What’s it like to be raised in a financially-disadvantaged household? I know how it feels. That’s why I have decided to share three lessons, based on my life experiences from growing up.
First, a few facts. Child poverty is high in the developed world. In the USA, the poverty rate was 15.6%, or 11.5 million children living below the poverty threshold, in 2016. In Canada, the national average was 18.5%, or 1.2 million children, in 2016. In France, UNICEF reported a rate of 1 in 5 children (roughly 20%) living below the poverty line in 2015. Now, I can’t say how far below the poverty line I was but I was raised in a lower, middle-class family. I never went hungry, but my diet often consisted of oatmeal and cheap canned goods. Also, I always had enough clothes, even though most were hand-me-downs. Growing up in an affluent area, where most of my schoolmates were from wealthy households, posed a bit of a challenge. I later realized it was also a blessing when I became the first in my family to graduate with a MBA from college.
Today, I find it insane how some people can look down on others, who are from poorer backgrounds, as if they were ‘less than.’ Take, for example, an unbelievable conversation between a couple that I happened to overhear recently. I’m in the cashier’s line at the supermarket when I hear, “If they’re so poor, how come they can afford phones, fast food, coffee..?” The line of conversation that followed was disheartening. Clearly, they were of the opinion that whoever they were discussing should live a certain way, just because they were poor. What I don’t think they get is the fact that there’s a reason why shopping is called ‘retail therapy;’ it can make you feel better. It’s an escape from poverty-induced stress, even if you still have to worry about the bills, rent, mortgage, etc. Plus, it’s natural to feel like you’re being judged for not having certain things. Just imagine how you’d feel if you always had to do without all the luxuries you currently enjoy.
Now that I’ve made my case, let me get back to the lessons I mentioned earlier:
- Being thankful I never had the best or most of anything but I taught myself to appreciate whatever I was given, and to take care of them so they would last a long time.
- Frugal eating habits There was always only just enough food, so I learned to eat until the hunger had ceased, instead of eating until I was stuffed. I am thankful for this because I never had an issue with being overweight.
- The far-reaching effects This is more of a fact than a lesson. Poverty puts destabilizing pressure on parents that often spills over, which can leave lifelong effects on young children. For me, it has had the effect of often being nervous.
My final thoughts on this is to never view people from less-fortunate backgrounds as projects who need your help, but instead as people who need love and respect. You can write me here and share your opinion, or let me know you read today’s post.