Affluenza — and Poverty

Editor’s note: This was originally left as a comment by a user who goes by the handle of “MySoCalledMind” but I thought it deserved space on the front page.  I did edit slightly, and hope the original writer won’t mind the promotion. 

Today in the local paper there was another article about UWMC’s Affluenza program. I had thought about going, but then I thought,”What for?” Because I have been so lowdown dirt poor in my life that I will never, ever forget it, and it has colored my view of everything.

A few weeks ago at work, we held a potluck. The business I work for provided the main ingredients and the workers were expected to provide side dishes or to pay for the lunch if they can’t provide a side dish. This was started a couple of years ago. Over the past 2 years, I have noticed a lot fewer side dishes and a lot more people eating the basic lunch. At the last potluck, there were maybe five or six side dishes, and there used to be dozens (it’s a large business).

I asked a few coworkers if they thought it was because people had less money to buy ingredients for a side dish or pay for the lunch and were looking at it as a meal they needed because money was tight. ALL of them said yes.

I thought of the time I worked in a shelter and when Christmas came around, we were inundated with gifts of food, clothing, toys, and other items. Christmas was/is a time of giving, and it was lifesaving to many people in the shelter, but then Christmas went away, and as the year went on, the stockpiled food and other gifts did too, and it got worse every year.

My grandparents struggled to feed four kids during the depression. My grandmother said the worst day of her life was going to get “government flour” with the well-dressed ladies of town knowing how bad off she was. She was shy and kind, but poor and afraid. When she and my grandpa became affluent, she became more generous with others, but still kept to herself (when I asked her why she didn’t join a lot of clubs like my mom, she cited the above experience).

Poverty is everywhere. It is my opinion that it is easier to worry about “affluenza” than it is to do something to alleviate poverty. It is a good thing to examine one’s affluence and to decide what to do about it, but it bothers me that poverty is not studied as well as affluence.
Just like my grandma felt beneath it all, there are those now in our city (and everywhere) who struggle every single day to try and make ends meet. Maybe a “free” sandwich at work makes a difference. Maybe those extra boxes of unopened cereal in your pantry could make a difference. Maybe there is a young mother crying tonight because she can’t pay the rent and the doctor bills and still provide food for the week.

When I was so poor I collected pop cans to get money for milk, it didn’t take anyone else to make me feel like scum, I felt that way all on my own. I didn’t feel I deserved a handout; I was humiliated and ashamed to be in the situation I was in.

Probably there are many hundreds of such beings in Wausau in need of a helping hand, starting now. I sometimes hear that “they” don’t appreciate it, and then hear that it’s all about the Welfare Mothers (as if corporate welfare hasn’t robbed everyone blind) or whatever other group the speaker found to verbally whip.

You know what? I don’t give a rip. It’s not about judgment of the poor; it’s about helping them. Because they could very well be us. And many times are.

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2 responses to “Affluenza — and Poverty

  1. Not meaning to take away at all from the power and eloquency of this piece, I would like to point out that UWMC has a blog and website for their Affluenza activities. You are, of course welcome to comment on those activities here on the Wausaublog, but they are welcoming comments on their blog as well, so that we can keep the discussion going.

  2. Unrelated, but what are all these long, black bugs that are out in droves these past few days?

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