Poor

Poor. Poor isn’t just the old homeless men standing in line at the Marion House Soup Kitchen. It isn’t only the dreadlocked kids off the interstate with cardboard signs.

Poor walks amongst us. Poor can work forty and fifty and sixty hours a week and still come up short at every turn. Poor knows how much everything costs, down to the penny. Poor wakes up in cold sweats because she remembers yet another expense to pile on top of the ever-growing mountain. Poor has a never-ending list of wants and needs ticking in her head- “If I make fifty extra dollars, I can buy new shoes for the kids and put a little extra towards groceries.” Poor pays for her gas in five and ten dollar increments- a full tank is a rare luxury. Poor picks and chooses what to pay every week- Poor knows that the gas company charges criminally high fees to turn back on while the Electric company will work with you. Poor knows that if you take bills to the Post Office at 3:44 PM, they will date them but put off sorting until the next day. Poor knows that pasta and milk and apples go a very long way, while blackberries are a bittersweet luxury. Poor knows where each and every clearance rack in every grocery store is. Poor knows that lemon yogurts cost sixteen cents less than key lime, so Poor talks her kiddo into a love of lemon.

Poor laughs when she hears people talk about money being tight as they get pedicures and sushi. Money isn’t tight when you are eating salmon and roe with wasabi. Poor knows money is tight when you try to stretch a can of tuna to two meals. Poor knows that if you can afford massages and movies, you don’t know the chill that hangs around on sleepless nights.

Poor can feel utterly hopeless, but there are glimmers of good even in the darkness. Poor knows where her library card is. Poor knows how to entertain her kids for nothing. Poor can make the meanest pancakes around because little stomachs can be fat and happy on short stacks. Poor believes that eventually, if she works hard enough and keeps the faith, being destitute will pass like a bad dream.

 empty bowl

You probably know Poor. She might be the one who has a kiddo in your kid’s class. She doesn’t have to be toothless and dressed like Little Orphan Annie. She might have a Northface vest or a string of pearls around her neck. You just don’t see that the vest is a coup from Goodwill and the pearls are the one token of dignity from a life past that she refuses to relinquish at a pawn shop. She might appear to join in your conversations about how expensive Central America is for Spring Break and you might not notice that she listens quietly but never says a word. She might volunteer in the classroom but not pony up the endless fees for teacher’s gifts and parties and all of the endless little needs. She might look pained when you ask what she does, because she feels like what she is and what she will be matter more than what she does. She might look pained when she answers you because she knows what look she will get from you when you realize she doesn’t have a career but rather a j-o-b.

 

Yep, you probably know Poor. And she is usually a lot closer to home than you ever want to admit.

 

 

(Thanks to Friendofthefarmer.com for the lovely picture)

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