Today is BlogAction Day 2008. Topic: Poverty.
In general, poverty drums up images of the hunger problem that is faced by so many in our own country let alone the world, the lack of accessible health care that lead many families to homelessness, corrupt governments that "skim" the aid from foreign donors and keep their countries infested with malaria and tuberculosis (diseases that I thought had been eradicated until my thesis student did some research on fraud and foreign aid), people who are forced out of barely livable conditions to no conditions by natural disaster, the list goes on and on. Those are forms of poverty that are so so big, that I can't even begin to tackle those in any intelligible form, especially not in a blog where so far this week where I have tackled such subjects as returning condiments, going to a cereal restaurant for lunch and whether I should change my name to JackassesSuck.com.
So instead, I am going to tackle the subject of my own stint with poverty.
We had been married for about 5 years and had just finished a stint living in Germany courtesy of the USAF, and were stationed on the Florida Gulf Coast. The only place we could find to live within an hour of Mr. P's base was $560 a month, in 1994 on an E-4's salary, which was one whole paycheck plus $45 dollars. Mr. P worked 3 and 3's (3 days off, 3 on), 12 hour midnight shifts...which were from 6pm - 6am. I worked the dayshift at a buffet style restaurant and had ONE pair of khaki pants that I would wash out in the sink and line dry at night because we had no washer and dryer. At night I worked at Winn Dixie as a cashier, and if Mr. P was one the kids were in a seedy after hours daycare center, and it made my gut hurt to take them there, but the older one was old enough to tell me if something shady happened, and they liked eating and indoor plumbing. I looked at our Social Security reports, and in 1994 we made $15,275 together, both of us working all the time, and paying half of that out in rent.
I remember working that check out at Winn Dixie and watching people go through the line with all kinds of awesome stuff...fresh fruits, fresh meat, juice, whole gallons of milk, peanut butter...I was so upset that my kids weren't getting that food. We were killing ourselves and only getting further behind. We were trying. so. hard. and it just. didn't. matter.
It is this poverty that I speak of...that wafer thin line between families trying, really, really trying to work at regular jobs and being able to support their children, and failing dismally.
We were teetering on that line and something had to give that would push us firmly on one side of that line or the other. Something did give. The AirForce gave Mr. P the opportunity to get out. We made changes. We went to school. We made more money before we were both in school full-time, but when I look back...we were impoverished in 1994, and after that, merely "broke" until 2004.
Come to find out, the difference between poverty and poor isn't cash. It isn't fresh fruit and gallons of milk.
It's the light. The hope. The knowledge that at some point, sooner or later, things are going to be okay. Even good. Maybe, if you are really lucky, even great.