Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I make $6.50 an hour. Am I poor?

Read this. Whatever your problems financially, this will certainly put it in perspective for you. And certain of you will realize that being poor isn't necessarily about "working yourself out of it" because that isn't always an option or a reality.

I make $27,000 a year. I'm not too much of a math genius to figure out what that is hourly but I'm guessing it's around $15 an hour or so. When I first moved me and Peanut into our very first apartment, I worried about spending any extra money. I paid my bills, bought breakfast at Children's Hospital once a week and that's it. I stuck to my $75 for groceries that had to last us 2 weeks.

That was in September. I have since realized I can breathe a little. I now spend $100 every 2 weeks on groceries, have enough to pay the $55/week for after school care costs, internet, basic cable and digital voice from Comcast, car and renters insurance then I have the gas and electricity bill not to mention rent and water. All that and I still have a little bit left over for savings (since dogs and cats do tend to get sick on Sunday or in the evening when only the emergency vet is open).

Honestly, I have to thank my ex-husband for the extra $300 a month I get in child support for giving me that extra room because without it, I'd be scraping by, barely making ends meet and stressing out every time my dog decides to poop out worms on Christmas Eve morning (which really did happen and thank heavens for credit because it cost me $206.31 to have the vet tell me they couldn't find any worms, they were going by what I saw originally and that she had excess bacteria in her stool).

Essentially we get by. I worry about losing my job because it could take months to find another one and of course, without an active income I won't be able to pay any of the above. I also worry about something happening to me, preventing me from working. Sure FMLA exists for such times, but that only lasts for 6months. What if my resulting injury causes permanent disability? Thank goodness my job now doesn't require much from me physically, but accessible they are not.

But, like the author of the article I linked to said, there isn't any point in indulging in such worries.

My last paper for my women's studies senior seminar dealt with forced sterilization of women with any disability in developing countries. In the beginning paragraphs I stated that since we all live on a disability continuum, I was going to use "we" and "us" in certain parts and "they" in others where needed. A 15minute debate between the professor and I ensued because she didn't think it was right for me to place myself, a very able-bodied person, on the same plain. Even after explaining my reasoning several times she wasn’t willing to stop so I ended up telling her I wasn't there to defend my dissertation and the discussion was over. It was not a fun time.

This bit of anecdotal evidence comes to mind because any of us could be poor at any time and most often it is a result of disability, losing a job or a pile of medical bills so high one can't see around them so individuals end up overwhelmed and behind on their other bills.

So is it the author's fault she was plunged into poverty? Would we use this example to condemn her life and ask why she hasn't worked harder?

If you are a rational thinker, compassionate and emphatic, I sure hope not.

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