Thoughts on being poor, working hard, getting help, and passing judgment

If only . . .A couple of years ago, my boyfriend and I were talking with a family friend. She made a joke about college kids not knowing anything until they get into the real world. I said, “Hey, I . . .” But I didn’t get to finish the sentence before she responded with, “Dayle, you’ve always been real world.”

I’ve done a lot of taking care of myself in my life. Part of that was pure circumstance. Part of it was my own warped mentality that I need to do things on my own with little to no help from anyone. Looking back, I could give you at least a half a dozen examples of how one simple choice would have made the rest of my life so much easier.

Still, they were my choices and I don’t regret them, even if they have caused me to struggle through much of my life. Honestly, I don’t mind it. Sure, it would be nice to have a hefty savings account and a retirement plan and all that jazz. It would be nice to know that if an emergency occurred I would be able to take care of it. But all in all, knowing my bills are paid, there’s a roof over my head, and there’s food in the fridge is enough for me.

I have aspirations. I have dreams I am still pursuing. There is so much more I want out of this life, but money has never been a driving force for me. The little things truly do make me happy. And as much as I struggle from time to time, I know I’m okay. That was not always the case.

There was a period in my life when I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the next day. I would empty my daughter’s piggy bank just to buy food for the week. Hot dogs and mac & cheese were staples in our diet. I knew how to make a small whole chicken last for a week. And well, thank goodness for WIC.

I rationed diapers, paid bills with credit cards, used free sample packages of shampoo and conditioner . . . I got creative everywhere I could.

I remember scrounging around for quarters so I could wash clothes. I was a penny short. No exaggeration. I stopped by Rite Aid with two dimes and four pennies and asked the cashier if she could add the penny on top of the register to give me a quarter. Embarrassing? Yeah, but at least we had clean clothes. Of course, I still couldn’t afford to dry them so my apartment looked like a hamper exploded.

My exhaustion during that time cannot be put into words. And still, I would have gladly picked up a second job if I could have found one that would pay me anything after I took out for child care.

There’s a belief, held mostly by those on the right, that hard work equals money and that as long people get off their asses and put forth the effort, they will have more than enough to get by. I can tell you from experience that that is just not the case.

I won’t deny that some people are just lazy and that some of those lazy people are poor because they’re lazy. I won’t deny that some people are extremely hard workers and that some of those people are rich because they’re hard workers. But the opposite is true just as often in both cases.

Several months ago, a Facebook friend posted an anecdote about a teacher who taught his students the evils of socialism by giving all students the same grade – an average of all their grades – regardless of their individual efforts. The result was that the lazy students got lazier because they didn’t have to work as hard and that the hard-working students got lazier because they were tired of working hard and not seeing the full rewards. There are two fundamental problems with that analogy. One, it presumes that hard work equals more money. And two, it assumes that everyone starts out on an equal playing field.

Everyone is not born with the same opportunities as everyone else. I’m tired of hearing about the so-called hand-outs that apparently all liberals are looking for. Nobody has ever gotten to where they are alone. Nobody.

As low as I’ve been, the only government program I have ever been a part of was WIC because as low as I’ve been, I’ve always managed to scrape by. But I won’t sit here and tell you that I didn’t have help. I may have hated asking for it and I may have avoided asking for it as long as possible, but I have an incredible family who would never let me fall.

I had family members who gave me things to sell on Craigslist and at yard sales. I had friends who knew that diapers were a much better gift than some trinket that would sit on a shelf. I had a sister-in-law who inspired me to bring out my inner bitch when my apparent lacked heat for a month – that inner bitch scored me a month of free rent. I had a friend who needed a roommate to keep her house when I could no longer afford to keep my apartment.

For all my independence, I’ve had help and I am eternally grateful for everything everyone has ever done for me. I am lucky to have these people in my life . . . there are those who are not nearly as lucky.

The amount of judgment placed on those less fortunate is staggering. The presumptuous attitude that anyone asking for help is just too lazy to do for themselves is disturbing. We are here, on this planet, together. We all need each other, in one way or another.

