It was a slow weekday afternoon. I needed to kill some time so I stepped into a nearby gift shop and wandered around a bit. The lady behind the counter was the only person inside. As if she’d been waiting all day for me to arrive she started chatting like we’d been friends forever. I wandered between the aisles at first as we chatted, then I stopped pretending to care about the merchandise and committed my time to hearing her stories. As I stood across the counter from her she talked about her daugher’s wedding and her deadbeat ex-husband. From there we talked about the need for jobs, and she shared that when she was raising her daughter she’d once held down four at one time.
“I worked as a nanny out east for 4 years,” she said. “The family I worked for had a lovely home overlooking the Potomac. One day I was talking to their housekeeper and she asked me how much I thought the owner would want for that old grill he was replacing. I knew she wasn’t paid that well and she supported her sick mother and several family members, so when the owner was setting up the new grill I said to him, ‘Manny, Sadie said she’d love to buy that old grill from you, but why don’t you just give it to her.’ ”
“She wants this old grill?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said, ” and I think it would be a nice thing if you just gave it to her.”
She leaned in and looked me in the eye, “And do you know what that man did? He stood up, didn’t say another word, and he rolled that old grill off the patio, dragged it around the backyard and locked it up inside his shed. Can you believe that? Now if he had been a poor person, he’d have given her that grill. Poor people are more generous with what they have and they help one another.”
I felt a warm feeling inside. I truly had met a friend.
“I’m so glad I met you,” I said. “I grew up poor but most people don’t know that when they meet me. I’ve been in groups where comments were made that were not only disrespectful of families like mine– they were downright mean. I used to keep quiet and not reveal too much since people treat you different when they learn you’re one of them; but I’ve been around a long time now and I no longer feel inclined to give a pass. Here’s the way I see it: every person has two choices. They can choose to see the poor as lazy irresponsible parasites, or they can choose to see the poor as hard working people who get stuck doing jobs that don’t pay well enough to support a family. The truth is there are people in poverty who fit both categories. I’m just tired of hearing from people who choose the first. It’s refreshing to hear someone with a different attitude. ”
“Don’t you think it’s the economy and the politicians,” she asked, “that are promoting so much of the negative attitude?”
“No doubt,” I agreed, “but I’m not inclined to leave it at that. There have been politicians and bad economies since the beginning of man. Besides, politicians can only lead where people are willing to follow and for the poor it’s always a bad economy. You know what really bugs me more than anything? ”
She looked at me and raised an eyebrow. “Tell me,” she said.
Just then the door opened and a customer walked in. I took it as my cue that some things are still best unsaid. I walked out with a lift in my step and a renewed feeling of hope. I’d found someone willing to speak my Christian values — perhaps there would be others.
- Moneer and the Other Poor People (roadlesstravels.wordpress.com)
- Why The Poor Are The Happiest People I Have Ever Come Across (wamyentrepreneur.wordpress.com)
- Gauging poverty from Appalachia to Africa (csmonitor.com)
- West Virginia’s poor feel the pinch: ‘It’s a choice: your medicine or your food’ (guardian.co.uk)