My kid’s perspective on poverty

Stuart Miles

When I first started this blog, I asked my daughter what her thoughts were on our challenges and here’s what my 12-year old had to say:

 “As you know, my mom and I are currently in poverty. I don’t really notice it much. I have known this way of living for almost a year, but it feels like forever. I’m okay with it and I am fed from the lunch program at my school and either me or my mom can scrounge up enough money for pasta and tomato paste for the week. Recently, we started a bulk fruit and veggie program and I don’t think I’ve ever seen our fridge so full of veggies and fruit! 

Since we had to give up our car last April, I have been taking the bus to and from school. Sometimes we have to run around the house for bus tickets or change, other times we have a pile of bus tickets for the week already.

I worry about money issues sometimes because my mom is stressed out, which makes me stressed out and I worry about bus fares and breakfast. I know it is my mom’s job to worry, but, I don’t want to put all the stress on her shoulders.”

Even before we started relying on food banks and the kindness of others to be able to eat, my daughter was always coming up with solutions on how to feed the homeless. Living close to a major intersection in East Vancouver, there are several regulars in our area either digging through recycling boxes and garbage, begging for money or simply sleeping in a doorway. So it’s a conversation that’s come up often over the 6.5 years we’ve lived in this area.

Although I’ve gotten much better at managing and stretching my money, by about 3-4 days before payday, I’m depleted of money and food that doesn’t require several additional ingredients to make a meal. As I was thinking about what to make for dinner, I remembered I had been told about a church, just a few blocks from our house, that offered free dinner on Wednesday nights starting at 6pm. I’d been wanting to try it out for awhile, but didn’t have the gumption to go alone, so I asked my daughter to join me.

Her response was a resounding NO. She didn’t want other people to know that we are poor and to see us asking for help. Furthermore, she would rather go hungry than stand in line asking for free food. It turns out that, despite the brave faces we’ve each been putting on every day, we both still feel the shame and humiliation of admitting, to the outside world, that we’re poor.

Huh.

In the end, a friend lent us $20 to tide us over until today. Funny how helping others is so much easier than accepting help from others.

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