The minute we decide someone else’s worth by the amount or type of help that person needs at any given time is the minute we lose our humanity.

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40 responses to this post.

  1. What a great story, Dayle. For years my husband (then boyfriend) struggled. He was in sales which is not reliable all the time. I worked full time, but with the debt we both brought in with us, it was too much to handle sometimes. We sold things. One time he sold our laptop just so we could make up the difference in the rent. We borrowed money…a lot. We ate mac & cheese and Spaghettio-s and pasta most nights and took the leftovers for lunch. We were never on assistance expect unemployment, but we made it through and I believe that it made us stronger as individuals and provided us a strong foundation for our marriage. We live a modest life. We splurge when we can now because we went so long without. But we teach our son to save his money, something we never did. Even at 3, he gets an allowance for helping, listening and keeping his things picked up. He puts it in his piggy bank and when it’s full, we will take him to the bank and cash it. Some will go in his savings account and some he can spend as he pleases. Of course if he doesn’t have enough, Mommy and Daddy will make up the difference, but it is the lesson I hope that he takes away from it.

    Reply

    • Sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job with your son ❤

      I love that you give him an allowance! I keep attempting that with Abby, but I haven't been very good at keeping up with it. She does save her money though, whether it's from doing chores or for her birthday/Christmas, she likes saving it 🙂

      Reply

  2. Posted by Karen on January 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you for writing this Dayle. There are not many things that make me more angry than wealthy people who don’t want to pay tax stating that the poor are lazy, on drugs, alcoholics. The study in Florida proved that is not true. Hard work rarely is rewarded fairly with money. We all know that women don’t earn as much as men do for equal work. And that our congress stomped on a bill to insure they do. The war on the poor is generally a war against women and infants. I will never protest having my tax dollars go to the poor, I do resent it however, when they go to people more fortunate than myself. I resent the huge amounts of tax credits that corporations get, and the fact that they get so many they cannot use, that they are able to sell tax credits for a profit. In our society there is most certainly not an even playing field. Ask anyone who has been ill and unable to obtain care. Ask anyone who has been ill and denied health insurance. We punish people in this country for having diseases they had no way of preventing. We punish poor children, because their parents are poor. It’s a fact that when both parents work or work more than one job, they do not have the time to spend educating their young children in the same way as a family with one stay at home parent. The uneven playing field begins from birth. Low vitamin and mineral intake causes more health problems and inhibits intellect. Poor children have so many cards stacked against them from the start, and often cannot overcome their problems. It is our responsibility as members of a society to take care of all children, all adults, to teach the children if their parents cannot. If we aren’t actively doing something to prevent another generation of hungry, poor, ill or uneducated children from becoming hungry, poor, ill, uneducated adults, then we are part of the problem. It is our problem. It takes a village to live, and we are that village. It is our responsibility as human beings to help others to eat, obtain health care, to become educated. We all benefit from that.

    Reply

    • “If we aren’t actively doing something to prevent another generation of hungry, poor, ill or uneducated children from becoming hungry, poor, ill, uneducated adults, then we are part of the problem.”

      Exactly! . . . I don’t really have anything else to add to that . . . . I agree with everything you wrote.

      Reply

      • Posted by Karen on January 18, 2013 at 8:49 pm

        I read an essay by a friends daughter who works for Feed the Children, she mentioned that poverty is renewable, the children of the poor often suffer from malnutrition they don’t have the vitamins and health care available to the not poor, and often do to this suffer learning issues, with the learning issues or even lowered iq’s come problems obtaining or holding jobs,

        Reply

  3. Posted by Karen on January 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Also there is nothing wrong with “assistance” food stamps or medicaid. We paid for it, it is there for us.

    Reply

    • I know there’s nothing wrong with assistance. The only reason I pointed that part out was to show that I was lucky to not need it because I was helped in other ways . . . a lot of people are not nearly as lucky.

