Why I’m Glad That I’m Poor…

Aside

For those of you who know me, this will come as no surprise but I just realized I am extremely poor. I’m not talking middle class America poor, either. I feed a family of 6 on $28 a day. That’s $4 per person. I can’t remember the last time I actually bought an item of clothing and it’s a miracle every month just to get the bills paid. I’m not sure, yet, why this is noteworthy enough for my blog but its what is weighing on my mind right now so I’ve decided to write about it.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a feel sorry for me, sob and give me pity post. I know how I got into this situation and I blame nobody else for it by my own self. I also want you to know that it’s not because I’m too lazy to work, either. My husband works…he’s gone most of the time, leaving me here at the house with 4 children (ages: 11, 4, 3 & 3). We are not a dual income family because daycare for my youngest three (who will all start school next year) is somewhere around $450 dollars a week. So, I stay home with them and we make it solely off his income.

It’s one of those things that doesn’t usually plague me, either. I suppose the reason is because I have spent most of my life being poor. I grew up poor and my dad busted his tail working for promotion after promotion until he raised us out of poverty. Maybe this is the reason why my financial standing isn’t even a present thought in my mind, most of the time.

It isn’t until I’m reminded how poor I am that it occurs to me. Usually, its when a friend asks me to meet her for lunch or go out to dinner. Then, my brain begins to calculate and I decide that I would have to go without toilet paper for a few weeks before I could actually afford to attend. Those are the moments that I actually feel poor.

Still, I decline by saying I don’t have a baby sitter or some other socially acceptable excuse. It’s not that I don’t want to admit to her that I don’t have the money, it’s just that people don’t like to hear how poor somebody else is. I mean, seriously, are you going to enjoy your $20 steak if you know a friend of yours is scraping change to buy toothpaste?

I’m telling you now that I genuinely don’t care that I’m poor. Money just isn’t that important to me. Not having teaches you not to want and so I don’t yearn for new things or worship shiny objects. In fact, there are a lot of reasons why I’m thankful for my poverty.

  • I can’t buy people’s respect, I actually have to earn it. For this, I have to be a genuinely good person.
  • I can’t buy my children’s love and I can’t spoil them. So, I know we will have a strong bond and they will learn to appreciate the things they have.
  • I can’t spoil myself, which helps keep me grounded and I find myself more satisfied with the things that I have
  • I will never forget where I came from because every time I can’t sign my kids up for a sport or activity, I imagine the look in my mother’s eyes when she couldn’t do the same.
  • Because of this, I appreciate the sacrifices my parents made for me.

Out of all the reasons why I’m glad to be poor, the most profound is the way it makes me view the world. I recognize need in others. Not just in a financial sense but in a soul-aching manner as well. In fact, I see more need in those with money than those without.

I truly feel that poverty is a soul building exercise. Poor people have to connect with people, not things. So when I see somebody decked out in designer clothes and diamonds, I peer beyond the outer layer and most of the time, (but not always), I see something missing within that person.

Like I said in the beginning, I didn’t really know where I was going with this. I hope you’ve gotten something out of reading it. Hell, I just hope you actually read it all. I will leave you with one final note. When somebody asks why I write, I hope I never tell them it’s for the money. That is why I am releasing the ebook version of my novel for under $5 in January. I write for my soul; because I feel the need to share stories. I write to be heard and I write because it’s the only thing that I’ve ever wanted to do.

 

Seeing Race Through a Child’s Eyes

Aside

As a parent, I have always tried to teach my children to be colorblind. I have seen difference in race, ethnicity and culture being distorted in such a negative way that I want my children to look past outward appearances. So, I have made an effort to expose them to different cultural practices and to people from different ethnic backgrounds. It seemed to be working, as my children never gave an indication of shyness to different cultural or ethnic boundaries. In fact, I have always been proud of the fact that my kids approach most strangers with politeness and respect. As it usually happens, just when I think I’m doing a great job at parenting, one of my kids have to go and prove me wrong.

I had taken all the little kids to the doctor’s office for my youngest daughter’s pre-op check up by myself. The entire time, they were their usual friendly selves, making conversation and interacting with everybody in the doctor’s office. As we were walking out of the office after the checkup, there was a sweet elderly couple setting by the exit door. My 4 year old son runs over to them, excited to tell them Merry Christmas. I smile and watch as he talks to them and the old man’s face lights up with the joy of it. As they interact, my son leans in really close to the guy and asks him a question which mortifies me.

The question was, “Why are your hands black?” I was taken back by the question because he had never seemed to notice any difference in race before and I thought the question to be extremely inappropriate. The guy just laughed it off and I apologized. After a few more seconds of conversation, we were all tucked safely in the car and heading toward our house. My mind couldn’t wrap itself around the meaning behind the comment or what I should do to address it.

Because of my own interactions with the world, I found myself feeling like I had failed at teaching my kids tolerance. I couldn’t help to feel that this was a negative sign. Somehow, my son’s sudden realization of difference of race filled me with a sense of shame. I planned out how I would talk to him about it. I decided I would tell him, again, how people are like flowers. We have different color hair, eyes and skin but we are all the same inside. I decided that I would have to try, again, to make him colorblind.

When I set down to have the conversation with him, however, his reactions brought about my own prejudice and showed me flaws in my logic that I hadn’t seen before. I set down and before I began the lecture part of our conversation, I asked him why he asked that question. I wanted to know, first, what made him suddenly take notice of something he seemed to always ignore before: race. His answer floored me.

