The View from Puncheon Creek: Being Poor

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A friend and neighbor stopped by my house to inspect my latest building project recently. The high cost of materials soon became the topic of discussion which lead to the issue of being poor. I concluded the conversation on being poor with the observation that “when you are poor you are out.” My friend found this to ring true and requested I write about what it is like to grow up in a world filled with need. I hope my effort to do so will foster understanding of what it is like to be poor.

Being rich no doubt has some disadvantages but being poor disadvantages a person in almost every way. For instance, let us look at the diet forced on poor people. Most any poor person will tell you that getting food is not overly hard. The real problem is that most foods affordable to those of limited means is anything but healthy. Fresh fruits and vegetables cost far more than unhealthy processed versions packed in syrup or lard.  Steak and potatoes might be healthier but burgers and fries cost less. Hotdogs cost even less and good as they taste, they are little more than fat filled artery cloggers. The simple fact is that much poor health among the poor can be laid at the feet of poor diets that they can’t afford to change. It literally cost more to be poor. While those of wealth can take advantage of bulk purchases and sale prices anytime, the less fortunate don’t have the means to do so. Next time you see a buggy full of junk food on “check day”, remember that person is simply trying to get the most calories they can buy for the least bucks they can spend.

When you’re poor, you can’t afford to think about long term planning, all of your attention is focused on getting through this day. Poor people understand that it is cheaper to maintain a car than to wait until it breaks. Often that isn’t feasible so they are reduced to hoping the old girl will hang together just a little bit longer. Poor people can’t win when it comes to clothes, if they dress nicely they are considered frivolous but if they don’t they are judged in a poor light. The social implications of being poor are immense and in no way positive. This might be a good place to point out that being poor is not the same as all poor people fit one mold. Poor people are as diverse as any other group that have one thing in common. Like all stereotypes, the stereotypical poor are bits of truth wrapped in misconceptions.  I know poor people with brilliant minds and rich people of limited thinking. The only thing of importance separating rich from poor is the way we treat each other. We can’t walk in each other’s shoes, we can’t know what it’s like to be someone else, but at the least we can be kind to each other. Knowing that no man can dance except to the rhythm of his own heart understand that poor people often dance alone.

In many ways, “when you are poor you are out.” Thankfully, when it comes to the love of God, we are all in. Be blessed.