Rich and Poor


Social Disclaimer: The observations below do not reflect society as a whole, but rather presents two real stories which, though may cause discomfort, can reflect a status quo in some facets of our society.  This article is merely meant to be thought provoking, not conclusive. 

Ally's family moved for the 6th time that year.  This was the 4th hotel they'd called "home" and happened to be right across the street from the last one, so at least she didn't have to switch schools this time.  The last motel was pretty bad, a lot of sexual predators showed up on the neighborhood search in the trailer park behind it and she needed to be careful, Jaime told her.  Still, she didn't mind this motel so much because at least it had a swimming pool.  She enjoyed the last 3 months they stayed there, she even made a friend, an 9 year girl named Nevaeh, who wandered around the park alone.  Nebaeh had a lot of attitude, stringy dirty blonde hair and always wore a pair of brown cowgirl boots.   She was a couple of years younger than Ally but they became friends nonetheless, Neveah had the attitude of a teenager anyway.  

Looking out the grimy window, across the busy highway at the broken sign of their former motel, Ally hoped Nehaeh was okay with out her., especially as night approached.  She bottled her anger inside, anger at her teenage brother for causing the fight that got them kicked out of that hotel.  Her brother was 16 and had already been in and out of juvenile a couple of times.  Ally was angry that she and her mom always paid the price for a man's violent temper.  Her mom's tired voice got her attention "Ally..." she called, "Yeah mama" Ally said.  "I need you to run to the store to get a few things baby, to the Dollar General okay?"  Ally was tired, but she knew her mom couldn't make the walk.  Her mom worked a desk job selling insurance over the phone, but her knee is really bad and she's carrying a lot of extra weight.  "Sure mama, what do you need" Ally responded.... leaving the window to be of service to her mama.  Ally was always good at serving, Jaime said she had a heart for it. 

TRUE STORY.  Ally has a really hard life.  She moved into a small rental house on my culde sac with her brother, mom and dad when she was 8 year old.  Over the years, she's moved an average of 4 to 5 times a year and changed schools atleast once or twice a year.  She is the definition of transient homeless.  Her mom means well, but just hasn't been able to settle into the stability that Ally deserves.  2017 arrived and I was finally able to solidify a middle school in service learning school,  Ally was first on my list.  Ally stays at my house Monday-Friday so she can attend SLS. She's made amazing friends, she's genuinely happy and doing great in school.  Ally is a hard act to follow when it comes to service. She gives without question, sacrifices joyfully, works hard and assists with other's who struggle.  Ally is funny, humble, sassy and cool.  So what makes kid's like Ally so special?  Most would say that she's poor.  She's a poor kid from a poor family. Her integrity though is worth more than gold. 

Poverty and wealth. Entitled vs. unworthy.   What makes Ally so selfless?  What many people don't understand is that poor people tend to be very giving, because they don't feel worthy of what they have.  If you don't feel worthy of something, it's very easy to give it away.   For this reason, poverty can be perpetuated for many generations.  In contrast, many wealthy kids who have a sense of entitlement are often covetous and begrudging of others. The anecdote "spoiled rich kid" exists for a reason, after all.  Having so much creates a sense of deserving which can be limitless.

So why does this dichotomy exist? Poor Ally would never ask for anything in the world.  I took her shopping many times and it's very difficult to get her to choose anything at all. I've pondered this many times and I believe this is because Ally feel she doesn't deserve an choice, and should accept what is given.  Ally has lost so much in her life, that she's afraid to have anything she cares about, for fear it will be taken.  She rationalizes this by telling herself that she doesn't need "stuff".  That's less painful than the truth, which is that Ally doesn't feel that she's deserving of "stuff".

Lilly.  Lilly woke up for work that morning, she worked for her Dad's company.  She's in college studying law and still lives at home.  Lilly doesn't have to work, but she likes to make a little extra money.  Still, she has a car and credit card that her parent's pay for.  Her Dad is successful and her mom works for his company too.  He has a couple of other employees and she enjoys working there.  Lily is a little annoyed this morning though, recalling the conversation she overheard last night.  Her Dad purchased a used vehicle, he intended to let one of the daughters of his employee use it.  That employee is a single mom, and the insurance for her teenage daughter is pretty high.  She said she can't really afford to make a car payment for her daughter in addition to the insurance. Lily thinks it's ridiculous that her Dad is helping them. He likes that family and say's the daughter is intelligent and talented.  Lily thinks her Dad feels bad for the girl because she doesn't have a Dad in her life.  However, Lily thinks the only person her Dad should be getting a car for, is her.  Lily knows deep down that she shouldn't feel this way, she wrestles with her own agitation.  Still, that family is dirty and she bets they won't take care of the car, they'll defile it and make it disgusting.  Besides, she's always wanted a car like that. Her Dad got a good deal on it, so he should just keep it there for her to use.  It's an SUV and she can use it if she takes a group of friends somewhere, especially the beach so she doesn't get sand in her Mercedes.  Lily wrestled with these thoughts all morning and then headed downstairs to present her argument to her Dad.


So what makes kids (even adult kids) like Lily so covetous? Why would a child who has their life provided for them, begrudge another child from having something? Why would a child who's life was so easy, prevent the ease of another?  Just as poor children experience a subconscious feeling of unworthiness, children who are accustomed to having things, subconsciously believe they deserve things.  The question is, where does the entitlement end with one child and how do we cultivate the self worth of another? friends... is the question. 

Balancing self-worth and entitlement is a real challenge. The differences of poverty and wealth will always exist, but cultivating the best in all kids, despite economic background is the key. Detachment is important and seems to come easier to poor kids, but self-effacing sacrifice is just as unhealthy as covetous and a begrudging attitude.  encouraging a sense of detachment and social justice (for one's self and others) is the answer.