When All the Choices Are Poor." In this election season, where those who are receiving public assistance, unemployment or otherwise struggling financially are being labeled as "lazy" and "just wanting to collect a government check" I think we need to remind ourselves over and over again the difficulty of being poor and getting out of poverty.
Today I want to make it personal. I would be what they call underemployed. I am working half-time and need and want to be working full time. My spouse is waiting to hear from disability as her physical health will no longer allow her to work. I am working on getting my wedding business going, doing occasional babysitting and writing. Yet none of it is enough to make all our bills every month.
So I am learning first hand about making hard choices among limited, not so great options. I know about the stress and embarrassment of not having enough. I know about not doing things like going to lunch or coffee because I cannot pay for them. I know about counting the change around the house to see if we can buy milk or another necessary item. We have blessed with friends who have helped us pay bills and who have bought us food.
Yesterday because we have urgent needs that we have no other way to meet I went to a local emergency relief organization and social services. Hopefully soon we will be approved for food assistance and we can get some emergency help with two urgent bills. Today we will go to a local food pantry with the voucher I received yesterday. I spent all day doing this and today I need to finish all the paperwork and take it back to them.
It is eye-opening and truly self-revealing what going through this is teaching me. After all I come from an upper-middle class family where I was raised on steady diet of welfare queens and the poor are lazy. I have an undergraduate and graduate degree. I embody the "this is not supposed to happen to me" and yet here I am. Maybe it scares you to hear my story because after all if it happened to me, does that mean it could happen to you.
The first thing I have learned in all of this is to re-think who I think falls into the category of "poor." I have deeper compassion and a deep empathy of the time, energy and money it takes to be poor. Yes it is expensive to be poor, it takes a great deal of time and energy. Then when you add to it the stress and anxiety, it is truly amazing the human will to survive.
So today I ask you to re-think what you know about being poor. The shame and embarrassment only add to the stress for those who are struggling - trust me I know this first hand. So please I ask you to show an open-heart, an open-mind and deep compassion.