out of compassion, but they do because they are in a higher social class and feel like they need to. By illustrating the reader’s mind with the recollects, people can understand that we must reconsider our lives and appreciate what we have not just physically but mentally as well. In contrast, the author in “Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner provides to display information from a first person view about his own life. He lives a less fortunate life than others, but he did not start that way. The author successfully demonstrates that anyone can accomplish a satisfying life without the accouterments of wealth. Eighner became homeless in 1988 after leaving a job he had held for ten years as an attendant at a state hospital in Austin, Texas. Consequently, he lives in an apartment after falling behind in his rent payment and becomes homeless with his dog, Lizbeth. He talks about the ways of living as a dumpster diver and homeless person; what food to eat, what to do at times, the nutrition facts necessary to know, and how to survive in a situation like his. The author then talks about the importance of appreciating the life we live and not asking for more, which results in waste that ends up in the dumpsters he scavenges. Even though he does not live the best lifestyle, he compares himself to the privileged class when he states, “Anyway, I find my desire to grab for the gaudy bauble has been largely sated. I think this is an attitude I share with the very wealthy”. (157) Since he has everything he needs to survive, he no longer feels the needs acquire excessive items in his life. Eighner’s essay exemplifies the profligate nature of society and shares with the reader the lessons he learned during his occurrences. The author exposes that being “homeless” is just a point of view from who are in a higher class and that there is nothing wrong with it. People discard of food, clothing, and other items that can still be used again or longer. He often asks himself “Why was this discarded?” (155) By explaining how people tend to be materialistic in the world around him, he usually benefits from the good or items they end up placing in the dumpsters he explores. The author successfully manages to convey the moral that people are able to live by the minimal resources they can gain, even from dumpsters. Hence, the reader is made to rethink their life by the author’s points because people derive to realize that materialistic possessions but also sentiments do not mean life. Eighner manages to do this by painting an image in our head from all angles filled with the thoughts, smells, taste, senses, and the happiness and pain the author had felt in his life as a dumpster diver.
Both of the authors are successful in conveying the readers to rethink their lives and perhaps appreciate their own way of life in the tangible world. Although both of the authors perform this from a dissimilar angle of approach, they distinctly accomplish to get their argument across to the reader effectively. Ascher ensures her reasoning though discussing the observations and experiences she encounters through her life, while Eighner visually shows us his experiences through actually living as a homeless person in the world. By the author noticing all the “homeless” people around her, she concludes that sympathy is brought out because one cannot ignore it when unfortunate people are around themselves. Ascher utilizes an effectual observant, scientific, and factual tone in her piece to show what she examines to the reader in not only in words, but visually as well. On the other hand, Eighner indirectly uses a positive and promised tone in the piece to show that being homeless does not change who you are, but only how you are viewed by society. By providing details about the way he lives, he truly represents his knowledge that he has gained through his experiences and encounters. With the audience being the general public, it is likely that people do not openly apprehend the life as a scavenger, like Eighner was. Showing the details, people are made to rethink their lives and take away that people are able to survive by the minimal resources they are accessible to. Making the argument effectively, the society is critiqued of how they waste items that can continued to be used and that they should definitely consider rethinking how they view other people on their first sight.
The authors augment the necessity of people to rethinking their lives not only for themselves, but also for the enrichment of society and the world we live in. By the different approaches the authors use, Barbara Lazear Ascher examining the world around her and Lars Eighner actually living the life as a homeless person, the arguments are made effectively to the reader. By reading these pieces the readers can understand that people as humans are able to live by the minimal resources they can acquire, and that we should think about how we treat others and compare ourselves to them. It can be erudite that people should not be reliant on of physical objects, which is how society is right now. Together, they present a plenteous reason of why people should rethink their lives and appreciate what they already have and not judge others by what they do not have. The authors brilliantly prove that money is not essential for one’s happiness or the survival of a human being, in their own way. People do not change as their life does, but the people around them do.