A couple of years ago, my boyfriend and I were talking with a family friend. She made a joke about college kids not knowing anything until they get into the real world. I said, “Hey, I . . .” But I didn’t get to finish the sentence before she responded with, “Dayle, you’ve always been real world.”
I’ve done a lot of taking care of myself in my life. Part of that was pure circumstance. Part of it was my own warped mentality that I need to do things on my own with little to no help from anyone. Looking back, I could give you at least a half a dozen examples of how one simple choice would have made the rest of my life so much easier.
Still, they were my choices and I don’t regret them, even if they have caused me to struggle through much of my life. Honestly, I don’t mind it. Sure, it would be nice to have a hefty savings account and a retirement plan and all that jazz. It would be nice to know that if an emergency occurred I would be able to take care of it. But all in all, knowing my bills are paid, there’s a roof over my head, and there’s food in the fridge is enough for me.
I have aspirations. I have dreams I am still pursuing. There is so much more I want out of this life, but money has never been a driving force for me. The little things truly do make me happy. And as much as I struggle from time to time, I know I’m okay. That was not always the case.
There was a period in my life when I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the next day. I would empty my daughter’s piggy bank just to buy food for the week. Hot dogs and mac & cheese were staples in our diet. I knew how to make a small whole chicken last for a week. And well, thank goodness for WIC.
I rationed diapers, paid bills with credit cards, used free sample packages of shampoo and conditioner . . . I got creative everywhere I could.
I remember scrounging around for quarters so I could wash clothes. I was a penny short. No exaggeration. I stopped by Rite Aid with two dimes and four pennies and asked the cashier if she could add the penny on top of the register to give me a quarter. Embarrassing? Yeah, but at least we had clean clothes. Of course, I still couldn’t afford to dry them so my apartment looked like a hamper exploded.
My exhaustion during that time cannot be put into words. And still, I would have gladly picked up a second job if I could have found one that would pay me anything after I took out for child care.
There’s a belief, held mostly by those on the right, that hard work equals money and that as long people get off their asses and put forth the effort, they will have more than enough to get by. I can tell you from experience that that is just not the case.
I won’t deny that some people are just lazy and that some of those lazy people are poor because they’re lazy. I won’t deny that some people are extremely hard workers and that some of those people are rich because they’re hard workers. But the opposite is true just as often in both cases.
Several months ago, a Facebook friend posted an anecdote about a teacher who taught his students the evils of socialism by giving all students the same grade – an average of all their grades – regardless of their individual efforts. The result was that the lazy students got lazier because they didn’t have to work as hard and that the hard-working students got lazier because they were tired of working hard and not seeing the full rewards. There are two fundamental problems with that analogy. One, it presumes that hard work equals more money. And two, it assumes that everyone starts out on an equal playing field.
Everyone is not born with the same opportunities as everyone else. I’m tired of hearing about the so-called hand-outs that apparently all liberals are looking for. Nobody has ever gotten to where they are alone. Nobody.
As low as I’ve been, the only government program I have ever been a part of was WIC because as low as I’ve been, I’ve always managed to scrape by. But I won’t sit here and tell you that I didn’t have help. I may have hated asking for it and I may have avoided asking for it as long as possible, but I have an incredible family who would never let me fall.
I had family members who gave me things to sell on Craigslist and at yard sales. I had friends who knew that diapers were a much better gift than some trinket that would sit on a shelf. I had a sister-in-law who inspired me to bring out my inner bitch when my apparent lacked heat for a month – that inner bitch scored me a month of free rent. I had a friend who needed a roommate to keep her house when I could no longer afford to keep my apartment.
For all my independence, I’ve had help and I am eternally grateful for everything everyone has ever done for me. I am lucky to have these people in my life . . . there are those who are not nearly as lucky.
The amount of judgment placed on those less fortunate is staggering. The presumptuous attitude that anyone asking for help is just too lazy to do for themselves is disturbing. We are here, on this planet, together. We all need each other, in one way or another.
The minute we decide someone else’s worth by the amount or type of help that person needs at any given time is the minute we lose our humanity.