What Does It Feel Like to Be Poor?

As I continue to clean up files of blog ideas, I came across a “reflection” that was printed in the May/June 2006 issue of World Ark, the publication of Heifer International. They had excerpted what I would call a poem, but maybe others would call an essay, by John Scalzi, called “Being Poor.” Mr. Scalzi has graciously agreed to let me share selections from it with you, but then I encourage you to visit his site and read it in its entirety.

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.
Being poor is living next to the freeway.
Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.
Being poor is Goodwill underwear.
Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.
Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.
Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall.
Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.
Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.
Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14 years old.

To me, being poor is like having a chronic illness with no hope of recovery, or even a lessening of the pain, and knowing you will likely pass the illness on to your children.

What do you think would be (or is, if you are) the worst thing about being poor?

You can read all of John Scalzi’s “Being Poor” essay here.

4 thoughts on “What Does It Feel Like to Be Poor?”

  1. Being poor to me. When I was a little we were poor, but I didn’t know that, because i was fed and clothed with clean clothes and very clean home. And taught to give to others. As I grew up. I could see that we didn’t have a lot like others. But that was OK. I was loved . Poor to me is not knowing how to take care of yourself and others, living in dirt. Maybe they grew up like that, and know no other way. But still God cares for these poor souls. Thank You Carol for making me think. How bless are the poor, they are just like me. I met you at Mt Nebo UMC. You spoke at a our Tea. You are a superstar. Love Ellen .comment greatly appreciated at my email.

    • Thanks, Ellen for sharing your thoughts and experiences with me an my readers. My husband says his experience of not knowing as a kid that he was poor was similar. I think that becomes a deeper burden on parents as they try to protect their kids from the realization, but it’s a harder task in this age of media saturation, I think.

  2. So powerful, these words. Thanks for sharing them.

    I think the worst thing is the loss of hope, the wondering if things will ever get better. And, when able to move out of poverty, the mental battle to trust that things are better, are getting better and will be better. It’s hard to hope when you’ve been disappointed so many times or have been given no reason to hope.

    • Yes, Lisa, I think the lack of hope is the biggest problem and the hardest to overcome. It’s much like a chronic illness in that respect.


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