Friday, December 7, 2007

Lessons of poverty

We never had much money, but there was quite a lengthy a period when we were very poor. It was a difficult experience at the time, but now that I look back on it, I'm grateful for the lessons I learned, which gave me tools to develop the invaluable qualities of creative frugality, contentment with simplicity, making do with what you have and finding ways to get what you really need for free or for less money. I might have more money in the future, but the habits learned during times of poverty will linger – and, I firmly believe, will continue being an important contribution to the economical stability of my future family.

It did take a while, but now it's second nature to me – before I buy something, I always ask myself the following questions: can I borrow it from someone? Can I make it myself? Do I really need it, or can I do without it, using something I already have? Can I buy used? What are the best deals? I've been called a cheapskate; a stingy, boring person who doesn't know how to enjoy life; but I know one thing: my spending habits safely got me through college without debt; I never had to pull nightshifts and strain myself beyond my ability in order to pay my bills.

I remember last year I had the privilege to teach a wonderful, truly special girl from one of the worst neighborhoods in the city where we used to live. She learned from me – I hope! – some math, English and science, but I learned a far more valuable lesson from the cheerfulness, orderliness and dignity of their household, from how well-behaved the children were, how they showed respect to their parents and how the older ones helped take care of their little sister. The apartment was bare, the furniture shabby, the few decorations cheap, but everything was spotless, neat, nicely arranged and well taken care of.

The area they lived in was truly dreadful. I always tried to arrange the time of our lessons so that I could leave while there was still daylight. A few times I had to leave late in the evening and it was creepy. At any given time, even during the day, I ran into someone who either was smoking weed, or looked as though he just did. Sometimes the mother of the family would grab her broomstick and chase them away. Once I came to give a lesson and found out that someone died from an overdose that very morning, right near the entrance to their building. My heart ached especially for the parents – I can imagine how horrible it must be to know your children watch this every day, and not have the possibility to take them away from these horrible surroundings.

But you know what, they were always relaxed. Despite all their hardships, they always smiled and showed hospitality. I don't have the slightest doubt that these children will grow up to be decent, hard-working people. To me, that family was a perfect example of making the best of what you have and firmly standing against the surrounding evils.

15 comments:

Dawn said...

Amen to that Anna!

That age old saying goes "money doesn't buy happiness" and it's true.
Sure, we all need money, gotta pay bills and keep food on the table, but we shouldn't always be wishing for more so that way we can go buy more 'things' in hopes of making us 'happier'. Does that make sense?
I knew what I wanted to say, I just don't think I typed it our right...LOL.

God Bless your Friday!

USAincognito said...

I grew up very poor, as well. It has definitely taught me a lot about responsibility and making the best of each situation you are in. It also taught me to appreciate the small things in life and to enjoy the more expensive things when one can afford it every once in awhile. It has instilled in me a hard-work ethic and a determination to make the future for myself (and maybe a family someday) more safe and secure than the one I had.

Anonymous said...

What a moving story! Yes, there was a good lesson for you in that family's poverty. I'm thankful you are an observant & sensitive young woman...these are the kinds of things more people need to know: that being poor does not have to equate a low way of living. The family whose situation you shared with us is a shining example of how the finer side of humanity can thrive despite less than ideal surroundings.

Brenda

Mrs. Mordecai said...

Thank you for sharing this story. I will stop feeling sorry for myself because I live in an apartment in the nicest part of town! I am so blessed.

Elizabeth said...

I grew up as a missionary kid - my parents worked in the slums of Manilla. Some of the worlds most traquil places were the tidy, orderly, and loved homes in the middle of the chaotic squatter areas. It wasn't that they were spacious and grand or even pretty to look at, it was the love that the family had that put things to rest.

It was really homage to the power of hearts, not things, making the homes.

Rebekah S. said...

What wonderful lessons the Lord teaches us during times of hardship and trouble! He used those hard, trying and difficult times to teach us a multitude of invaluable lessons that will stay with us throughout life, and that will help us along the way. Praise God for such times! They may be hard, but oh how invaluable they are!


I was expecting you to do another Show and Tell, but I really enjoyed this post! What a blessing it was.


Have a wonderful weekend,
Rebekah

Jennifer said...

God has taught me such important and valuable lessons in life, not from books or teachers, but from how His people live victoriously in a dark and evil world. Amen!

Brenda said...