      You bring up an important point that many people forget though . . . . people want to bitch about “their” tax dollars, but they seem to forget that in the vast majority of situations, the person using assistance has paid into all of that as well.

      Reply

  4. Posted by Karen on January 17, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Hi Dayle, I didn’t mean to imply you had said there was anything wrong with assistance, but it popped into my head what I so often read on facebook. People do forget that for the vast majority of adults receiving food stamps, many are working (just not earning enough) but certainly most adults at one time or another have paid in. 🙂

    Reply

    • Exactly . . . and I only avoid saying “all” because I’m sure there are exceptions, but I’m also sure it’s a pretty hefty majority!

      Reply

      • Posted by Karen on January 18, 2013 at 8:45 pm

        I don’t think I said all. 80% of those on welfare are children, so they obviously have not paid into the system, however chances are that their grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles have. Of the remaining 20% are disabled (often because they were denied healthcare) or working or are single mothers. The anti poor people in my opinion are conducting a war against women and children and the ill for the most part. One just can’t go into the welfare office and say I’m lazy, I can’t work, give me welfare, it doesn’t work that way, not in my state anyway.

        Reply

  5. I agree with you!
    My husband actually gets SSI because of his Bipolar and that’s basically what me and him live off of…..which is not a whole lot! He works, off and on, but because of his being Bipolar, he ends up quitting a lot. I HAVE worked since we’ve been married but it’s hard to find a good job around here that’s not on your feet all day so for the most part, we just live off his SSI. We DO use some assistance, which a lot of people wouldn’t guess…My husband signed up for HUD way more before we got married so we have HUD, which helps out a LOT with our rent and then thankfully, my Mom helps out when we really need her. The problem we have the most is whenever my husband HAS had a job, even if he is making only $100 a month, (which happened once), they were going to take away HUD completely, which totally flabbergasted me! I don’t really like talking about this much cause it’s getting very personal here, but we get around $800 a month SSI, our rent WITH HUD is close to $300, without them it would be about $700……if he makes just $100 in one month, that’s giving us about $900 that month, right? Well, if we lost HUD, then 900-700 leaves us with about 200 each month…..which is NOT enough for even groceries…..then if we lost it AND he lost his job, we would then be living off $100 a month BEFORE bills….and it takes years possibly to get HUD back…..which is why, me and my husband have been stuck in this endless cycle where it’s almost impossible to ever get ahead so we wouldn’t need help ever again! And this is what is so wrong with the system! They don’t have a proper method of slowly decreasing the help EVEN while someone is working so that they can learn to save and put aside extra income so when they lose the help completely, they are not right back where they were before! 😦
    The government NEEDS to realize the way they are doing things is WHY you have people that stay on the help for their whole lives…….because they can’t afford NOT to!
    I am still crossing my fingers that one day I will be able to get a good enough job that makes enough where we can get off the help and still be sufficiently able to make it on our own. I see the looks me and my husband get when we go into the DETCOG office to renew every year….People wonder what the heck we are doing there…..I hear people commenting about people on any kind of welfare and it makes me afraid to admit to them that I am one of those….I hear people make comments about smoking and getting help at the same time….My husband smokes….but my Mom tends to pay for a majority of his cigarettes for him…..I DON’T smoke, but because HE does, does that mean that neither of us SHOULD get any help? I can relate to the judging and I know few people know this about my life, but things aren’t always what they seem.

    Reply

    • Posted by Karen on January 17, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      You are so right Sharon, the definition of work re disability is that you cannot work conisistently to support yourself, and your husband qualifies for that. Does he get SS? You mentioned SSI, so wondering if you meant SS or SSI, if he’s not on SS, he might apply. You don’t have to be afraid because you receive assistance your tax dollars pay for, but I know what you mean. It is a vicious cycle, there is no way to get a bit of help, it’s all or nothing. I know that our Section 8 housing, had a waiting list of 800 people and the wait list was closed a few years ago. There is a movement in this nation to deflect people from looking at the wealthy and what they pay in taxes, and it is they who tell the middle class that the poor are the people taking from them, when in fact that isn’t really true. Many people don’t understand what it really is to be poor, or to have an illness that prevents one from consistently supporting oneself. When one is on unemployment and works for a week or so, the money earned is deducted from the unemployment but the unemployed does not lose his right to benefits. Disability is more complicated, and it takes an average of 5 years to receive it, and contrary to popular belief, you just can’t walk into the Social Security office and receive disability. Someone needs to have lots and lots of medical records to prove a disability. As for the haters, ignore them. The only way out I can see for you, is if you are to go to college and graduate with a degree in which you might get hired for a good salary. Good Luck to you both.

