A parish church conducted a field census of an impoverished neighbourhood. The purpose of the census was to gather demographics, that is, how much households were earning, how many family members, if parents were married in a church, etc.
When the census takers asked about what were their most important priorities, every household replied: money. It wasn’t employment, food, or security. Just: money.
Money was the single focus of families who lived in shanties in the impoverished neighbourhood. Nothing else was of higher importance. Families and their breadwinners woke up every morning and worked throughout the day to get money that would at least tide them through the day.
Money to the neighbourhood’s families was their number one singular basic need. It wasn’t because of greed but need that drove them to pursue getting money. Many families didn’t have members with steady jobs. Heads of households went out every day looking and working to get cash to buy just enough to meet the basic needs for that day.
Some religious groups label money as the root of evils. They preach against focusing on money and tell people to pay attention to prayer and attending services. The people hear the preachers, nod their heads, but go back home to return to their routine of earning money to survive.
It’s always best to know what the priorities are of those we’re solving the problems for. Famed American psychologist Abraham Maslow placed physiological needs like food, water, and sleep on the bottom of his pyramid model of the Hierarchy of Needs. The bottom represented the most basic needs of humans—the ones we prioritise to satisfy first before we would move on the “higher” needs of safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualisation.
People have different priorities based on the needs they have at the moment. Poorer people need money more importantly than rich people. Rich people might be more obsessed with the security of their assets than poor people. Established enterprise executives may contemplate more on becoming more influential than a start-up entrepreneur who is insecure about his finances. Teenagers may search for belonging while retired people look for meaning.
Needs vary. And whatever they are for whomever at the moment will determine how problems are defined and solved.
A final example about basic needs coming first:
A psychiatrist shows a little girl a series of inkblots as part of a routine psychological evaluation. For every inkblot, the little girl sees hamburgers, fries, and eggs. When the psychiatrist asks the little girl why she keeps seeing food in every inkblot, the little girl says because it’s close to lunchtime and she’s hungry. We don’t seek meaning in our lives when we’re hungry.