Poverty is a state of mind. Wikipedia.com says that the poverty threshold, or poverty line, is the minimum level of income deemed “necessary” to achieve an “adequate standard of living”. This standard is based on adequate food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education, information, and access to benefits. What needs to be addressed is how we view the terms “necessary” and “adequate.” Although food, water, clothing and shelter are our basic necessities, it is glaringly obvious that the “mind” of the peoples compare poverty to one’s level of comfort. The bigger the better is one way we look at it; as well as, the more “stuff” we have the better off we think we are. From a governmental standpoint; it goes by your income and the level of the average household income in a particular area. For the most part wages and consumer products sold will be indicative to that area. For example; those who are million dollar households, live in areas that reflect this income and local merchants; such as furniture, food and clothing are of the upscale variety. Neiman Marcus is not going to set up shop in “the ghetto” sort of speak, for obvious reasons. To the wealthy; their “adequate standard of living” is much different and more “comfort” demanding than the poverty stricken and are no better off for it either. More money equals bigger bills and stronger headaches, it’s all relative.
I can tell you about surviving poverty because I am living in what is deemed 200% below the poverty level standards set by the US statistics. Yet, I do not consider myself “poor”. On the contrary, I am blessed. Actually I believe those who consider themselves wealthy are the poorest of all. I opened up this article with the statement: “Poverty is a state of mind” and it truly is. If you can be happy with what you have and grateful to boot, what more could you ask for? “Want” is a much graver “state” than need. Needs can be met, but want is insatiable.
I was brought up in your typical “middle class” home. There are four kids; two boys and two girls, my father was a blue collar worker and my mother is a waitress. We were comfortable, lived in a split level ranch, went to public schools and brought are own lunches. We always had food to eat, not filet mignon, but good meals, nevertheless. Clothing was not from the ritzy department stores but always in style. May not have had all the things I wanted but definitely had all that was needed. I married a blue collar worker and life continued in the same manner. Got divorced and ended up homeless with two very young children. I had injured my back three months after my second daughter was born; the first was three years old at the time. After trying to make it on my own and failing desperately; with the minimal amount of governmental assistance available, I gave the kids to their daddy until I could get back on my feet. We were divorced; not them, and it was not fair to them to live in a shelter while daddy, who had remarried someone with a little money, was living in a fine house in an upper middle class neighborhood. I lived in my car for three months until I could save enough for first, last, and security to move into a studio in a lower middle class area. I had the kids on the weekends, vacations, and holidays and about two and half years later I remarried. A year later we had saved enough to buy a humble ranch home in a middle class family neighborhood. By this time the girls were doing great in school and the system was a bit better than in the city I resided, therefore I saw no need to transfer them. I lived about ten minutes away from their city and bringing them to school was not a problem. Actually the town line was two streets away; so the school bus on my days would bring them out to the other side of town. My ex and I had agreed to split the week, the kids were ok with this and they needed to sleep four nights at daddy’s to remain in that school district. It worked out great for a couple of years; but, I hurt my back again. I had to quit my job and was unable to do certain “wifely” tasks for awhile so my second husband left. Here I was once again, in the same boat.
Struggling to keep this house for almost three years, I eventually lost the battle. My kids and I were homeless yet again. By this time their daddy had divorced too and moved to downtown Boston were drugs and violent crime is the norm, so the kids stayed with me. Young teens now and stressed to the max, my oldest started skipping school and using drugs. There was tension between the two girls and my younger daughter wanted out; she asked to stay with daddy. I spent many a sleepless night with my troubled daughter. I did manage to buy my own home though. I had received a settlement from my back injury. It was too late; my daughter had gone too deep. She stole my cars, smashed one and totaled another. Then she stole my ATM card and wiped out my bank account less than two months after buying the house. Living now on SSDI; I had a very limited income, her actions were like a destructive tornado. I started looking for a job to try to save my house and got a third interview with an excellent company, offering an unbelievable salary and benefits plan. The night before the interview I begged her to behave so that I could get some rest, for the interview was at 8:00am. That did not happen. She stole an old van I acquired in the divorce and was out driving around with some boys. They sideswiped a cop car and eventually totaled it by running over a median strip and destroying the frame and axles on the van. The police were at my house for hours interrogating the boys and my daughter who had returned to my house around 2:00am. Needless to say; I never made the interview and saving the house, now two months in arrears, was impossible.