      Reply

    • You bring up a HUGE issue and something I’ve thought about/discussed at great length (maybe it’ll be a blog post some day) . . . that the system is designed to keep people dependent. When people start talking about welfare reform, that is what I bring up . . . there does need to be an overhaul to the system, but not with drug testing or limiting benefits . . . there needs to be more job training, job placement, a slow decrease in benefits so that people can become more self-sufficient at a realistic pace.

      And as for the smoking . . . . it’s another one of those don’t judge those you don’t know things. I’ve rationed cigarettes when I was broke, but I never outright quit (I did start making my own for a while) because cigarettes were my sanity. They were the *only* thing I bought for myself. . . . The point is, nobody has the right to judge the circumstances of those they don’t know.

      Reply

      • Exactly! I see where people like to say that people who can afford cigarettes shouldn’t get food stamps or help…and I wonder, but what about their kids? Should the kids have to go without because their parents find someone to make or buy cigarettes every once in awhile? Or like in my situation….where my Mom buys a lot of HIS cigarettes…but outsiders don’t KNOW that…..is it right to deny the spouse ANY help because their spouse smokes? My husband says it keeps him calm and keeps his Bipolar more in control and while I still want him to quit, I realize how HARD that is for him and it bothers me that not everyone seems to understand that it’s not as black and white as they want to make it.

        Reply

        • Posted by Karen on January 18, 2013 at 8:41 pm

          What those who are not poor don’t understand. Yes there is a little bit of money that a person has when they can qualify for food stamps. People do not understand the hopelessness and depression that go along with being ill or poor with no hope of climbing one’s way out, or little hope of that. Food stamps do not pay medical bills, they don’t pay for transportation to and from the doctor, they don’t pay for soap or laundry. There are disabled people who have others shop for them, thus the person in the nice car using food stamps. There are people who might have nice clothing, and now have lost their jobs, and thus food stamps. There is a limit on assets of $4000 in my state to qualify. That means the person has generally lost or used every resource they had available. It is not for anyone to decide what the poor can or should eat. Cigarettes and even an occasional glass of wine can be of great comfort to someone with no way out, or someone who has nervous or depression problems. If that makes someone poor feel better, that doesn’t bother me. And the fact is they are addictive and many people who smoke didn’t know how much until they were addicted. Being poor is a constant many times, it is not something many people can get out of. I know people who get food stamps for their children, but do earn money. It is their business how they spend that money. I do not care for those who want to take $60 of food from the mouths of our future. Other people’s children matter. They matter to our future. The movement which advocates punishing the poor is not a movement I subscribe too. The poor have wants, desires, lives, like anyone else. Very often, however, health or fortune has not smiled upon them in a way it does others.

        • That was the other thing I was thinking about . . . . cigarettes basically as therapy. They’ve calmed my anxiety . . . hell, they’ve helped me not self-injure. There have been occasions when smoking cigarettes was enough to keep my hands busy while the urge (need) to burn myself passed.

          Like you said, it’s not black and white. There are so many potential explanations but everyone wants to go for the easy one – they’re just lazy. It makes me incredibly sad.

        • Posted by Karen on January 18, 2013 at 9:20 pm

          Dayle, right? Therapy to those who get little comfort from life. Agree. ❤ I love that you created this post.

      • Thank you 🙂

        I’m thrilled with the conversations!

