Jun 5, 2014

A Day in the Life

A lot of people have a lot to say about  kids who live in poverty or in the "ghetto." I often wonder just how much the most opinionated among them really know what that's like. Fortunately for me, I've been that low at one time after being a lot better off. Yes, I say fortunate, and I do appreciate that the experience taught me to be a lot more humble and a lot more compassionate. It is only by seeing poverty from the inside as well as from the outside that one can have the right perspective. 

When I lived in a neighborhood that was not-so-nice, I was able to avoid some of the pitfalls, but not all, that most disadvantaged families face on a regular basis. There is a very real domino effect. The downfalls that I avoided were only because of the background I'd been brought up in and my knowledge of the ins and out of business and social service systems. For those reason, and those reason only, my children fared better. This is a typical day for others I saw around us:

They wake up coughing because they have asthma. Everywhere they've ever lived the air's been bad. And where they live now it's smoky from the wood they have to burn in the fireplace. That smoke along with the smell from the kerosene heater in their room is in all their clothes, and they can't bathe well because food stamps don't cover toiletries and detergent. They know they're going to be made fun of today and people won't want to sit next to them because they stink. 

They go to school hungry and lethargic because there was nothing to eat. On the bus kids are cussing and hitting one another. They get to school and the teachers are going over things they just don't get, but they don't raise their hand because people will know or think they're stupid. Sometimes they act up, because if they can't be known for being smart, at least they can be known as funny or cool. After school they try to do homework. They tell their mom they need to do something on a computer, but they have no computer, and the library's too far away. Besides, she needs them to help her carry groceries home, because there's no gas in their old piece of a car, and their registration's expired and they don't have insurance on it anyway.

They get to the checkout at the grocery store, and their EBT card's declined, because there was some snafu at Social Services and there aren't enough funds on it. They were already embarrassed by having to use food stamps, and now it's worse because they have to walk away leaving all the groceries sitting there. The ticked-off cashier talks about them behind their backs to the next customer in line, intentionally loud enough so they can hear. Mom's frustration and anger comes out in a good whipping when they get home, because mom downed a shot of liquor to take away the pain when she discovered the water's been cut off on top of it all. And those kids had better shut up about being hungry, or they'll get another beating. 

So they go to their friend's house and watch TV. Their friend's mom survives by selling her body, so nasty men are going in and out. And now some guy on TV is talking about how the poor need to stop whining, get a job and do a good job at the jobs that don't exist and do better in school so they can go somewhere in life, and start being more articulate than the people they're around all the time. They go home when they think mom's finally calmed down. A crackhead messes with them on the way because they won't 'let him hold a dollar'. They go to bed and try to sleep. But there's yelling outside as usual, and somebody's firing a gun, as usual. Then in the morning it all starts over again.

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