In any case, on that piece someone asked a question that has stuck with me over night: “how did you find yourself living paycheck to paycheck?” There’s more to the question if you’d like to read it yourself but I thought about this part for a w…
Oh. Okay. So I signed up, and said sure, sounds like a GREAT IDEA. I can’t effing wait to worry endlessly about rent vs. food vs. healthcare. I can’t wait.
You will forgive my sarcasm, Kesia. If people have never been poor, never experienced lack, if the idea is a distant notion on the other side of the tracks, then they can’t even conceive how someone would WANT to be poor. As. IF.
I spent some time being houseless in my thirties, and at one point inhabited the basement of a building under construction. I lined up my toiletries on a strut. I lived and slept in constant dirt and construction dust. That year I couch surfed and was subjected to the kind of vicious disdain and abuse that I have seen directed at other poor. And I’m a white chick.
It was temporary. However, the lesson wasn’t lost on me. My family was poor, but we had a subsistence farm. I didn’t grow up in grinding poverty, but was close enough to feel it. My dad was Cornell-educated and a brilliant man. Made no difference. Shit happens. And plenty of otherwise smart, competent folks end up homeless or horribly poor through no fault of their own other than not being born rich or a job loss or a massive health bill. I filed bankruptcy because of medical costs. I know that story intimately. We are one illness away from devastation in so many cases, and yet we don’t realize that level of devastation is a daily reality for one hell of a lot of people, most especially minority communities. It takes work to look hard at those realities. It takes a lot more work to do so without judgment.
I travel all over the world (or did before Covid) and in doing so, I have made it a point to seek out places where people live in terrible conditions. If nothing else I am constantly reminded of the reality of what poor means, what it does to people, what it nearly did to me. I am hardly rich. I have a disability payment, which many do not have, but I am not and will never be a person of great means.
There’s a very good reason why charitable contributions are much higher per capita among those who skirt the edges of being poor than those in the 1%. It’s immediate, they have great compassion, for they are close enough to know what kinds of monsters lurk in the dark if one paycheck doesn’t come.
The way I see it Kesia, it is ever so much easier to blame the victim ( I get that too, being a sexual assault survivor) than take on the far more complex and painful issues of societal responsibility, how we harm through politics, and hate through legislation.
Thanks for your piece.