Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty

This is normally a humor blog, but today I want to use my blog as a platform. October 15th is Blog Action Day, the day when thousands of bloggers will unite to discuss a single issue - poverty.

I'm a 25 year old white female from the suburbs of Houston. I was raised in a married household, went to award winning public schools, and while we weren't wealthy or even well off, we did okay and I did not ever spend a night hungry, or without clothing or basic human necessities.

Then, suddenly, my parents got divorced. My mother moved out of state. My father spent all of his time dealing with his depression and his disability, and I moved out at the age of 18.

I had no experience with anything "real life" related. I didn't know how to manage money, cook, or even do laundry. I got a job waiting tables, and my (then) boyfriend and I got an apartment. He was also a waiter, and I remember the first time we did our income taxes, we both made a combined amount of $14,000.00 and I was impressed - again, I was 18. But I vividly remember thinking, "If $14,000.00 is so much money, why are we always broke? Where is it going?", and the realization I had a few years later was that it wasn't going anywhere, we just didn't have enough money to survive.

Pride and family estrangement got in the way of asking for last minute loans from our families. We drove old, beat up cars that we could rarely afford to fix. We would drive around on bald tires, no AC in 100 degree temps, and for a while we drove an old Mitsubishi Eclipse without a radio, that had been severely rear ended. The mechanic told me our car was not fit to drive, due to the accident causing the squished back end of the car to be dangerously close to puncturing the gas tank. It was "totaled" and our only car. There are no bus lines in the suburbs, and we had no choice - we had to get to work, so we drove it anyway. Horribly embarrassing, and severely dangerous.

We both worked at restaurants, so if we didn't have enough money to eat, we knew we could go somewhere for food. However, one week the boyfriend and I got in a huge fight and he took the car. We did not have a telephone, (and having a cellphone was a luxury back then) and all we had to eat in the house was a economy sized can of fruit cocktail. Don't ask me what on earth made us buy it, but thank God we did because its all I ate for a week. It was all I had. I remember the feeling of hunger setting in, like a dull reminder that food was a necessity. I let it go for as long as I could wait, because I knew there was nothing else to eat, and I needed to make it stretch - when the boyfriend came back 6 days later, I wish I could say I walked out then and there and never looked back - but I cant. I didn't.

I've lived for weeks without electricity because we didn't have enough to pay the bill. In the winter and the summer. I never had health insurance, and now I owe nearly 10 grand in medical bills from that time. I had enough presence of mind to take good care of my teeth, thank God. I've been on Medicare AND food stamps. Technically, my fellow taxpayers paid for the birth of my baby. They've fed me. They picked me up and made sure I got the things I needed, even if it was an uphill struggle. How can I express my gratitude? I don't think I can ever get across how much it means to me, but today, I'll donate my day's wages to the Houston chapter of the End Hunger network. It is a small gesture, but it's one of the small things I can do.

That was 7 years ago. It feels like yesterday.

16 comments:

Don said...

Funny how that works. Now you can choose to give back and you do. You never forget those days, and it's a good thing you don't.

Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy said...

Good for you, remembering those days and allowing them to remind you that there are others suffering like that every day--and in far worse situations than that!

I wish I had known about this going on, I would have posted something as well. But I will definitely donate! Thanks for the heads up!

Melinda Zook said...

It sounds like it was definitely a life experience and necessary to have. I almost feel bad for those that don't have anything to have made them stronger people. Stronger in mind and heart.

Heinous said...

Wow, what a story. It's very humbling and makes me glad to know you. Well, as well as I can in a bloggity world.

Athena said...

Don - Isn't it interesting how life experiences can shape you into the person you are today? I don't regret a single thing.

Petra - Thanks! I know, I felt kind of weird writing this post because my "first world" poverty is nowhere NEAR the amount of suffering some folks are going through.

Melinda - Yes, it definitely shaped me into the person I am today. I'm really good at managing money now, too, LOL ;)

Heinous - I'm flattered! :D Thank you!

just a girl... said...

okay I am so here to stay. love your blog

ettarose said...

Athena, you and I had similar experiences. I remember not knowing where my next meal was coming from. At times I did not own a car and walked where I needed to go. But the experience is what made us the awesome people we are!

Zip n Tizzy said...

Whenever people make statements like "money isn't everything," Or "money can't buy happiness," all I can think is that they've never gone without.
It's true it can't buy happiness, but it can buy comfort and piece of mind... something people again can't know unless they've been there.
Good for you for stepping up and for bringing this to our attention.

I am Jamie Sue! said...

Another charity I really like is Kiva.org.

Vincent Robleto said...

Nicely done.

Chris Wood said...

Excellent post. Well done you.

Mike said...

Wow, very powerful post!! It was almost reading some of the story of a few years ago for me. I was living off Ramen noodles and Saltines with my then financee. We drove a 1983 Toyota Tercel that had a accelerator that would stick in the down position sometimes. The engine finally caught fire:)Good for you to give back.

Deb on the Rocks said...

This post is so well written, direct and moving. Being burdened with that kind of medical bills is a damn crime of this country.

quarter-life lady. said...

Amazing. It seems that these things, as sucky as it is in the midst of struggle, give us hair on our chests. Showing that we've lived. Good post.

Athena said...

Seriously, you guys all rock. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Anonymous said...

Hi!


Mansour Engineering design always reflects a clear understanding of the clients’ intended facility operations, maintenance practices and project goals.

[url=http://www.mansour.ca] click here to go to Mansour Engineering[/url]


http://www.mansour.ca