–It’s knowing you’ll always be poor no matter what you do, that things will never, EVER, get better (at least not for you. Maybe for someone else, but not for you.) Knowing that poverty is forever… You’ll always be poor, no matter how hard you work, no matter how positive your attitude, no matter how well-written your resume, no matter how great your grade-point average in school, the system is set up to make sure that you will fail. And everyone around you is working hard to make sure you fail. Because that’s just how it is.
That’s the tragedy.
(And I’m going to experiment with writing a short…ehem…post here. Is it possible? Even this parenthetical explanation has become too long…)
Okay, here we go…
The tragedy is not being hungry, poor or even homeless. We’ve all had those types of experiences. Haven’t you ever been really, really hungry? Maybe it’s only 9:30 a.m. and your lunch break isn’t until 12:30 p.m. There’s no vending machine in sight, and you didn’t pack a lunch. Your boss is a stickler and won’t let you leave your desk until exactly 12:30 p.m. What to do? Well, you’ll suffer until 12:30. But maybe you’ll get absorbed in your work and forget all about it because, after all, you know you’ll get a chance to eat. You’ll just have to wait a few hours. Sure, it’s uncomfortable, perhaps even painful if you’re super hungry, but in a few short hours you’ll go out and buy a sandwich, sit down to eat and all will be well. In fact, you may even feel like you’re in heaven. The prolonged hunger may give you a better feeling once you do eat.
Being deprived for a short period of time can cause us to feel incredibly grateful for what little we have and can enhance our feelings of well being once our hunger is satisfied. Getting a chance to eat when we’re hungry feels good. But getting a chance to eat after we’ve been ravenously hungry for hours–deprived of but longing for food, our stomach growling like an uncaged grizzly and stabbing us with pangs of hunger–feels absolutely wonderful! Food might seem like a miracle. We may even be tempted to wrap our arms around the chef and give him/her a great big hug and kiss… Whew, I finally get to eat! Thank you for filling my aching stomach!
So the tragedy of poverty is not the experience in and of itself. It’s not so tragic to be hungry, thirsty or even homeless and unloved–as long as it’s temporary and solutions exist. We’ve all experienced deprivation. And sometimes the experience can make us stronger. Sometimes the experience makes us better people, causing us to develop empathy and compassion for those who are less fortunate. Even the wealthy experience poverty on occasion. (Some think they’re loved but are only loved for their money or celebrity status–so the cruel, sick joke is on them. They aren’t loved at all. Some think they’re unloved but are loved by secret admirers too timid or shy to tell them they’re loved. Or perhaps they aren’t open to accepting and valuing the love, so they can’t receive it. The love is there but they’ll never feel it. That is also tragic in its own way. Some people are wealthy financially but are spiritually and emotionally poor.)
But the tragedy of poverty is knowing it’ll never end. And that is what makes poor people crazy. Knowing that you’ll always be poor no matter what you do, that the system is set up to make sure you’ll fail, that because you weren’t born with money, connections, the “right” race or gender, etc., you’ll never succeed.
So let me ask you this.
What would YOU do if you were suffering and knew that it would never end, that it’s permanent, there’s no hope for a better life. You’ll always suffer no matter what you do?