The Virtues of Being Poor

Growing up rich might be nice, but there are virtues only growing up poor can provide.

By Sarah Pozorski

If you were to give me the option between living in a rundown hut in the Alaskan forest or a new, clean suburb where all the houses look the same, I would choose the Alaskan hut (with a few sled dogs of course). Walking in those treeless neighborhoods and seeing houses that all look the same give my brain a static feeling. I know the world should not look this casual. For some reason they look like how new paint smells. Life would be SO bland if I had to grow up in a place like this instead of where I grew up: in a rough neighborhood, surviving off EBT, Goodwill, and the foodbank.

Growing up the way I did gave me the character I have today, the crazy stories I love telling, and made me a tougher person overall. I would not be as hard of a worker if my parents had bought my car, bought most of my clothes, or offered to pay for my college. I had to do all that myself and I appreciate the lack of money. I find comfort in the Dollar Tree runs, the missing kitchen cabinets, marijuana smoke, and the trashed alleyways with “gang signs” spray painted in them. Though I can make myself look like I have money with all the clothes and nice stuff I buy myself, it’s still all second-hand and I still go home to a rundown house with an AC that barely works and plumbing that fails every two months. I am a whole different type of catfish.

Although it is very easy to judge me, I tend to judge rich people, which, socially speaking, is not acceptable, but I can’t seem to help it. Their houses tend to sometimes feel like doctors’ offices where you can’t touch anything. Where everything is sugar-free and there are no pets allowed because pets make a mess, and the rug is too expensive. A place where love can easily be confused with store bought items and not given emotionally as often as it should be. The coziness of a home swapped with everything modern and sharp hurts my head. I know if rich people saw the way I live they would say the same things, though, and I can’t even be mad at them for it because that would be unfair. It’s not just the way they decorate their house that irks me because that is shallow, and to each their own–it is also the way they treat their kids. In my experience I have seen a lot of rich people buy their kids’ love and not let them do things that kids should be doing. No running in the house, no getting muddy, no doing things that might get you hurt, no burping, no eating after dinner. NO EATING AFTER DINNER?! How can you restrict a human from human things? Even in the times when my family didn’t have a lot of money, I was still allowed to eat whenever and whatever I wanted. I start to think my low-income living conditions are more humane than the living conditions of rich kids.

If you are in a poor home, you will never find someone with a bad sense of humor.

One thing I always loved about growing up poor was the people I was surrounded with. If you are in a poor home, you will never find someone with a bad sense of humor. I am convinced most poor people, if not every poor person, are extremely funny. Most of their jokes are making fun of their own misfortunes. This is a personality trait I myself have fallen into and I have no shame about it either. I find rich people looking appalled at the jokes other poor people would laugh about. I feel uncomfortable with the seriousness or concern they try to show when I joke about my slightly off living conditions because I said it to be funny.

And apart from sense of humor, I just love the comfort and kindness a poor person gives. Their energy feels strong, warm, and real. They will always make sure you are taken care of, feeling mentally well, and kept safe. They give you all they have because they know what it is like to struggle, and they don’t want others to feel the same way. Their concerns are genuine. Rich people also can have their concerns, but I feel poor people end up with deeper concerns and anxiety due to the circumstances they are in and the lack of options they get left with. I am confident in that belief because if something does go wrong, if someone gets hurt or sick, rich people can lean on money to take care of said person medically as best they can, while a poor person can’t afford the $3,000 ambulance ride. That is why we are so careful, so watchful, when thinking of other people.

Talking of concern also leads me to think about empathy, and this is something I see expressed in poor people greatly. The number of times I have heard the wealthy spew disgusting names at alcoholics, drug addicts, teen moms, and thieves is insane. Most of the time, people do not deliberately throw themselves into these lifestyles. How many times have you heard someone say “When I grow up, I want to be a homeless meth head! 😀”? Usually, people are already born into a life where meth is involved, or they are introduced to it at a very young age. If not that, they are broken by the world, and feel harmful substances will numb the past or what they are currently going through. I knew people at my middle school who were already doing meth and smoking pot because their parents gave it to them. When I see someone high on the street, all I can think about is how they were as kids. How they were once playing with toys and running around with friends. Reaching their hands up to adults to be held and wearing their tiny clothes and light up shoes. Then something happened, an abusive person entered their lives, they got neglected, they felt broken and alone, and they got introduced to something that ruined their lives completely. It is not fair to judge these people and tell them they are worthless bums, because that only drives them deeper into what you are shunning them for in the first place. If you tell someone they are just a stupid drug addict, that is all they are going to believe. That is something I have seen rich people do before. It can seem that sometimes they don’t take the time to think and understand what people who are different from them are going through. That is, unless someone in their own life falls unfortunately into these lifestyles.

Still, I have thought about how being rich would be nice. How it would be relieving to never have to worry about money or what my future might be, but I just don’t think that version of myself would be as good. I am glad I possess skills that get me through things I might not have been able to, had I grown up rich, and I don’t want my situation to be different even if it is looked upon as being upsetting. I know, though it might not seem valuable to some people, it is very valuable to me.

Photo: Untitled Money by Liergico on Flickr