Homeless once again, one daughter in juvenile the other with her dad, I felt like Job in the middle of the desert with very little hope. I will tell you this; feeling sorry for yourself is a big symptom of a poverty “state” of mind. I did manage to sell my house before it was foreclosed on to a young couple with perfect credit scores and good paying jobs. But, as luck would have it, the bank started foreclosure proceedings about a week before the closing, just to get all their legal fees and such, of course. So I did manage to get some of the $42,000.00 I had put down on the house six months prior. A whopping $13,000.00 I believe, give or take a few. Not making it in Massachusetts; I decided to move south, Georgia to be exact, where the cost of living is not so high, I thought (perhaps I should not be thinking). I bought a humble 1988 doublewide mobile home for $10,000.00 off the internet (not such a good idea?) and a 2000 Ford Contour for $295.00 at an auction (very good Idea?). What more could a girl ask for? Now I own my car, own my house and have no credit cards, I’m all set you might think to yourself. NOT! You forget we are talking about me. I may own the home but, there is lot rent that keeps going up and up. By now I am sure you are laughing, ’cause I am. What? Am I going to lose my mobile home over some lot rent? No way, I tell you, this girl is a survivor! Keep in mind, this is the short version, there is more; but, we do not have all day.
I have decided to help those in need. Homelessness in Clayton County, GA is the worst in the state and of course that is where I had to move. My humble home has 3 1/2 bedrooms and I only need one for myself. I had a room set up for my troubled daughter to come down but, cannot seem to shake her addiction, so I tithed by helping someone else. After all reaping and sowing is a fundamental law in the world, also known as cause and effect. Yet, with so many homeless I; of course, did not stop with helping one, I now have six. Two have their own room, two more sleep in another room and recently; a young couple from Louisiana moved in and are sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor. Shelters are full and all this so-called assistance from the government just isn’t there, the funds are not available. The local churches help with food and clothing and I did manage to get a minimal amount of assistance on my heating bill. From the outside looking in, we are a house that would sure enough be classified as poverty stricken people; but, we are not poor. We are all survivors. See survival carries a negative connotation, being defined as to carry on despite hardships or trauma. When hardships and trauma are a way of life; it is not survival, but rather just life. Hardships come to those who are accustomed to living in one manner and trauma forces them to live in a different manner and poverty is experienced. Joy is in the heart of those who have learned to take things in stride and have not become dependent on the things the world says is necessary. There would be a lot less poverty minded people in the world if greed were not so prevalent. For instance, I recently read an article where one frivolous young female singer, no names need be mentioned, bought a diaper bag for $6,000.00. Please tell me that this bag came with enough diapers to supply for those diaper years, as well as someone to change the diapers! I mean really, let’s get our priorities in order here.
Anyways; I never expected my life to be what it has been; but, I would not trade it for any other. Everything has a purpose and perhaps it was to humble me. I did manage to go to Boston in September of 2007 on a buddy pass to see my daughters. While I was there, a couple of guys staying at my house stole my tools, some jewelry, some silver coins, my grandmother’s formal silverware, that was given me at her passing. Along with a second car I had managed to buy at another auction to help these people look for jobs and permanent housing. Thankfully the car was retrieved with the silverware in it; but, the tools and jewelry had been pawned, the inside of the car torn apart and the transmission blown. I do not feel remorse anymore over anything, it serves no useful purpose. These guys are free from the law; but, justice always prevails. Guilt; the subtle deceiver, is a prison that keeps a mind in bondage and freedom from its grips is impossible without recognition of its presence. I can joyfully say I am free today. Not because I have all the comforts the world offers but, because I have what I need and want what I have. Everything else, well that’s just “icing on the cake.”