Poverty — Being Punched In the Face on a Daily Basis
|February 24, 2014||Posted by Staff under Inequality / Concentration|
This 2014 excerpt of Poor as Folk, Feb 19, is by Jenn, posted Jupiter Sinclair.
Today, I did something I never thought I’d do. I yelled at my son for being hungry. He’s just a kid, a 7 year old who is full of energy and constantly growing. I didn’t have enough food for anyone to have extras. Everything has to be rationed.
There was nothing I could do to change it in that moment. My anger turned to worry, another constant feeling in my daily life, as I wondered if this would create food issues in my child. Will he be afraid to eat, knowing that we might not have enough the next day?
I am college educated, degreed, and I have held a professional license. I have been working since the age of 18. Until now.
I have saved my kids Halloween candy for times when my blood sugar gets too low after a day of not eating because I can’t afford enough food for 3 square meals for the entire family. Having my heat set above 60 degrees is a luxury. The needle on my gas gauge is constantly hovering at E. We wear our clothes several times before laundering because we can’t afford the the washing machines. The thrift shop is damn expensive.
It’s not that anyone should be judged for why they are poor, but people naturally ask, mostly out of curiosity and sometimes to find information to justify their lack of care for our situation. My husband lost a fairly good job. His period of unemployment meant we burned through our savings and our emergency fund. While I am still unemployed, my husband is currently working three jobs. Two of them pay exactly minimum wage. The third pays just above that. He is constantly applying for jobs on a weekly basis, as am I. He would often work nearly 30 hours in a row, come home to sleep for a few hours, then go back for another cycle of 30 hours. It’s been brutal on his health and our family.
The changes to one’s mental health when living in poverty can be astonishing. I suffered a miscarriage years ago and I knew anger and sadness then. I didn’t think I would feel such strong emotions again. I was wrong. I am angry I’m not good enough for proper employment. I’m angry my children are living through this. I am angry at my husband. I’m angry at Christians who preach against me. I’m angry at politicians who vote against people like me. I’m angry at a society that views me as a leech.
Now I’m jealous at anyone who can afford to buy $15.00 jeans on sale at Old Navy. Where I would once say, “oh, those boots are cute,” I am now filled with plain old bitter envy. An acquaintance said to me recently, “You actually look like a poor person.” My husband took to wearing black shorts under his pants (also black) so the holes wouldn’t be a noticeable.
I’ve been jealous that friends can do wild and crazy things like buy a full tank of gas, get new brakes for their cars, buy a pack of toilet paper, eat.
I took my children to Ikea. We weren’t there to buy anything. It was damn cold, we were tired of being cooped up in the house, and there weren’t many options for a free place to play. Ikea has a play zone for my older child. My daughter is more than happy to walk around the store, sitting on sofas and chairs. I bought my kids lunch. As they ate, I would steal a bite here and there. That’s when the tears, which I fought very hard to hold back, started to flow.
I’m constantly weak. My husband is a very strong man, but he has lost an alarming amount of muscle and strength in the past year. The two of us are constantly exhausted. Part of that is the hunger, part of it is emotional.
Hopelessness is unbearable. I was once someone that my friends would always look to for a positive thought and encouraging word. Fear is constant. I’m afraid of opening my bills to find new late fees. I’m afraid of losing utilities. I’m afraid of being evicted. My tail light is out; it’s terrifying. We don’t have the money for a new tail light. Our cops here are very good at pulling you over for broken lights, outdated stickers, etc. Weather is terrorizing; jobs can be called off due to snow or ice.
Poverty is isolating. Friends eventually fade away because they think you’re ignoring them when you constantly turn down their invites to dinner or events. Your children’s social lives suffer – you can’t afford to send them to many birthday parties or playdates. Trips to zoos, museums, and other fun places with admission fees are extremely limited.
Friends try to help you, fix you now, get you to shut the fuck up about being poor. It’s hard for others to hear that you don’t want to get up in the morning anymore, that you just want to end it all. Many friendships have been strained by poverty.
However, no one can be as hard on you as you are on yourself. I spend hours per day telling myself how much I suck. If only I had done this or done that. I know our circumstances were beyond our control. I know how hard we try every single say. But, it doesn’t stop the shame.
I sit here now, writing this at my desk that is piled with overdue bills. I have multiple windows open on my computer – several for job applications for me, several job applications for my husband to look at once he’s home from work, a few for charity searches, another for prayer requests, and another for a site that offers emotional support and solidarity for people like me.
I hope to eventually write about how we struggled, survived, and came out on top. Until then, be nice to the poor folk. You can have all the assumptions in the world about how they got there, how the feel, how much they “take,” but you can never really know their true story.
Ed. Notes: Poverty does not show someone is worthless, prosperity does not show someone is worthwhile. Indeed, one’s material success is due far more to one’s economy’s success than to one’s personal attributes. Now you can become very comfortable as a sales person, a programmer, a college dean, etc, but not too long you could not.
While personal attributes should determine how high one’s income can go, they should not set how low one’s income can go. Everyone should receive at least a share of society’s surplus, of the worth of Earth. On that income floor, people can build themselves up into higher income earners.
But as long as the economy keeps automatically generating a surplus, nobody should ever suffer materially.