Wednesday, November 22, 2006

November 22, 2006

It's been forty-three years ago but it seems more recent. I still can't look at the date and not remember the event. Glancing back to my posts from last year and the year before I find something like a replay of the time. As a nation we still have not learned that waging war is not an effective means to win friends and bring about constructive change.

This year I have nothing new to add. Thanks to a calendar circumstance this year tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Strange assassination anniversary on the eve of Thanksgiving. No stranger than the Eucharist, though. It's appropriate to remember death when celebrating life. Each gives meaning to the other.

This morning I was reading the comments at John Scalzi's list of what it means to be poor. It's an uneven piece of reading to say the least, but when a post accumulates over three hundred comments and has to be redirected to another link for three hundred more...that indicated it has touched a lot of readers very deeply. Andnot all of them are positive in their remarks.

Most of the comments are from the heart, you can tell. Why else should there be such an outpouring?

On this Thanksgiving Eve I am copying one of those comments. It illustrates why a day of thanks is appropriate, and reminds us all not to take anything for granted. It is from "cookie September 4, 2005 02:24 AM."

Growing up poor means that even after you've earned two college degrees (on scholarship) and finally gotten a good job (on merit), you don't trust and still don't feel comfortable around middle-class and rich people because these are the people who used to make fun of your people.

Growing up poor means having to listen to people who never experienced poverty and don't know any poor people ranting about what poor people "should" do.

Growing up poor means that you're always looking over your shoulder because even if you're now successful, you also know that it could be taken away in a minute with a catastrophic illness or accident. You can get back into the cycle of late fees and charges due to simple car repair issues.

Growing up poor and making it in the middle-class world means that people will make white trash and trailer jokes around you not realizing that your mom and many of your relatives still live in trailers.

Growing up poor can give you skills that kids from middle class families don't have. You can grow your own food and have few moral qualms about hunting animals to eat. You know how to fish.You know which wild plants are edible and how to prepare them. You can sew, knit and crochet--not because these were hobbies, but because anything you could make, grow, or harvest wild was one less thing you had to buy.

Growing up poor is having compassion for other poor people who did not have the same opportunities or who do not possess the same talents that got you out of poverty (I am a singer and my voice "bought" my education for me).

Growing up poor means that the loans you took to pay for living expenses in college made it difficult to actually pay for living expenses AFTER college because even with a college education, a good-paying steady job in your field wasn't immediately available---and you get yourself further in debt because you have to play "check roulette" with creditors and bounce a few.

Growing up poor means that your credit rating is shot because it took you so long to pay off that student loan because you were not able to make regular monthly payments.

The statements about how growing up poor means that you don't know how to deal with money all ring true for me. If you've never had any, it's difficult to know what to do with it once you *do* get some. My tendency is to spend it right away because who knows when you'll get more?

Growing up poor means that because of the financial stress of your youth and now only being able to get by despite a decent job, you tell your kids that if they want to go to college, they must do it on their own through merit or by working to put themselves through. It also means that you have no problem encouraging your children to join the military if that's what it takes.

Growing up poor means that you consider yourself rich because even if you struggle to make those house and car payments, you actually know people without either a house OR a car and appreciate your own modest living arrangements so much more.

We now have all the trappings of a middle-class life, but even for middle-class people, we struggle to keep one car on the road, keep up the house payment, feed the family and buy the "right" clothes to fit in at our middle-class jobs. We live paycheck to paycheck (and since I am a musician in addition to teaching part-time at a college, we live from gig to gig). Many people who call themselves middle-class are actually rich in our eyes. They may have two cars or even two houses and still call themselves middle class! To us, that's unbelievably wealthy!

You see "being" poor is not the same as "growing up" poor. There can be an escape from the first but escaping the second often involves more healing than money can buy. Poverty, like combat, doesn't effect everyone the same. As the comment above shows there cn be scar tissue of the mind and soul that doesn't go away.

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