observations on life

The definition of “poor” from Mrs. Bond’s dictionary at iworkforcats.com

Poor:  When you have or earn less money than you need in order to have decent housing, enough food, and/or medical care.  Not being rich is NOT the equivalent of being poor.  When you are poor and have or make no money due to any number of circumstances, you take whatever job you can get, say, working in a factory for 10 dollars an hour, or waiting tables, or loading trucks.  And you may very likely have more than one job.  You live in a trailer or subsidized housing (if you’re lucky enough to not be among the homeless). If you have children they get free lunch at public school.

You buy your kids’ clothes and your own at Goodwill.  You take the bus to work.  Your kids take the bus to school.  When the kids get home from school, they entertain themselves until you get home; that may also be true on weekends if you work that shift.   And they do chores.  They don’t belong to scouts or sports teams, because you cannot afford the uniforms.  They don’t take lessons in anything, because you can’t afford it.

You buy nothing for yourself, ever, because if you have any money you spend it on bills or on things your kids need.  Your kids may get medical care because they’re kids, but you don’t.  You may have medicaid if you’re lucky.  You cry a lot.  You feel defeated and hopeless.  You know you are one crisis away from becoming homeless, and/or losing your kids, and/or ending up in jail for something over which you have no control.

Being poor is hard, and it’s debilitating physically, mentally,and emotionally.  (That doesn’t mean it’s the only thing for which that can be said.)  You have no choices about anything.  You work until you are exhausted.  When your kids are old enough, they work, too.  You get old before you’re old and die before you should.  And sometimes you hope dying will come sooner rather than later, because it will be so much easier.

“Keep watch with those who work or watch or weep this night.  Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil. Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted. Guide us sleeping that we may rest in peace.” The Book of Common Prayer 1789

observations on life


I can remember that when I was a kid, these were some of the things that, to me, were signs that someone was rich:  if they could afford to go skiing; if they could afford girl scout uniforms; if they went on vacations; having a horse; living in a house with more than two bedrooms; buying new cars instead of used ones; a pool table; train sets; if they went out to eat.  These are just some of the things.  I didn’t know anyone who played tennis, for instance, or who owned a lot of land, or went to private school (except Catholics, but that’s not the kind of “private school” I’m talking about).  In fact I didn’t meet anyone who went to private school until I was 40 years old — one of my graduate school classmates sent her kids to a private school.

When I was a young girl, one of my best friends lived across the street from us.  Her family was Catholic and there were nine children.  They lived in half of a duplex.  The parents and youngest child had one (tiny) bedroom, the two girls shared another tiny bedroom, and the other 6 boys shared another, larger room.  The living room was about 8 x10, the kitchen the same, and there was one bathroom.  Their kids went to public school.  They did not consider themselves to be poverty-stricken.    They didn’t consider themselves to be rich, either, but there was no complaining about their lot in life.  (That the Catholic church forces people to live in poverty by denying them birth control is a subject for another blog.)

The point, I guess, is that being rich or poor is relative to one’s own position.  I hear lots of people say “We didn’t have anything, but I never thought we were poor.”  And I remember hearing others say “We had everything we wanted but I wouldn’t say we were rich.”  If having everything you want isn’t being rich, what is?