Sunday, September 23, 2012

being poor

The other day I read a blog post about being poor. It listed all these realities of what it is like to be poor. Now, it would be important to note that this was written based upon being poor in America. It provided a very American perspective. Living overseas and having many international friends makes me realize that these realities may not span across borders.

Regardless, I read this list and was heartbroken. I am not poor. I am just not. I read the list and cried. I simply do not know what it feels like to sit with your sick child in your lap for hours in the emergency room because that is the only place that you can get treatment. I grew up middle class.

Being poor is something I grapple with regularly. I really do not think of myself as frivolous or materially wealthy. That is okay. Sure, there are things that would be nice to have, or I would like to do. But, I am not poor. I do not have an iPhone or an iPad. To be honest, I cannot even afford to repair my MacBook Pro's screen after it was cracked a few months ago. The display is still functional, so cracked it shall stay. I keep track of every 500 riel note (13 cents) I give to parking attendants. I always wash and reuse ziploc bags. I never turn on the air conditioner in my bedroom, even when it feels like 116F outside and I toss and turn all night, sweaty. I make my own yogurt. I eat more beans and less meat. I sometimes tell my friends that I have "other plans" when they invite me out to lunch or dinner, even if the "other plans" are eating leftovers in my living room because I do not have the extra cash to go out somewhere. But, I am not poor. I eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and I am always able to eat 3 meals per day. I have Internet access in my home. I drive my own motorbike. I am in graduate school. I run...for fun, and I buy quality shoes to do it in. Sometimes I go out and buy a latte at a cafe. Sometimes at the end of the month I regret buying that latte.

I am not poor, but I see people who are everyday. I see people who are struggling to survive, to just get by, to dig between the couch cushions to find some change to pay the heating bill, to borrow from the loan shark to buy their son a school uniform. Re-used ziploc bags, sweaty nights, and regretted lattes just don't seem the same.

I am not sure what all of this means. I know that sometimes the poor just get poorer, the rich just get richer, and those in the middle just try to stay there. I know that sometimes justice does not seem to win, and to be honest, I am just not sure what to do with that...

"A poor person's farm may produce much food, but injustice sweeps it all away." Proverbs 13:23

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