My Story: On Being Poor

by Darla B.

I read with interest the article by Pat Mestern, and have this to say about that.

My family has never been poor. When I was growing up, we had no money, but we were never poor. Poor is a state of mind.

I fully agree with Miss Marie that there is no excuse for certain things that are generally blamed on poverty: filth, lack of education, etc. But really, the crux of the matter is a lack of ambition, not being "financially challenged."

I also agree that we need to get the idea that no one (not just the government) is responsible to pull us up by our bootstraps but our own sweet selves. Our parents don't 'owe' us a college education or an inheritance. Our employers don't 'owe' us anything more than honest pay for honest work. Our children don't 'owe' us care in our old age. I don't know about everyone else, but I am planning to live to a very old age, and I am planning to live well doing it.

Here, with respect, is my departure from Miss Marie's philosophy: Being rich is not starting at the top to slide your way down or being surrounded by things or always looking down. Richness is a state of mind, too.

I don't want to cry in my beer (that would be a waste of good tears) here -- we all have our long, sad stories. Suffice it to say that my older sister and I went to work at real jobs when we were 13 and 12, respectively, not for the extras we wanted, but to help pay the bills.

Before that, we mowed lawns, baby sat, pet sat, cleaned houses, etc. I was born in 1960. I have no personal memory of the Great Depression at all, but I do remember counting change from my little sister's Snoopy piggy bank to pay the electric bill from time to time. I have other, more dramatic memories, but I will spare you.

I have worked very hard to become rich, and to give my daughter a rich life. This does not include feeding her with a silver spoon, nor do I intend for either of us to slide backward. At the ripe old age of seven, she already has her own business which was recently featured in a statewide publication, puts her money in a mutual fund for college, and regularly (and cheerfully, most of the time) does chores around the house -- no allowance involved. And at the ripe old age of 38, my husband and I are both retired, debt free, and living well enough to be generous and compassionate.

My little one made the comment that we aren't rich the other day -- probably because we aren't surrounded with things like some of her friends (whose parents are up to their eyeballs in debt) are. I told her oh yes, we certainly are. We have each other. We owe no one other than debts of human kindness. We have plans, dreams, and goals. We are not just NOT poor. We are very, very wealthy.

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The thing is, we would be more than wealthy even if we didn't have money. It's not the having or not having of money that matters. It's how you choose to deal with it.

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