Monday, March 05, 2012

Hunger hurts?

This is an ad for a food bank that appears on buses all over Boston.

Here we have a pretty young white woman hugging an older white woman. I guess the young woman is supposed to represent the food bank, since she looks happy, whereas the faceless older woman is presumably hungry and therefore in need of comfort.

Oh, wait. Except she doesn't need a hug. She needs groceries.

I have a rescue fantasy — what social worker doesn't? Somewhere inside, we love to believe that we could just hug our clients and make everything better. If we took them home and gave them a good meal and enough sympathy, we believe we could fix everything and earn their undying gratitude. But that is an inside thought. You do not tell your clients about that thought. The point is to help, not to feel helpful.

Please, people, fantasies don't belong on billboards. Everyone in the city who rides public buses — which is most of the food bank's clientèle — has seen this ad. If I needed groceries, would I really want to go someplace where I might get hugged by some misty-eyed young lady with a savior complex? No way.

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