Two Choices


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.

Potomac River

Potomac River (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“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.

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About Glenda

Retired ... taking it slow and enjoying the simple things in life
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6 Responses to Two Choices

  1. Glenda says:

    Hi Glenda,
    I think people are happy to classify the poor or homeless as lazy etc as it justifies their behaviour. If the person is lazy then it is ok to treat them badly and not bother to help; whereas if the poor person is honest and hardworking etc, they would have to question their own behaviour in perpetuating the class distinction.

    • That makes a lot of sense…we often rationalize things to deal with what we don’t want to acknowledge. And people wonder why politicians lie…they just tell us what we’re willing to hear.

  2. Phil says:

    I can really appreciate what you wrote about. Living in a very wealthy “cottage Country” in Canada I have seen so many people who love their money and things so much that they are blind to needs and suffering that is all around them. I had a similar situation when a cottager was renovating and there was a dumpster full of old cottage material. The house cleaner (ironically) asked if she could salvage a small wooden statue from the dumpster. The owner looked at her with a straight face and said “sure, for $50 you can have it”

    Thank you for also checking out my blog, I really appreciate the link from your post.

    • You appear to be doing great work…your wife and you. Thanks for reading my blog and for sharing your similar experience. I feel its time for the conversation to start changing. I really need to hear more from people like you. It calms me and gives me hope.

  3. You have written an excellent post. We’ve so often heard the phrase ‘the poor will always be with us’ in our churches. Yet I am discouraged when I think of how little we actually do to help others. My heart goes out especially to children who, through no fault of their own, suffer from the effects of poverty and are helpless whether it’s a good economy or a bad one.

    • The best thing we can do now is to stand up for those that others cut down…dignity is still important to most people and the poor have theirs as well…I’d love for more people to just let others around them know that talking badly about the poor in general is not okay…some may deserve it but most do not…support happens one person, one minute at a time…thanks for your comment and for your writing as well; you always have interesting things to say

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