As I’m doing some Back to School shopping at the Salvation Army for my daughter, I find myself in a conversation with an older Black man, who after seeing me pull my wallet out to pay for my items says, “I wish I had seen you pull your wallet out before I went to the car to get my money. He’s joking of course, but I tell him, “Nope. You did the right thing by going to get your own money.” We laugh.
A few moments later as I am paying with my debit card in a separate check out lane, he says to me, “I knew I should of had you pay for my stuff!” He’s still joking, but I’m wondering why he’s obsessed with me and this particular joke.
I don’t give a damn if we are at the Salvation Army, you can pay for your own shit. I tell him, “I only spent $14. We’re both shopping here so we must be in the same situation.” “What situation is that?” he asks. I reply, “We’re poor.”
That’s when he got even louder. “Oh no! I’m not claiming that! I’m not poor.” I start to tune him out and by this time I was on my way out the store anyway. He’s still going on and on and as I am walking out, I say, “I am poor. It’s the truth and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
I understand his attitude, but I think it stinks and it’s stupid. I hear it all the time – “Stop claiming that you’re poor.” Why? I AM poor!
As if saying I’m poor is why I’m poor or as if I start saying I’m rich that my bank account will magically swell up.
I am poor.
I think the real issue is that when people think of poor, they only think of people who look like this:
No, sweetie. Poor people look like me too! Many of us look like we have our shit together. We are the “working poor”.
Besides, why else would I be shopping at places like the Salvation Army, Goodwill or other various consignment stores if I could afford new clothes?
Granted, even if I was living comfortably I would still shop at these places, but not as often as I do now and not because my budget won’t allow me to shop anywhere else.
I’m one of many. Too many. There are millions of poor people in America and all over the world. I don’t know about anyone else, but it was not my dream to grow up and struggle for a living.
However, I will not let the stigma of the word “poor” make me feel ashamed of my current situation.