A couple of ladies were chatting near my cash register the other day after their lunch, as one admired the other's wallet. "Oh, it was only five hundred dollars," she said to her friend. "I wish I'd got two, they had some pretty colors." "You should have!" trilled her friend as they went out the door. I watched them go with an uncomfortable sense of rising rage.
I don't want to be angry at rich people. But they make it very difficult. I know those ladies mean well--they're at a local business, after all--but clearly they don't understand what my life is like. To me, and to most of my friends, $500 is a lot of money. Life-changing money, to a poor person. For example, that would buy a moped which would take me to the free clinic for my medical care, whereas now we have to crowdsource that sort of transportation among the friends. We could almost buy a car. I could get new glasses and new shoes for work and...it would certainly go a long way at Goodwill for all of us.
I make eight dollars an hour and I work thirty hours a week. I have nothing. Anything I need--such as a three-dollar stick of deodorant--is a big deal. I don't have real access to medical care, or transportation to a better job or just to see my daughter. I can't afford healthy food or supplements or yoga classes or any of that stuff that regular people think nothing of buying. If anything really bad happens to me, there's no safety net. Unemployment and homelessness are just the beginnings of the possible horrors. It doesn't bear thinking about. So I don't, usually.
I am happy, usually. I just roll with the poverty thing and I think most people think of me as plucky and strong and wry, which is how I'm getting through this. I do not need to be rescued. I am not alone. But I get tired.
I'm tired of the million slights that go along with poverty and how hard it is to meet my basic needs, the degradations and the humiliations that happen every day. And it's not just me, there are millions of us and we are suffering. I watch my friends suffer and struggle and yet find beauty and meaning and hope in their lives. I know that as the American poor, we are the lucky ones. I have not forgotten those who suffer worse in other places.
This has to change, this obscene inequality. As a society we surely can't take much more. It's hurting everyone so much. It's hard to make me angry. If I'm mad there are three millions people even more pissed off than I am. I don't know how to fix it all; I'm kind of busy just surviving. And I don't want your pity. I just want my voice to be heard, so thanks for reading.