I Don’t Know How to Explain Poverty To You

I Don’t Know How to Explain Poverty To You

But I’m going to try anyway.

Folks who’ve never been assume there’s always “something” you can do to keep yourself from being there.

Poverty is the absence of that.

The reality that there’s NOTHING else you can do. It’s hopeless.

Imagine losing your job.

Imagine you then can’t get unemployment because of some paperwork mistake.

Six months goes by.

Your savings is gone. You’ve sold everything of value, including the car you need to get to work if you find a job (which isn’t happening)

Bills are three months overdue. Your power *will* be shut off. Your landlord/the bank is calling daily. You send it to a voicemail you’ll only have for another ten days.

You’ve only eaten peanut butter and ramen in two weeks.

You finally get a job. It pays $10/hour.

It won’t bring you out of it, but at least you’re working and working is better than whatever the hell these past six months have been.

This is it. This is poverty.

This is your life now, never moving forward. Always locked in this place.

Now you’re working full time and never, ever moving forward no after how much you try. You’re always exhausted, but you’re bank balance is always negative at the end of the month.

You only buy food and pay rent. “Extra” money goes to emergency room visits or replacing your work clothes because, besides the polos your job gives you, everything else is paid for out of pocket.

No matter what you do, it’ll only get slowly worse until you die.

THIS is poverty.

There’s no generational wealth here. No “grandma’s” house to fight over. No wills because, let’s be honest, there’s nothing to leave besides a frying pan, old spoons, and debt. Just constant, perpetual poverty.

So, you work until you die. Then so do your kids.

This is poverty.

And then there’s those of us that get out of it.

Once you leave poverty, once you see how bad it actually was, you vow to NEVER go there again.

You make up myths about how you got out. Pump your own ego because, obviously, something about you was special. It helps.

You put that barrier up; start critiquing other people in poverty. Friends. Family.

You tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps with sincerity.

“If I did it, so can you,” comes out of your fool mouth all the time.

It’s easier to forget how lucky you got. To ignore the helping hands that got you out.

Because if you did it yourself, you don’t owe anyone anything.

They’re just all welfare queens and leeches because you’d NEVER do that… ignoring that you HAVE.

It’s easier. Wrong, but easier because owing people sucks, especially when you come from a place of scarcity.

But helping everyone, whether personally or by paying taxes that fund programs that give those in poverty that extra step up helps everyone, including yourself.

So, at some point in your life after you realize what an asshole you’ve become, you decide to help. You get vocal.

Maybe you even get in loud arguments about the definition of poverty and how the experience impacts a person. Maybe you write the world’s longest stream of consciousness tweet thread and turn it into a Medium article to showcase the problem.

But at least you’re trying to pay it forward now.

Why? Because after this long journey, through the hurt and the selfishness, past the pain of realization and self awareness, you realize it’s the right thing to do.

Support fellow humans.

Do what’s right.

After all, almost everyone in the US is six bad months from poverty.

Originally posted on Medium on February 7, 2020

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