I wrote this in response to this amazingly, powerful article called Ketchup Sandwiches and Other Things Stupid Poor People Eat by Anastasia Basil. Make sure when you read this article, you click on the YouTube of the two people going at it in the grocery store as a man attempts to buy food for his children (who are present) using food stamps.
I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
I remember when I was a kid sitting at the dinner table and refusing to eat my peas (I hated peas—still do).
My dad said, “Lauren, there are starving kids in Ethiopia.”
“Let me go get an envelope,” I said.
If there were starving kids in Ethiopia they could have my peas as far as I was concerned.
My parents made it a point to tell us we were lucky. We were lucky to be born in the United States and to have enough food on our table. Things they didn’t tell us that were also true: we were lucky to be born white and well-off, especially living in the South. My parents always said they weren’t rich, but we had plenty. I didn’t know what it was like to go without. We had name-brand foods, and when we wanted Guess jeans and swatches to fit into our new private school scene, my mom could go out and buy them for us. Privilege.
We were lucky, because we didn’t have to go all the way to Ethiopia to be hungry or poor. One could simply look in West Montgomery to see the generational poor that lived there. Children born of poor parents, being raised poor. Children who were made to feel bad, and still are, for depending on food stamps. Children whose parents worked two jobs just to put food on the table. Children whose parents were addicts. Children whose parents wanted to give them the world, just like my parents did, but couldn’t afford to do so. All of those things, I was lucky enough to be born without.
Some people don’t believe in luck. They believe in predestination. I’m guessing they think God thought they were special and made them the child of someone rich, while the people born into poverty were destined because of some sin? I’m not sure how that works exactly, because I’m Episcopal and don’t believe in predestination. Was I predestined to be the daughter of a doctor? What makes me more special than the child born to a family who can barely scrap it together?
I’ve never understood people who look down on the poor. People who say, “Oh, they should get a job.” I want to ask them, “Have you ever been in their shoes?” Do you know what it’s like to have to choose whether to buy your child new shoes or to eat tonight? Do you know what it’s like to have to tell your kids, “Hey, I’m sorry but we don’t have enough food to have dinner tonight? We don’t have enough money to buy your Type 1 Diabetes medicine. I can’t send you on that field trip, because it costs $20, and I don’t have that.” I don’t know what that’s like, because I was born lucky.
My kids have had much the same experience as I did growing up. I don’t have as much as my parents, but we are well-off. Teach compassion. Have your children volunteer in a food bank. Show them that poor people are people too, with hopes and dreams just like them. Understand that being born poor does not make someone less of a human. It makes them a victim of their circumstance. In this country, being born poor really does dictate whether or not you’ll end up being poor. Talk about the American Dream—it barely exists. Talk about the luck of the draw influencing outcome in life. I basically hit the jackpot. My kids did too. We won the lottery of birth.
So next time you think poor people are scamming the system, maybe you should take a step back and look at where those thoughts are coming from. Because chances are, your bias as someone born lucky is affecting your compassion for those who weren’t born as lucky as you.
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