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Being Poor

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poverty photoJohn Scalzi’s “Being Poor” post made the rounds after Katrina, while I was trying to figure out how to come up with the money to get down there and help. He had great timing with the post, putting it out when we really weren’t aware of how serious the Katrina mess really was.

Every now and again I go back to it, just to remember. Although I was born into a middle class home, we had several periods of hardships when I was a child, most notably in the late 1970’s when my dad was working three jobs to put food on the table (a paper route, a job cooking at a ski lodge, and part time insurance work). As a young adult I lived another decade in poverty, during and after my first marriage.

Be sure to read through the comments, too. John’s post served as a jumping off point for others to share their own experiences of poverty.

My son’s girlfriend just confided in me last week that her family is about to lose their home to an adjustable rate mortgage. Her stepfather says “God will help them” and so isn’t trying to find a way to save their house.

And in the spirit of John’s post, here are some of my own “Being Poor Means”.

Being poor means being afraid to leave your abuser because homelessness is worse — and then being afraid not to leave him, because if he’s willing to beat you when you’re pregnant, what will he do to the child?

Being poor means sleeping with a kitchen knife under your pillow because you know the locks aren’t secure.

Being poor means nursing your newborn in the back row of the classroom and praying he doesn’t cry and you don’t have to leave class.

Being poor means being unable to carry both your child and your laundry and hustling to find someone to watch him every time you have to flip a load at the laundrymat down the street so Children’s Services won’t come.

Being poor means being skinny, having hair like straw, and having skin that is constantly inflamed because you can’t afford healthy food, shampoos that don’t dry your hair, and soaps that don’t injure your sensitive skin.

Being poor means that hand-me-downs feel like Christmas and Christmas feels like an unachieveable event.

Being poor means begging your landlord please please please for one more month because that’s when you’ll be getting a big check and can catch up on your rent.

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