Thursday, August 27, 2009

being poor

I found a slip of paper reminding me to find this great essay, Being Poor by John Scalzi. I found myself smiling though, at the ridiculousness of it all and the memories it invoked of my own childhood. I might add a few of my own:

Being poor is not being able to go to school for a week because you lost your shoe, and you only have one pair.

Being poor is putting empty food cans back on the shelf so the social worker will think there is enough food in the house.

Being poor is sitting in the dark, sharing one can of corn among five people.

Being poor is your parent's alcohol and drug addiction.

Being poor is not feeling your fingers most of the day in winter, after a morning tractor ride through snow drifts up to the hard road to catch the school bus, with no mittens.

Being poor is an hour bus ride to school and using text books published before you were born, or xeroxed text books.

Being poor is no music, no art, no culture, only tv and the bible.

Being poor is grateful for Christmas vacation, mostly because the well always freezes up about then, and there's no bathing for two weeks, and toilet flushing is rare.

Being poor is converting to being a Jehovah's Witness, because then there's a good reason you don't have any Christmas presents.

Being poor is feeling your friend's luxuriously soft rabbit fur coat, and wondering why you get nothin for Christmas.

Being poor is never believing in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.

Being poor is not going to the doctor because you can't afford the gas money to get there, even though the medical card pays for the visit.

Being poor is having fun playing in the dug out septic tank after a rainstorm or cooling off in the creek 1/4 mile downstream from a hog confinement farm.

Being poor is being the last person to live in a house, in every place you live.

Being poor is having a chronic sore throat because you have no heat in your bedroom and most of the house.

Being poor is 30 cousins taking turns using the same crib and wearing the same baby clothes.

And the flip side:

Being poor is an adventure.

Being poor makes you adaptable.

Being poor makes you mighty thankful for anything and everything.

Being poor gives you discipline.

Being poor forces you to rely on your community and the gift economy, and all the good feelings that come of it.



dmoorman4 said...

Hi, Carey -

My childhood was a little better than yours, materially. We had two pairs of shoes, one everyday, usually sneakers, and one for good, like church. We had a radio but no TV until the early 60s when I was off at BU. Because of geography, we had a 45 minute bus road home from school and a 5 minute one to school.

We did always have gloves. Our new jeans were about ten inches too long and rolled up, unrolled as we got taller. Then the knees were patched. Had to keep the hand-me-downs wearable!

We got mostly underwear for Christmas - better than nothing, but not by a lot from the kid's point of view.

Our plumbing usually worked, but when the wind didn't blow for a week or ten days, water was very scarce.

Luckily there were no hog confinement farms nearby, and we did have a couple of mucky swamps to play around and skate on in the winter.

I can see why you think we are rich.

We've been giving Don some moolah to use in landing an apartment, etc. What can we do for you, DIL?


Caeseria said...

I remember coloring in bleach stains on my black canvas tennis shoes with sharpie because having seen my mom put back groceries many times because someone needed new shoes, it would never have occurred to me to ask her for another pair halfway through the school year.
Used the same fix when I got white paint on my black Danskos (those, I had no prayer of replacing!). You could say that knowing how to "fix" five-dollar shoes gave me the wherewithal to do the same with shoes worth twenty times that.
It does make you creative and adaptable by necessity - I don't know if I'd value my Danskos as much had I grown up not valuing generic tennies.

sharqi said...

Dave, helping Don find and move into a place is help for all of us. If you continue to support Kaleigh in her extracurricular endeavors, that would also be great. As for me, I'm doing all right!