With a smile on his face, he simply said, “Because his hands were beautiful”. Tears welled in my eyes as I hugged him and told him that he was right, the man’s hands were beautiful. That was basically the end of our conversation because I realized that I didn’t need to explain difference in race to him. In fact, in that moment, he became my teacher.

I made the decision, a long time ago, to cast away stereotypes and look inside people rather than outside of them. People don’t understand, and I suppose its cliche to say that I don’t really notice race anymore. I mean, of course, I notice differences in physical attributes but I don’t categorize people based solely on these physical attributes. This is what I have done to shield myself from succumbing to the prejudice culture that I have encountered throughout my life and, for me, it works.

The mistake I made was assuming that my children needed to take the exact same approach to it that I had. It never occurred to me that my children would, naturally, question difference in race because I don’t ever remember doing it, myself. Of course, growing up in a small town, the question of difference in race wasn’t an issue until I was old enough to understand the implications of racial differences on a larger scale.

“Because his hands were beautiful” is not the response of a little boy who is noticing race as a means to set himself apart, somehow, from people of a different race. It is not the response of a little boy who will go through life without putting emphasis on the differences in race and culture. It is the response of a little boy who sees differences in people and, very naturally, celebrates it. It is a more beautiful and complete view of the world than I have.

I realize now that the explanation that my son has of difference of race is beautiful and pure. Trying to change it would be a mistake. I want nothing more for him than to go through his entire life celebrating differences, rather than using them in a negative or prejudice way. I know to do this, I don’t have anything to teach him. All I have to do is help him keep it.

Learning about people through Tragedy

Aside

I’m going a bit off topic tonight. I’m in the middle of one of those metamorphosis phases in a person’s life. Some events just rush into our lives and turn us upside down. Nano was the beginning of this for me. Beginning my first novel this way; just conceptualizing it and diving in…studying the writing process and coming close to the end with the realization that I have something really great on my hands have given me the strength to say to myself, “I can write professionally!” I know that my novel will be a thin shadow of itself by the time I actually complete Nano and will need moths of rework before I begin reaching out to literary agents and publishers. It’s the momentous first steps which are the most life altering, though.

My heart is heavy and I have had a hard time writing for a couple of days now. Recent personal events have compounded the experience of writing my first novel in profound ways. I’ve struggled with my poverty and the raising of my young children while writing the entire time. As fate will have it, no life altering experience comes easy and two days ago, I found out that my cousin’s little girl passed away after a 6 month battle with cancer. 

My cousin and I were not close. We grew up 1,000 miles apart and only interacted during summer vacations and some holidays. Still, there is love there and my heart is heavy with compassion for them. I find my thoughts wandering toward my cousin, her parents and the larger branches of their community that has been impacted by this tragedy. 

For days, I haven’t been able to wrap my brain around the reasons why such a beautiful, strong little girl would be taken from this world before she ever got the chance to make an impact on it. Then, it dawned on me that the reason I don’t see the logic in it is because I’m looking at it all wrong. As I look through pictures of her on the Facebook page that was set up for her while she was going through treatment, I realize that she has made a more profound and important impact on the world than most people with 10x the life on earth. 

Throughout everything, she was strong and steady. She looked this horrible disease in the face with a smile and took all of it with more faith than most of us show in much better circumstances. This legacy will live on forever and who knows the power it will hold. Although she is gone, she has left something behind so inspiring and beautiful that I can only imagine the great ways it will manifest itself. 

It has already manifested itself in her mother, who has taken everything with the same faith and grace that her daughter showed. Even now, through her grief, she is able to acknowledge that there is a higher purpose for this happening. I’m sure there is no way for me to EVER understand the weight that she has on her right now and I commend her for her faith and strength. She will forever be a living example of her daughter’s legend and testimony to the world. 

With that said, I must digress a bit. For every beautiful thing in this world, there is an equally dark and twisted realization. When something like this happens, it becomes easy to see the true nature of people. For my cousin and her daughter, their light shines through. For others directly and distantly around them, however, shadows are cast on the darkest parts of their souls. 

I’m going to speak in more generalities from here on out, because it’s the proper thing to do. 

I will never understand how some people (and our society in general) have come to a point where compassion is so lacking. Perhaps because I am an empath, I feel things in deep and intense waves. I do not have to have a strong connection with somebody (or even like them, for that matter) to feel deeply when something goes really wrong for them (or right, conversely). Yet, it is so easy to use a person’s faults against them to shield ourselves from actually giving a crap when things happen to these people. 

It’s really a societal problem. When a bomb is dropped in a foreign country, why do we rejoice? Are the soldiers fighting against our own fathers and sons just the same? We feel no compassion toward these people because they’re not our own. When will the world wake up and realize that we are all connected? Pain in one is a collective pain and should be treated with dignity and honor. 

I’m not trying to propagate some liberal, hippy agenda here. (To me), it’s common sense, really but our values have carried us so far from it that it seems radical. It may be radical to feel the need to loose a few dollars to be there and try to comfort the family during this time…so be it! You want to judge me and look down on me for this? So be it! You want to use this moment as opportunistic to insert your power over those around you…so be it! 

Looking at it on a larger scale and considering the collective uncounciousness, you are part of the problem. People like my cousin and her daughter are the solution…if you’re too unwise or close minded to see this, I truly feel for you!