Monday, February 21, 2011

The Internet Never Forgets

Found this post made in 2005 shortly after Katrina and the mess she made in New Orleans. I couldn't help but read 2/3 of the comments, too... and then added my own.

Being Poor.

Being poor means passing up the $0.99/lb apples because you can only afford two of them, and that dollar could buy three boxes of ez-mac.

Being poor means fighting with your parents over pre-sliced cheese because it's what all the other kids get in their sandwiches, and you're sick of PBJ.

Being poor means writing "thank-you" letters to six estates which donated to your local scholarship fund, because being thankful is a requirement for getting the money that pays for your college education.

Being poor means watching your amazing, bright, talented sister become an egg donor and put herself at risk for terrible side effects, because it pays $5000 and she can use that to finish college.

Being poor means saving pennies until you can afford one month's rent because you can't give in and live in your car no matter how much more frugal it is, and then crying every month the week before rent is due because you can't imagine how you're going to pay it.

Being poor means hiding it, and then being frowned at for trying to look good or take care of yourself, as though poverty should mean visible suffering - as though the invisible suffering you experience every day isn't enough.

Being poor means making the clothes, the glasses, and the tank of gas you already have last just a -little- bit longer.

Being poor means not wanting to ask for favors, because you're afraid you'll ask one too many times.

Being poor means feeling guilty about taking people up on the offer to "get you something" from a store or food stall, because you know you'll never return the favor.

Being poor means taking less than you could at the staff luncheon so no one will suspect that the pizza is the only meal you'll have today.

Being less poor means even after you have a house and a car with no payments, you take tylenol and ignore the worsening toothaches because you can't afford the dentist yet.

Being less poor means finally owning enough clearance-rack clothing to put together three outfits for work, but not having the money to buy the $100 shoes that would keep your feet from hurting.

Being less poor means skipping the drink when you buy lunch somewhere, and telling yourself that it's because you -chose- to use the water fountain instead.

And being less poor means feeling guilty when someone poorer than you needs something and you can't afford to help, and promising yourself that some day you'll have enough to help everyone...

The comments on the blog post would take a long time to read entirely, but suffice to say: The post was never intended as a "poorer-than-thou" competition - it's a reflection on how poverty strikes in the US, in a country which is often thought to be the richest in the world and is certainly one of the most decadent. It's an attempt to show people who have never experienced poverty what it can look like, and how the "little things" - a vehicle inspection, a nagging cough - can turn into insurmountable obstacles when you don't have the money for a new set of tires, or a doctor, or medicine. It's to get you to remember this above all else: Being poor is not about being lazy or dirty or unmotivated. Being poor is about being ignored, treated like dirt, unable to feed yourself sometimes and yet making too much for food stamps a week later, and through it all trying to keep your chin held high because hope is the only thing they haven't figured out how to package and sell yet (but they're getting close).

Being poor is working retail, hearing numbers like "fifty thousand dollars" being used to refer to daily sales, worrying about your $30 makeup while selling $500 creams to middle-aged women and chatting about their cruise plans. Being poor is coming home to a bowl of ramen.

1 comment:

  1. I read this as well and thought it should be required reading for ~everyone~, so that we can learn to be more sensitive to other's situations and recognize that poverty is not just an economic title - it's a psychological and physical state that is carried with you for a long, long time.