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Ponderings on Being Poor...

I'm feeling reflective on a couple of things tonight.

This afternoon I walked through Hospice's thrift shop, then got groceries next door at Save-a-Lot... as I do every week. The stores are located in the poor section of town and it puts so much in perspective as I consider here where the poor people shop. I guess I'm one of them, and I often laugh to myself that I will soon be Dr. Lewis and I'm among the herd of unwashed folks toting a thousand screaming barefooted babies (too many than they really can afford), bagging my own food because the service isn't included at this discount grocer.

There's a foul aroma of beer reeking from some of the toothless bums that shop there.. Every week, it never fails...that stench of dirty clothes, stale smoke and morning beer. In the parking lot, the cars with oxidized paint and taped-up broken sideview mirrors and bald tires sound off loudly; they're desperately in need of mufflers or whatever car part it is that keeps a car quiet... but I guess such things are luxury and not in the realm of possible expenses for a poor person to pay.

And I thought to myself, much more am I than they? For if life really ever got bad enough, I'd be right there with them. Easily. More easily than I like to think. In fact, maybe I'm there right now and don't even realize it because I'm still wearing last season's clothes, which aren't shabby yet, and I drive a nice car, even though the payment and insurance kill me.

I perused the novels in the thrift store and read the backs of some of the books which looked good and it always happens... there is a bodily response in my pattering heart and a rush of adrenaline as a thousand ideas surface ~ titles of books I could write and storylines I could invent, I think, better than some of the books on the shelf. Today, I saw the book "The Millionaire Next Door," and I already own a copy, but it's a neat book that looks at the demographics of the wealthy. That is, it shows what characteristics are common among millionaires.

Instead of Millionaires, what about all the rest of us in slobs living paycheck to paycheck, some with real issues against them~ physical and mental disabilities, dysfunctional families, addiction, anger issues...on and on? I thought it'd make a great book to peek into the lives of lower class and look at why they do what they do, how they survive... I mean, how the heck does a Mexican immigrant family of 5 make it? What's for dinner every night? What do they do when the refrigerator breaks? It's not like they can go to Lowe's with a Visa card and get a new one. What is it like to live on cash, without credit, and if it's god-awful, how does the mind find any peace at all? If through substance use and abuse, how is that afforded? How do poor people support their pack a day cigarette habit?

During a time following divorce, when I'm swimming in debt and trying to find my way through, I have come to appreciate those around me who grew up poor and I mean poor~that they remember how they stretched dollars. My mother, for one, born in 1942, remembers her parents and grandparents methods of running a household through the Great Depression... using telephone book pages for toilet paper when none could be to make potato soup for sustenance.

Have you been through tough times? What sorts of things have you done to get through it?

I'm reminded of an old favorite song by Dolly Parton called Coat of Many Colors.... Enjoy this!


Spidey said...

tough times have visited the spidey household a few times over the last 30 years. and yet, we always manage to get through. i don't think there is a magic answer. fate? luck? who the hell knows.
number one, hard times make you appreciate what you do have. i know it sounds like a cliche, but your health is number one. if you are ill nothing else really matters. so if you are healthy, there is always hope. taking one day at a time has saved me my sanity more than once. did i get through the day? yes i did!
having to struggle really does make one more aware. when things are going fine and dandy we seem to float through the day, without a care. one day runs into the next. that special dessert you ate last night at the fancy restaurant is quickly a forgotten memory. but when you don't have money for all that stuff and you managed to bake an apple pie with bruised apples and a premade pie crust on sale because it is about to expire... well hell, that is the best damn apple pie you have ever had.
life is damn weird.

sheila222 said...

I was very poor in vet school, sold bone marrow (ONCE! it hurt like HELL!!) for 20 bucks. I allowed myself 10 bucks a week for groceries, ate a lot of shells and ragu sauce (it was 59 cents a jar then), drank a lot of mint tea from mint I picked and dried. My roomie and I wore heavy jackets in the student ghetto apt. and I studied under the blankets to keep heating costs down. We had a phone plan that for 7 bucks a month we got a phone, but it could only be used for sixty minutes of call time during that month if you didn't want to incur additional charges. I rode my bike to school when weather permitted (yes, uphill both ways-) and I drove a Vega that wouldn't start when it rained or the weather was below 40 degrees. Was I miserable? I don't remember being physically miserable, I had too much performance anxiety to worry about my physical state.

Jilly said...

lord everyone i'm realted to is poor and while i'm not what i think of as poor, i guess i'm not too far past it. i see poor differently though because i was raised by very poor people who were terribly poor when they grew up. the kids i work with think they're poor because they get food stams and are evicted, but each kid has an expensive cell phone and several outfits that total over $400 each. my mom has pictures where she and her siblings are literally wearing rags sewn together. my mom and her sisters shared one barbie that was a hand-me-down. my mom never really got to play with the barbaie and had to "make do" with a mary poppins doll. almost everything i have for my daughter was given to me (new or used) or i bought second hand. I probably could have afforded more new things, but she doesn't know the difference and i can take the money i didn't spend and put it away for her later. i read a book by a woman who was a child on an iowa farm in the great depression and she desribes ow people lived before plumbing and electricity and is very detailed about the "use it up and use it again" mentality. it's called little heathens. it was a lovely book and the recipes she included were awesome.


mavis sidebottom said...

I think the hardest bit of it is saying No to your kids when all the other kids at school seem to be getting everything they want ands your kids think you are the meanest woman on earth. I can't remember the last time I spent more than£5 on jeans or trousers thank god for tkmaxx and the x catalogue shop or I'd be walking around naked. I just keep telling myself this too will pass

Roger D. Curry said...

This will take some thought to make more than a trite, bullshit post. Happiness is only loosely tied to money, but there's still a connection and that sucks.

You are loved.



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