I remember what it was like to be poor
I remember eating ramen noodles and wondering how they got so much flavor and so little food in a 29 cent package.
I remember combing my afro with a fork and rubbing cooking grease on my face and legs.
I remember seeing my toes through my shoes.
I remember asking to go over friend’s houses just to see what they had to eat.
I remember selling things I need to get money for things I needed more, like food or gas.
I remember stealing tissue from McDonalds.
I remember taking a shower over my friend’s house when the water turned off.
I remember eating those chicken rings off the pavement at White Castle.
I remember heating the house with the oven when the heat was disconnected.
I remember being frost bitten as a 5 year old boy when walking to the grocery store in sub zero temperature.
I remember the extension cord that ran from my neighbor’s house to ours when our electricity was disconnected.
I remember the night I spent in jail because I broke the law by driving without car insurance.
I remember all the parties I missed because I didn’t have money to bring a gift…and the one’s I showed up to ashamed to be empty handed.
I remember making up my mind that I would sneak into the refrigerator when no one was awake, only to be reminded how poor we were while staring at the dingy white frig interior walls.
I remember how I ate at school and how people looked at me with disgust.
I remember wondering if I was ugly because I was poor or was I poor because I was ugly. I remember deciding that it didn’t matter because I was gonna be both for the foreseeable future.
I remember smelling my feet through my shoes. I remember every room I was ashamed to enter because of this.
I remember the anomaly of having clean clothes along with a hair cut. I remember it happened once.
I remember working overtime, getting my check on Friday, paying overdraft fees, and being broke by noon on Saturday.
I remember going to the car dealership and being sold the oldest used car on the lot because it was the only one they could approve me for, while my peers had lower car payments on new cars.
I remember paying for a car I co-signed for for my parent at the age of 17. I remember having my paycheck garnished for that same car at the age of 27.
What I don’t remember is ever hearing anyone longing to have any one of these experiences.
So many people think it’s a good idea to play “poor”. Those who grew up like I did, know that it’s not a game. Anyone who has escaped poverty, understands that taking an all-expense paid trip to poor neighborhoods to do ‘service’ or living on minimum wage for a year, is nothing like living it without the option of just getting up and going back to life in
the mainstream. Therefore, if you really want to experience poverty, don’t forget about the embarrassment, depression, lost friendships, debt, and despair that go along with it.