Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It Sucks Being Poor

First off, I want to thank James because his blog gave me the reminder of what I was going to post this week- so THANK YOU for inadvertently jogging my memory.

I am not in any way news-savvy but I do occassionally read online magazines and in May I cam across this article in The Washington Post (click here for article) about being poor in America and how much it actually costs a person and why being poor means you have to be rich. Let me tell you- after reading this article I have a greater appreciation for those who have less than I do, makes me count my blessings for what I have, and it makes me admire my mom who was raising two kids on her own and experienced a lot of this. I really recommend that you read it.

In light of that, I admire the anti-homeless and other outreach groups that are trying to improve communities but does everything have to be on a major scale? While it is good to have food and clothing drives (for example) what about ride sharing when you go to the grocery store or to Target? What about offering your washer and dryer to someone you know at no cost? What about offering snacks to kids in the neighborhood or park?

It's really the little things that add up to make something big. I don't do as much as I know I could but this article is making me think about what else I could do. I offer my washer/dryer to people who don't have one, I provide snacks/drinks for other kids at the park when I take mine there, I donate regularly to food drives but I should start sending $10/month at least to the Salvation Army so they can get what they need. I share coupons with other people which doesn't seem like a lot but people save wherever they can. If you see someone at the grocery store who comes up short on money for their food- would it kill you to fork that money over to them? What's $15 out of your pocket? Can you cut back on something for one month to help someone else out? My favorite thing is randomly picking a family to help with Christmas. Do you know what a big deal a laundry basket with basic household supplies, books/toys, gift card to grocery store/Target/gas station is to your neighbor?

And maybe because Matt and I had a rough six months after he got fired from his job I suddenly have a much better understanding of what it's like chosing to feed your child versus paying the utility bill. Although Matt got a job after six months he took a $4/hour pay cut we just couldn't catch up and it really is a cyclone that is nipping at you and the stress is horrible. We ended up having to file bankruptcy and let me tell you- it was the most humiliating and humbling thing I have ever experienced. I was so embarrassed and felt like such a complete failure but when I walked into our last hearing and saw 83 other couples there I suddenly felt part of a group. Every other couple were like us- victims of overspending, not enough saving/planning, and a bad economy with a lack of jobs. We were lucky that we were able to keep our home sicne we had never missed a payment and agreed to continue with our loan as scheduled. But there were families who were there signing their homes away and I cried for them. I can't imagine what that would be like. How scary to not know what you are going to do next. We don't have much and still struggle pay check to pay check but I know we are better off than a lot of people. We have more than other people do and I have to remember that when I pay my bills and have $30 to last me another two weeks. Sure, I'm broke- but I have a house, a job, and two healthy and happy children. I'm doing my best.

I urge you to help out in little ways. Research in your community where and what the need is. Contact local agencies that help the community and see what you can do. Often times they have a "need list" and it is easy stuff. Your animal shelter might need paper towels, the local family resource center might need paper cups, the homeless shelter may need food or blankets, etc. Every little bit helps and it's a GREAT project for kids in the summer. Have your kids go through toys, clothes, stuffed animals, books, etc and donate to the local battered women's shelter. They often leave without their children's things. Buy coloring books and make little goodie bags for those kids. There are lots of things you can do- just do something.

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