Friday, July 26, 2013

Finding The Silver Lining in Being Poor

As finances are again strained for myself and many others, I thought I'd repost this one that I wrote back in 2011. 

Nature is free...and that rocks.

Last week I ran across this heart-wrenching blog post on being poor. So many things...especially in the comments section had me in tears because a lot of it hit close to home.

After a few hours of being depressed by the post, I decided to write an answer to it. Believe it or not, there are some positive things about being poor...and some things of priceless value.

Now, a lot of the perspective I have is being poor in a small city in Northern Idaho. That other post made me thankful for the most part that I never lived in a big city. It seems the only advantages to being "big city poor" would have been more shelters and public transportation. Until recently, we had no public transit system and the only homeless shelters available were one for single men and another for battered women. The men had to jump through nearly impossible hoops, and the women...well, if they weren't battered, then I guess it was assumed they should find a man to live with, or take up stripping, I don't know. What I do know is that many citizens of my town have spent at least a few months either living in their cars or in the mountains.

Okay, now to the positive stuff:

Being poor is learning your strengths and full potential. Through enduring and surviving hardship, one gains unique confidence.

Being poor is learning a variety of skills. My husband can darn socks and rebuild lawnmowers, chainsaws & weed eaters. I can fix my own cars, play darts for money, and we both have quite a lot of experience in construction, home repairs, & some plumbing repair.

Being poor is learning to pinch a penny until it bleeds. I'll use my car as an example. One can save thousands of dollars by 1.) Buying by private sale only, 2.) Learning to fix it yourself, 3.) learning the best places to acquire parts...i.e. you can get decent tires on rims at a junk yard...and it's always best to have your snow tires already on rims because having them changed at a shop costs big bucks, whereas busting out your jack and doing it yourself is free and easy.

Being poor is learning the resources of the land to feed your family. My husband grows a garden which not only keeps us stocked year round with home canned goods, but also has enough surplus so we may help out others. We also gather mushrooms and berries from the mountains, hunt and fish. Our freezer is now stocked with enough meat to last until late summer. And we'll be making a year's worth of jam next.

Being poor is learning to feed a large family with little expense. On the post I read, someone commented that "hot water + free ketchup packets from fast food joints = tomato soup." I'd never gone that far, though I've stretched cans of tomato soup with ketchup. I also know about 100 different ways to make Top Ramen. Also, did you know that it's cheaper to buy a beef roast and have the meat department guy grind it than it is to buy hamburger?

Being poor is finding treasure at thrift stores and yard sales. I often get the greatest compliments on my cute outfits that cost me under 5 bucks. Hell, even if I ever get rich, I'll still go to yard sales. It's such an adventure!

Being poor is discovering that there's still goodness and hope in humanity. There have been many instances in which my family's been saved by the kindness of strangers. I am eternally grateful to them all.

Being poor is experiencing a wonderful feeling when you're able to help someone else. Whether it's giving away food from our garden or a pack of venison steaks, donating clothes to another needy mom, dropping a few dimes in the animal shelter donation jars, or passing on info about a job opening, it feels like I've done something to repay the times I've been helped.

Being poor is having an invaluable community. These last few years, its seems like my whole neighborhood's been going through tough times, but we help each other out. Each summer we'd pool our resources. One would bring burger meat, another had fresh ears of corn, I'd make a pasta salad. Together we'd have an excellent barbecue and eat and laugh like kings.

Being poor is knowing the true joy of family. No matter what, we always have each other.

Being poor is knowing all the free entertainment at your fingertips. Besides fishing, swimming, and camping, there's art galleries to visit, free concerts at the city park, and the company of family and friends. To me, good conversation is priceless, and I'd pass on expensive movie tickets for that experience. And there's the library, which supplies not only books, but music and movie rentals, and activities for children.

Being poor is getting a good laugh...and sometimes a twinge of pity for rich people. Another comment in the sad post said something about bumping into someone's Prada bag and realizing the bag is worth more than their life. I, on the other hand, would probably be all, "HAHAHA! You paid (exorbitant sum) for that ugly thing that you won't be able to carry next year because your "friends" will make fun of you for being out of fashion?" To me it seems the rich are judged by what they have more than who they are as people.

So, despite being momentarily dejected by the that other post, I've come to a realization: I may be poor, but I am blessed in so many ways. If things get worse, I know I have the courage, skills, and strength to survive. If things get better, that would be great! But, I'll still eat Top Ramen for lunch...though I may have king crab legs for dinner. :)

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