Nudging the Boundaries


Fresno, California, US
April 11
Writer, Registered Addiction Specialist, civil rights/civil liberties activist


NOVEMBER 28, 2011 1:49PM

Seven things poverty has taught me to appreciate

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1. Food stamps

I get an allotment of food stamp (SNAP) money credited to my EBT card on the fourth day of very month. If I didn't get it, I couldn't afford to eat. Of course, I'm a snooty impoverished person; I like to eat meat because it actually makes me feel satisfied, and I love fresh vegetables. I like junk food a great deal, but it's for entertainment rather than nutrition, so I avoid it now.

2. Food

There is nothing more disturbing than having nothing in the refrigerator or the pantry to eat for dinner and a week to go before any money comes in, and there is nothing quite so satisfying and hopeful than having the freezer half-stocked with roasts and chicken pieces and the pantry cabinet so full that opening it triggers an avalanche.

3. Food banks

Food stamps last about three weeks for us.  Every ten days, we take the bus to our nearby Catholic Charities to stock up on beans and rice, potatoes, and some canned goods. There is typically one item of junk food in the package which is greedily devoured upon its arrival.

4. Haircuts

I can only afford to get one every four to six months. I usually keep my hair quite short, about 3/4" long. During the first two months, I can actually see. After that, I'm constantly brushing aside my hair. Having my vision blocked tends to separate me from the rest of the living world. I find myself hiding behind my hair and pretending no one else exists.

5. Internet resources for stuff one usually needs to see a doctor to obtain

As a person with no health care resources, I appreciate the Internet even more than I did before. Rather than going without glasses, contact lenses, or prescription drugs, I can get online and order all of these from both local and foreign sources so I can see and otherwise function. Like the previous issue I have with long hair that separates me from the world, having uncorrected vision functions in the same way. Similarly, prescription medication keeps me from hiding in my apartment, away from other living, breathing people.

6. Electronic cigarettes

As a former smoker (and formerly employed person), I once spent five dollars a day on cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes are safer by far than what are called "analog" cigarettes, and they cost about 90% less than the cancer-causing, filthy-smelling variety. 

7. Blame

A form of entertainment, I like to read about how my own laziness has caused this situation and how my coddled existence is an outrage to people across the country.

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"I find myself hiding behind my hair and pretending no one else exists."

ME TOO!! Actually, I just hide from the world in general, keeps me from growling at people in public! By the way, in "polite" society, that's frown upon!! ~:D

Thank you for the thought provoking article. It has caused me to dwell on things that I am thankful for:

1. Public transportation

Since we had to sell our car to pay our rent, we have been relying on the bus. Sure the Fresno bus stops running at about 8:30pm, but it sure beats not getting around at all. One thing I don't miss about the car is that I am no longer travelling about insulated from other people and my environment. I fell much more connected now.

2. Dollar Tree

It is a real blessing to be able to afford things I really need, like TP and dish soap. It is also nice to be able to get the occasional treat like a box of cookies or a 3 litre bottle of soda.

4. A sturdy pair of shoes

Since I walk much more than I used to, I love my boots. I am in much better shape than when I had the car and again I feel much more connected to the world and people around me.

5. Skype

Our daughter lives in Kosovo and there is no way we would be able to afford international calls to keep in touch with her. What a blessing it is video call her for free. The immediacy of being able to see and talk with her in real time is so wonderful.

6. The smiles and well wishes of my neighbors.

"Good morning" and "thank you" both received and given have become a healing balm for my soul. I try to thank at least five strangers every day. I don't know if it helps them, but it makes me feel really good.

7. Toilet paper and cat litter

Because when you are out of those, well, you are kinda sunk until payday. ;-)
I can relate to the food stuff. Whenever my husband would get laid off a job, I would go and spend a bunch of money at the grocery store and stuff the freezer with meats. Really, we were never poor, but my instinct was always to make sure we didn't starve. Food is so basic. It's a crime that any family has to look at an empty fridge. I know what you mean about haircuts, too. The other thing that is a huge luxury is clean clothes. When I was in high school, I ran away from home after a fight. I slept in the park. Every day, I went to the gas station bathroom and washed my underwear, put it back on. I can't bear to be dirty.
Tink, I'm trying to make eye contact with everyone I meet and greet them as we pass. Growling is so last year for me. LOL!

Angela, I share those appreciations with you.

Sirenita, I had clean clothes on my list but was trying to get the list down to seven items a la Beth Mann's post. That's pretty funny. Clean is GOOD.

Thank you all for dropping by. I'm trying to start posting here again, and a little bit of encouragement will go a long way, I'm sure.
Thank you for sharing your experience Leslie. You remind me to appreciate all I have, while I have it, and give me an appreciation for the challenges you face . I am again reminded of the wonderful Peace Pilgrim. You may find inspiration in her as well.