Have you ever heard someone say they are “too poor” to go on a vacation or buy a new car?

Living in real poverty is an ongoing daily challenge just to survive. When you are poor, you constantly worry about the most basic things – food, toilet paper, laundry, medications. How you will get to work and pay for child care. Deciding which unpaid bill will hurt the least. Haircuts or new shoes fall to the wayside. Seeing a dentist is a luxury.

Real poverty is isolating. It consumes your thoughts and your time. Poverty creates a constant anxiety in the pit of your being. And society judges. The fear of being stigmatized can cripple one’s ability to reach out for help.

This shouldn’t be. Asking for help should not be humiliating; it proves one’s resilience and self-preservation.

Every American deserves the basics: food, housing, health care, and transportation. Many of us are just one illness, divorce, death or job loss away from financial crisis. Too many seniors and people with disabilities live on meager incomes. If you earn minimum wage it’s nearly impossible to overcome poverty without help; we rely on these workers every day, but $11 an hour is simply not a livable wage in central Maine.

Then there are the children who are poor. Picture day? Book fair? Extracurricular activities? Forget it. Many are hungry. Some have to sleep on the floor. Fair or not, they must deal with the shame of this status. People can be so cruel.

Next time you have to wait for a vacation or new car, ask yourself, “Do I have a warm bed, plenty of food, health care, and transportation?” If so, be grateful.

Want to help address poverty in the Waterville area? Join the Poverty Action Coalition. Contact me at [email protected] or 859-1630.

Andrea Pasco
Greater Waterville Poverty Action Coalition

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