I see so many different forms of poverty every day, and experience many aspects of it myself. The pain caused by poverty is mostly hidden, felt inside the person experiencing it daily.
There is the physical pain of hunger. This is not always caused by not having food to eat, but many times just skipping meals to make what is in the cupboard last longer. There is also the pain of walking through a grocery store and seeing all the things you wish you could buy, but you stay focused on your list, on the essentials, and you smile at the people you pass…so they can’t see. You smile again when, even though you did the math so carefully, you see the total at check out and realize the package of chicken you picked up has put you over the $10 you have in your wallet. You smile as you ask the cashier to take it off the list, you smile at the customers behind you and play it off like you just forgot to take some more money out of the atm, or left your card at home. You pretend it’s all just fine, until you are safely out of the store, and then you cry when you get in your car, where no one sees. Food banks are always a resource, but you can’t get milk, butter, meat, vegetables or any other fresh food.
Then there is the pain of being physically ill, and knowing that even if you go to the ER, (your only option with no money or insurance), that they will run tests you can’t afford, give you prescriptions you will never fill, and tell you to see your primary for follow-up, which you are unable to do either, so you just don’t go. I knew I had skin cancer for over a year before I found treatment where I could make payments, and even then, was unable to pay all of it after the surgery. Even now, I need follow ups that I just can’t afford to go to yet. The “free” clinics are full, and even if you can get in, if you or your spouse work they will say you don’t qualify, same with Medicaid.
I can’t even begin to describe the most recent pain of missing my daughter’s wedding…something I can never get back, and can’t even write about…the pain is still too raw.
The worst pain of all is having to deal with the shame and embarrassment. No one wants to ask for help from friends and family. No one wants to admit that they can’t pay their own bills or buy food. Being judged, made to feel like you are to blame for your poverty is what I will never understand. Life is hard, and no matter how hard you try, you can get thrown. I have some wonderful people in my life who have helped us, some of them many times over, without me ever having to ask, and I am so grateful, and beyond blessed. My husband and I have had some very rough times the past few years, gotten a bit better, and then traveled back down to the “what shall we do now” hell of poverty. My most recent endeavor, starting the fund-raising post to raise money for our bills was not easy for me to do. I am embarrassed, and feel shame constantly, but I had to do something. Losing your pride is also very painful, but necessary to survive poverty. I guess I just don’t want to feel judged anymore, because unless you have been where I have been, you have no true understanding, and thus are in no place to judge. I pray no one ever has to feel this way, that everyone I know, and don’t know, will always be blessed. A roof over your head, enough food to eat, bills paid, time to enjoy life instead of living every day just surviving and wondering if it will all be alright. I try to keep my eyes on God, and my trust in Him…but, it’s not always easy. On this day I have food, a roof, a bed to lie down on, my dogs to keep me company, and a husband working 1200 miles away…the bills are tucked away in a drawer, not seen, but I know they are there…like my shame, my fear, and my poverty.
Oh, and just a last word. I don’t want your pity, and I don’t need your judgement. I wrote this to hopefully find some understanding and empathy…because in the end, that is what we all need most.
©Kim Hood 2013