Friday, December 9, 2011

"Poverty is No Disgrace"

Truer words may never have been spoken…or written on a fortune from a fortune cookie. Believe it or not I actually got this fortune in September. The irony of this nugget of wisdom is not lost on me and the fact that I received it during my current state of joblessness adds a bit of a “do-do-do” weirdness to it. For many months I had/have struggled with the feeling of shame that I have felt with not having a job. By no means am I below the poverty level. I am lucky. I qualified for Unemployment and 4 weeks ago the funds were “exhausted”…which resulted in a minor freak out at Thanksgiving time. I then had to apply for Emergency Unemployment Benefits and was lucky enough to qualify; however, I went over three weeks with no money coming in. Scary…probably the most scared I have ever been or at the very least in a good long while. The thought that I wouldn’t be able to pay rent and would be homeless was heart stopping.
The definition of Poverty is: - The state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor
Ok, ok…so maybe on some level I am at the poverty level since I very little money and other than unemployment I have no means of support. I am quite possibly one step away from Ramen noodles.
The definition of disgrace is - the loss of respect, honor, or esteem; ignominy; shame: the disgrace of criminal.  - A person, act, or thing that cause shame, reproach, or dishonor or is dishonorable or shameful. - The state of being out of favor; exclusion from favor, confidence, or trust: courtiers and ministers in disgrace.  
This one was a wee bit harder. With regards to my family and friends, in no way did I lose their respect or esteem. I certainly didn’t do anything to bring about dishonor to myself or my family name. However, on a personal level, the esteem with which I hold myself at times feels like I should be ashamed. When you are on the phone with the employees at the unemployment agency you feel like somehow this was your fault even though you know it isn’t. The last time I was on the phone with the agency the representative sounded like I was inconveniencing her and quite possible a bug she wanted to squish. She barely talked to me and when she did it was short and rude. While “talking” with me she was also making plans for the weekend with co-workers. Now let me say this, I KNOW not all unemployment employees are like that. You know what is kind of ironic though…if I and everyone else that is jobless and having to file for unemployment had a job THEY would be jobless. Maybe they should think about that. How would they feel?
Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money. I know that my family benefited from the WIC program and at one point we even qualified for food stamps. I even remember going to clinics to receive medical attention and childhood shots. I don’t ever remember feeling ashamed. I don’t know how my parents felt though because we never talked about it. My mom made it fun though. I remember she would let me count out the food stamps like monopoly money. I didn’t know any different. She also made having breakfast for dinner fun. I didn’t know it was because it was less expensive. I’m very thankful for my upbringing. I was a happy kid and I felt loved. I didn’t miss the extra things in life because we never had them and I turned out just fine. My parents instilled a very strong work and moral ethic in me. I have a healthy respect for money. So again, there is no disgrace in poverty. There really isn’t. Actually, I feel like I am living in a state of grace.
Things I have learned since becoming jobless:  It truly wasn’t my fault. There is no shame in it. You find out who your true friends are. It is ok to ask for help. You are not alone.
Writing to the right side of happy.

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