        Reply

  6. And sorry for leaving a story on your post…..LOL……I definitely condensed my thoughts a bit!

    Reply

    • Never apologize for sharing anything here! I’m happy you felt comfortable enough to share so much, so thank you for offering your experiences and thoughts!

      Reply

      • I’m glad that I can feel comfortable enough posting here about this topic! Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people that can judge very harshly about others lives because they don’t understand…I was lucky enough to grow up in a house where my parents didn’t need the help but I had close friends that DID so I was exposed to the fact that not everyone is so lucky. I got married and am now in a situation like that myself where I do need help, but I still consider myself lucky, because while my parents stay in the background and let us learn and get by on our own for the most part, I know that if something happened and we lost our apartment and had nothing, my Mom would always take us in….maybe not the ideal situation, but definitely one that I know not everyone has, so I definitely feel lucky and thankful for that.

        Reply

  7. Oh I hear you my friend. Hubs & I were let go from our dream jobs 2 years ago and I never thought I would say this, but food stamps saved us! We still have the county healthcare so I can keep my meds, but are no longer on Food Stamps and will be forever grateful for the help. And just moments ago, the Hubs called with joy to report that his part-time job for the last 1 1/2 years has moved him to FULL-TIME!! Yay for digging back out of this place.

    Reply

    • Posted by Karen on January 17, 2013 at 8:04 pm

      Congratulations Susieklein on your husbands job news!
      A lot of people never planned to be saved by food stamps.
      You paid for them, and you used them. No shame in that.

      Reply

    • Congratulations on your husband’s full time job! Wonderful news!!!

      I think a lot of people really don’t realize how close they are. I used to volunteer for Philadelphia’s street paper. It’s called One Step Away . . . and those are the perfect words . . . . so simple and so true.

      Thank you for sharing a part of your story and I’m so happy to hear you and your husband have been able to turn things around!

      Reply

  8. Posted by Carolyn Brown on January 18, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Thank you for writing this. Being poor is a reality that some people never get to experience. I have actually been snubbed by some people when they discover where Adam and me have been living – people who liked who I was when I spoke to them online and weighed and measured me by my thoughts and actions, not where I lived or what my tax bracket was. And then it was “You LIVE in your RV?” Instant POOF, gone. Of course now we are homeless YAY, that makes us that much lower in the eyes of people who never were our real friends in the first place because they judge you by what you own, wear, and drive, and not by whats in your heart and makes you YOU! That being said, there have been some extremely good friends who knew where we lived and how we lived and everything, who were willing to drop everything and drive 65 miles just to rescue Adam by boat, when they heard that Adam got me out before the water rushed in, and he was stranded in the river, inside that trailer. These same people are wanting us to stay with them. We are, we’ll be there tomorrow. For the weekend, I think…it depends on how long it will take for the insurance to replace our home and for us to find another RV park to put our new home in – oh, and riverside is OUT, forever! Adam and me agree, we could both live without seeing a river ever again! I’ll shut up now, I know I’m rambling, which I should be doing on my own blog lol…. anyway thank you for writing this, its very powerful.

    Reply

    • Posted by Karen on January 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      Carolyn, I am so sorry to hear you are homeless, those friends who helped are to be treasured forever. I hope insurance works quickly so that you will have a home again. Karen

      Reply

    • Those who would judge you based on where you live are not worth your time. Still, I know it hurts and I’m sorry you have to deal with that.

      I noticed your blog post yesterday, but I didn’t get a chance to read it yet . . . . I’m so sorry you and Adam are going through this . . . . I did see an update on FB earlier that the damage didn’t hit the inside . . . I’m so happy to hear that! Keeping you both in my thoughts for a speedy clean up and for the insurance company to take care of everything you need . . . and that you find a more secure place for your home!

      Please feel free to ramble here any time!

      Reply

  9. Dayle, thanks for sharing your honest truth and your raw story. I am very happy to know you. . . maybe someday we’ll meet in person.

    Reply

  10. […] motivation behind fat shaming Thoughts on being poor, working hard, getting help, and passing judgment Self-Injury Awareness Day […]

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