Tuesday, September 05, 2006

When you think about people who are poor who do you think of?

Is it the person who says they can't feed their kids but just two days earlier ordered pizza because they were too lazy to cook? That was probably a few meals worth had they gone to the store and bought groceries. Do you think about the person who whines about not having gas money but just bought a $4 Mocha Grande from Starbucks, that's one gallon of gas to get them to and from work. Is it even the person who tells their child they can't have something they really want because they need to buy cigarettes instead? I sit here shaking my head and think, my goodness what the hell is wrong with these people?

Or is it the person who silently struggles to make ends meet by going to the food pantry to feed their children yet still gives some of that food to other people who are also in need. The person who drives almost an hour to go clean other people's toilets for $6.50 an hour to pay for her son's special inserts for his shoes because he has a problem with his feet? Is it this person?

I've had a few conversations with a friend of mine over the years about poor people in America, he once told me that most poor people CHOOSE to be poor. I was friggen pissed at him for even suggesting such a thing. Why? Well, probably because my family is poor. My grandmother raised 13 kids on welfare most of the time because my grandfather was a whore chasing drunk who was either around or not, depending on who he was sleeping with. My grandmother crocheted doilies by candlelight in the middle of the night when the kids slept to sell so they could get one new outfit once a year. She cooked for other people so that she could buy milk for the babies; she did everything she could to make sure her kids didn't starve.

My father, who is illiterate, supported us on a very small salary, he never took from the system and he never asked for handouts. I remember not having gas to heat our home and my mom boiling water on an electric stove so we could bathe. I remember her making us fried eggs with rice and beans for dinner many nights because they couldn't afford to buy meat. She bought our clothes from the thrift store but washed them and starched cute dresses for me so I looked pretty for school. I remember all these things with sadness, not because it was bad for us because I do remember all the nice things we did, the picnics we had at the lake, us riding our bikes to visit my cousins and my dad buying us Dunkin Doughnuts on Sunday before church.... sad because other people don't know that they can be happy with almost nothing. Knowing firsthand what it means to be poor makes me more sensitive to the needs of people who have less than I do.

At the same time, I can see where my friend is right; so many people who are poor don't have to be. They're so worried about the things that really don't matter. These shoes were so cool I just had to have them, meanwhile they can't pay their light bill. Or...this necklace was just too cute and it's only $20 why not, then complain a few hours later that they can't wash their clothes at the laundrymat because they don't have any money. It irks me...no it more than irks me, it bugs the living shit out of me.

I notice other things too, like how "real" poor people take care of their things while the "wanna be" poor people think, enh, it's trash anyway, I don't care. For years, growing up my mom's best friend washed her sofas by hand every month, scrubbed her carpets by hand, made handmade curtains and maintained her home like it was a palace. You could eat off the floors that's how clean it was. Granted, they weren't the nicest things but it was all she had so she made damn sure she took real good care of them. On the flipside I've seen others treat their home, their belongings like garbage, letting things deteriorate and not even bothering to clean or take care of what little they can afford to have. It's sickening.

What I have come to realize is this...most of the people who complain about being poor are usually the ones who misuse their funds because they are selfish, materialistic and more importantly have no clue about how to prioritize. The ones who are in need the most are the ones you never hear gripe, they try to do with what they have or find a way to get what they need because they realize how hard life really is. These are the people who appreciate everything you do for them, no matter how small.


Blogger moon said...

I totally agree. I am not as carefull with my money as I should be. My dad is always on about that but I totally understand why he is that way. He comes from a family of 19 kids..yes 19!..My grandfather was alot like yours and my grandmother raised them herself mostly on welfare when my grandfather wasn't around. To this day my dad who was among the younger ones, grows a huge garden every year, sometimes even another on a friends land. We are all grown and away, so there is just him and his wife, but he is constantly growing veggies, canning and storing in the cold room and giving anyone who will have some, veggies from his garden. I think it is engrained in him to always need to HAVE ENOUGH for everyone.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

One of the more interesting pieces of wisom I've heard regarding money is that you should decide what you really care about and what you don't. For the things you really care about, it makes sense to spend more money to get something really nice that'll make you happy. For the things you don't care about, it makes sense to just buy whatever works. Your money will go a lot farther, and people will sometimes assume you're richer than you are because you have some nice things to show for it. I personally like bang-for-the-buck, and I'll often buy things that aren't the best, but are the best DEAL.

I've always tried to spend my money on things where I'll have something to show for it. I could spend $500 a month on bar hopping and alcohol, but I'd rather buy things that last. I try to keep track of my money and not spend frivolously. I've had friends who would randomly buy things on impulse all the time and then act surprised when they never had any money. I usually try to wait till I have the money before I buy something. A lot of friends my age think I'm nuts for not just going out and buying things I "need" immediately on credit.

I'm not even against "wasting" money. Everybody has splurges and things that make them happy which others wouldn't understand. But I can't feel bad for people who live way beyond their means or spend foolishly.

And nothing against your grandparents, but 13 kids? Yikes! I have a pretty good job, but even if I married a woman who also had a good job, I feel like I'd have a tough time supporting 13 kids!

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Gene said...

Wow Anna, all I can really say is that is truly deep!

10:23 AM  
Anonymous John said...

I totally agree...I heard on the radio the other day that there's about $5000 worth of credit card debt per american citizen... yowzers...the next generation might as well be called "Generation Debt"... :(

6:37 PM  
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