To the editors:

There are two kinds of poor people in this world: 1) those limned in “Getting Through the 80s” [February 2] and 2) many of those who read your “news”paper including the editors who approve and “improve” its articles before publication.

The gulf between the two is a yawning chasm that can be bridged only by magnanimous largesse by both.

To be more specific, Mother Teresa has said:

“Be kind, very kind to the suffering [humble is my qualifier interlineated here] poor. We little realize what they go through. The most difficult part is the feeling of not being wanted. This is the first hardship a leper experiences, even today. Show your love for them by being very kind–act kindly, speak kindly.”

I qualify her admonition with the word humble because if an economically poor person is too proud to accept “charity” (not the Public Aid variety), then he/she belongs in both groups.

A true philanthropist is, in my opinion, measured not in the specific amount of money he/she donates, but rather in the per cent of assets given. John D. Rockefeller, a multimillionaire in the 20’s when money was worth much more than now, thought he was being generous when he handed out dimes on street corners. Decades later, when he was approaching death and his guilt worked its way into his conscious mind, he donated some $70 million to the founding of the University of Chicago. Unfortunately, most of our rich today may not live long enough to “get religion.” For Teddy Kennedy (that well-loved liberal) to donate $10,000, for example, is inane when one considers his total wealth.

I teach at a major university here in Chicago and earn roughly the same as a secretary, but when traveling on the CTA, I try (if I have enough in my wallet) to give at least $5 to poor women with small children. I determine if she’s truly poor by her and her children’s dress. If it’s shabby, I give.

I do this because I grew up in poverty myself and know what it entails. We lived in our grandmother’s basement, wore clothes given by friends and relatives, lived on “relief” occasionally, and worked for minuscule wages. As the old adage has it: “It takes one to know one.”

Name withheld