I have also know these kind of homes where I used to teach. One family had no beds but each "bed" on the floor was made with a pillow and stuffed animal neatly at the top of the "bed." They had one chair which they offered their guest, along with a clean glass of water. I have seen nicer homes, but not like that one!

Mrs.B said...

Thank you for sharing this. It touched my heart and blessed me very much. (o:

Blessings,
~Mrs.B

Rhonda Jean said...

Hello Anna. You are such a wise soul. It's comforting to me knowing that such a wise brain resides in such a young body. We grew up poor too but never realised it at the time, no doubt much like the children in the family you write about. I've written about it in my blog too as it's a good reminder to me and an example to others that hard times are the best teachers.

Anonymous said...

I also come from a family thats never had a lot of money and i remember times when we had nothing at all. The lessons i learned at those times where priceless. Being called stingy is no fun but well worth it, second hand stores are my favorite places to shop. I'd encourage any young lady whos looking for ways to save money and who's trying to be a good steward with the money the Lord has given us to try second hand shops and ask questions like can I borrow it from someone? Can I make it myself? Do I really need it, or can I do without it, using something I already have? Can I buy used? What are the best deals?
My mother and I are faithful coupon cutters and bargin hunters, yes my friends do tease me a little because i always look though the ad's and try to find coupons or just go with out it, but hey i'm jsut being a good steward.
By the way I love you blog, Thanks!

Carol said...

Ana,
I really appreciated hearing your experiences with the little girl you tutored. I appreciate your blog.

Terry said...

There is always something to be thankful no matter what out status in life. Sometimes we can have so much that we forget how to appreciate the simpe joys of life- nature, family, dear friends. This is a good reminder that the most precious things in life can't be purchased with a dollar.

Daughter of the King said...

Anna,
What a great post...so touching...and so profound...life is not about things...the older I get..the LESS I want...the cheaper I want it...and can hardly pass up a thrift shop for that almost FREE bargain...for books, clothing,you name it....
I am thinking about this time of year and how...so much of what evryone is buying will end up in a Thrift Shop/yard sale...what a throwaway society we have become....
Contentment....that's what this post is about to me...and making do.
Deby
btw....
we too have had those poor years...even buying Imitation peanut butter....those times are when you learn so many lessons.

MarkyMark said...

Anna,

Thanks for writing this piece; it's so refreshing to see a woman who's actually GRATEFUL! A vast majority of women I've known through the years do nothing but complain about everything, and it angers me to no end.

It not only angers me for the reasons you articulated; I was in the US Navy, and via my travels in the Navy, have seen some REALLY poor places! I'm talking about people who have no electricity, no running water, dirt for a floor, that kind of thing. IOW, I'm talking about GENUINE poverty; I'm talkin' the real deal here. To say that it was a life changing experience is an understatement...

I'm going to ask a question, and I don't mean this in an insulting way: why do women complain like they do? Why do they complain about everything? Furthermore, how is it you and your readership (which would seem to mainly be women of faith) not fall into the trap and habit of complaining? Do you realize just how RARE women like you are?! I'm not sure that you do; from where I sit though, you are definitely the exception to the rule. If you wish to devote a post to answering this question, that'd be fine.

Oh, BTW Anna, I'm thinking of starting another blog. Well, it's not another blog, really; it'd be more of an archive of a blog I used to read, a blog that's no longer up unfortunately. The blog was "Faith & Society", which talked about MGTOW, marriage, relationships, and similar topics from a Christian man's point of view. I don't know why he didn't leave his old posts up, but it was his blog to do with as he pleased. Fortunately, I saved all but a few of his posts (mainly the ones I didn't care about or didn't find interesting), so I might put up a separate blog which archives them. Of course, I'm going to comment on some of those old posts in my blog too.

I thought that this would be good for you and your readers; I thought that it would be good for you to know what men of faith think about marriage, relationships, etc., and why. Even though you and the other women on here seem to be sweet, genuine, and decent, I don't think you really understand where men are coming from; I'm not sure you can really, truly see the dangers we face even when having relationships with women, let alone marrying them. That, and this gentleman, i.e. the one who hosted "Faith & Society", articulates the man's perspective (particularly men of faith) far, far better than I ever could; perhaps, by reading his old posts, you'll understand what he said better than I or other men have in the past.

I'm out of here. I just wanted to get my $0.02 in, say 'Hi', and let you know about the old archive of "Faith & Society's" posts. They were really good, and I'm glad that I saved them on my laptop. Have a nice day!

MarkyMark