My son Jake just told me that he wished he had a bike. His friends have gone from riding their skateboards (which Jake has) to riding bikes (which he does not have). I cannot afford a bike – which sucks because I want my son to be able to be a part of the group – to keep up with his friends. But I simply cannot afford it. I have just over $200 for the rest of the month.
Yes, being poor is not always fun. We cannot buy all the latest gadgets, or the best food, or new clothes very often. Going on trips has to be planned out very carefully – and then I have to figure out what I am willing to go without in order to afford the trip. What sacrifices can I make? Do I really need to get new shoes even though mine are falling apart? Instead of a decent haircut at a cheap hair place, I can cut my own. Taking my medication every other day instead of every day will stretch it out. Being chilly in the winter and hot in the summer keeps my power bill lower. Do I need that light on? What is more economical – driving farther to get cheaper groceries or buying groceries in town even though they cost a lot more? Sometimes being poor is a real pain.
But sometimes, being poor isn’t so bad. Being poor has taught me to be more resourceful and creative. I couldn’t afford the new curtains I needed, but I could afford cheap twin sheets from Walmart. A little cutting and sewing and voila, new curtains. To keep rooms warm in the winter without using my furnace all the time, I block off living room doorways with sheets and then use small space heaters in other rooms as needed. I have used dryer lint to block drafty areas. A bunch of large rocks in the back of my car kept me on the road this last winter. When I would ran low on dog food, I made my own with leftover meat and rice.
Being poor has also allowed my kids and me to enjoy being silly together – to see who can stand on their head or balance on a ball the longest. We’ve played volleyball and monkey in the middle in the house with balloons or large bouncy balls. Not too long ago, the boys and I flung a baseball cap at each other to see if we could get it on the other person’s outstretched foot. The kids have had worm races around the house in sleeping bags. We had to make our own entertainment because we could not afford to go out.
Being poor has also taught me to be grateful for the things that I do have. Have you ever thought about how lucky you are if you can go flip a switch on the wall and have heat? Or if you have decent indoor plumbing? Or even having enough food to feed your kids? I am so thankful to have a car that runs and can get me back and forth to work. Having a warm coat and gloves during the winter is wonderful – even if it is not the most fashionable.
Being poor has also given me many opportunities to trust God completely. I am not saying that people with money do not trust God, but I do think that it is easier to rely more on ourselves and the things that we have when we have more. When I have come up against a difficult time involving money or things that we really truly needed, I have had to let go and let God figure it out – and there is such a peace about that. To know that God has my back is such a wonderful feeling and allows me to feel secure – even when I am in difficult situations. That, I think is the very best thing about being poor.
Of course, I would love to be rich! It would be nice to be able to eat out, to dress more fashionably, to get the things that my kids need without having to check my bank account. Being rich definitely has its advantages. But being poor, has taught me a lot about life and people, about resourcefulness and creativity, about what is important in our lives, the difference between needs and wants, and about the faithfulness of God. I don’t know if those are things I would have learned if I had money throughout my life – if I didn’t have to struggle a bit. So even though being poor can suck big time, it has made me who I am – and that’s not bad.