You, me, and poverty.

If you’ve known me for a while, you might be aware that I used to be very poor indeed. How poor? Well, most of my meals consisted of:

  • day old bread
  • lunchmeat ends, bought in random packs for cheap
  • pasta
  • apples
  • water
  • things I took from trays left on tables at restaurants

Obviously, this was before I became a veg-head, and it was in no way or form a collection of balanced meals. I ate a lot of carby, bready, fat-inducing yet barely-if-that sustaining food. It was good for filling the belly for a bit. I weighed the least I ever have at this time – 120 pounds, which on my frame is practically emaciated – but I still had a belly pooch, because of the crappy food.

I also spend a lot of my time walking places or riding the bus for hours to destinations that would have taken 20 minutes by a car’s more direct route. So not only was I malnourished as a poor person, I also spent a great deal of my time traveling, when folks with more money had more efficient means at their disposal.

I could have averted some of these issues if I’d been able to be prepared for my poverty, but it came upon me suddenly, so there was no opportunity for having a garden, or getting a place to live that was situated more centrally to better jobs and other useful locations. I did manage to offset some expenses by clever shopping at thrift stores, and mending/recreating my clothing into other items, and I shared an apartment with many other folks. That ruined any chance at privacy but kept us all from being tossed out on the street for lack of rent-paying, at least.

In my poverty situation, I was the instigator of my own lacking, as I chose to move out from my parents’ house and go it on my own, without a real back up plan. [and also with a giant mohawk! but that’s besides thet point, you know.] I learned a LOT about how to survive on very little, and these lessons have served me in good stead to this day. But what about those people who were born into this way of life, or thrust into it unexpectedly? With the economy teetering the way it has these days, this is a situation that *any* of us could find ourselves in without careful planning – so this is a topic that touches us all. And if you say “that could NEVER be me. I save, I pay my bills, I have a great education” – never say never, my friend. Have you ever talked to some of the homeless? Some of them are indeed the sort that society paints all of them to be – shiftless, losers, drunks… but some are the product of the Reagan Era, some have lost their houses or jobs and it was just enough to tilt them too far over to the poverty line, and some are our illustrious Veterans who were just lost in the system and now have no one to care for them.

This can happen to any of us.

I’ve chosen to focus on the U.S. and our problem with poverty in this post because this is what I know, and to be truthful, I think it is easier for many of us to focus on the issues in other countries than to look around and see what is under our noses here: something that could happen to our fathers, mothers, cousins… us.

I can’t tell you what to do to fight poverty here, but I can tell you what I personally do or have done.

  • donate food, money, time to local food shelters, EVERY YEAR. Don’t just do it at Christmas, folks, people are hungry all year long! I recommend local over the big organizations, because you’ll get to see a more immediate effect from your generosity.
  • volunteer at a soup kitchen, or at a shelter. It isn’t just about lending a hand… breaking down that barrier between Us and Them is an important step in humanizing the folk that we all too often tend to ignore, the suffering all around us.
  • donate your used clothing, and new toiletries and personal items to shelters in the area. A new razor or pair of socks can be an amazing luxury.
  • encourage your local restaurants to donate their day olds and leftover food to local shelters and kitchens.

I’d welcome any suggestions that my dear readers might have, as well. This post was part of today’s Blog Action Day about poverty – please also click that link and read some of the the other posts that bloggers have made on the topic of Poverty!

I write, as openly as possible, about my experiences with life, love, creativity, depression and not-depression. I share opinions. I promote compassion and change. I talk about music. I also write poetry and short stories. I like to share them here.

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