Saturday, September 17, 2005

More Random Thoughts on "Poverty"

Mama Squirrel read the DHM's post Large Family: Small House right after reading the second weekly installment of "poor people among us" stories in the local paper. (And this is going to go on for fifteen weeks? Sigh.) The comments about getting used to sharing closets reminded her that peoples' views of "poverty" are often relative only to whatever they've experienced themselves.

I think of a reminiscence I read once about birthday parties and moving into an affluent area, going from a place where (years ago) you split up a pack of gum for loot bags, to a place where you offered each person the whole pack of gum, and then to another place where the party favours were more expensive than the presents used to be.

I think of the Apprentice's 6th birthday, where we took her and a few friends to McDonald's playland. The Apprentice thought that was a great treat, since she'd never been there, but a couple of her friends sneered: going there for them was a regular thing.

I think of the fact that the squirrelings are used to sharing a can of pop: I don't mean taking turns out of the same can, but if we treat ourselves to some pop with our barbecued hamburgers, we usually bring out only a couple of cans and just pour a glassful per person, rather than everybody expecting to ingest a whole can. (It's better for you anyway.)

Which brings us to the issue of thrift and lifestyle vs. poverty. The newspaper articles today says that some working-poor people "deny that they're poor." What's that supposed to mean? That they called up some low-income people expecting to get a sad story and were disappointed because the people sounded contented rather than whiny? Is it poverty, thrift, health, or what that's conditioned the Squirrel family to share a can of pop, or the Common Room folks to share closets? Necessity? Realism? Doing with less so that you can have something left to share with others? Learning that you can get along fine without the whole can? What's wrong with that?

One other comment from the newspaper: that the issue for many offspring of below-the-poverty-line-excuse-me-the-low-income-cutoff-point is really not so much that they care about their cheapo sneakers and backpacks themselves, as that the other kids at school tease them because they're not sporting name-brand stuff. So much for famous public school socialization and tolerance.

It's all relative.

3 comments:

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

We share pop, too. When we have it.
Have you seen those studies about how much it costs to raise a child? They are so funny. If they were accurate, we'd be in debt so far we could never climb out. We'd be spending more than DH makes every single year, and we have no debt, so it makes no sense at all.

coffeemamma said...

"The newspaper articles today says that some working-poor people "deny that they're poor." What's that supposed to mean? That they called up some low-income people expecting to get a sad story and were disappointed because the people sounded contented rather than whiny?"

That, my friend, is Hilarious! Kind of like the 'free-snowsuit-for-low-income-families' people who were offended when we told them we didn't need any (Nanny and Papa had bought some for Christmas presents). We did, however, donate our old ones ;-)

Jennifer said...

Hmmm... family of 7 here... income of around $25,000 (incuding Family Allowance)... we're clothed, sheltered, and (well) fed... but I suppose to some we're beyond poor since we don't eat out weekly, or drive something without rust, or wear the finest and most fashionable...

There is something to be said about being content with what you have, and sharing what you have with others. I guess I can live with being in denial!!! :-)

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