Monday, December 31, 2007

My only resolution in the new year

All right, admittedly, I have a few. But they're the usual, the ones I have throughout the year: write more. Make more of an effort to play with my kids. Eat better, exercise, be kinder to myself. Me, me, me.

This post from Cranky Mama made me sit up and take notice, especially this part:
Because, when I was a poor kid (and I am aware that my situation was much, much better than some) there were times - months, sometimes - when we couldn’t afford propane, and that meant no stove (we cooked everything with an electric frying pan), no heat, no hot water. Bathing in cold water? Not a hell of a lot of fun, especially in winter. Did I wear my hair in a ponytail for the better part of seventh grade so that no one could tell I hadn’t washed it? Yes, yes I did. Did it work? Uh….

I don't know why that got to me. Maybe because I read it just before Christmas, when we'd already gotten the kids their toys and we knew my in-laws had their usual half-a-living-room's worth of presents for all of us (but especially the kids).

I knew poor kids when I was little, the kids with unwashed hair, and I wondered how they could stand their scalps itching, because I sure couldn't. Well, now I know.

This year I'm going to try harder to help the poor. We've done token efforts in the past. The ubiquitous end-of-year clothing donations, for one. (Ah, the incentive of a tax break.) Our grocery store lets you tack on an extra $5 to your bill to donate to the Salvation Army, and puts out brown bags of dry goods for the local food pantry, which you can buy for $10 each. We've done that. But as people in food pantries and shelters point out, the poor aren't just poor at Christmas.

I was shocked when I read this on the food pantry box at church: food stamps do not pay for many essentials, including toilet paper, laundry detergent, shampoo, soap. Soap. WTF?

We've struggled in the past trying to pay our bills, and we've been able to rely on the kindness of family and friends to make it work. We're still not in such great straits, but it's better now than it has been (the price of home heating oil in New England notwithstanding). And even though I'm trying to save more, I think I can manage to spare a few bucks a week to buy some essentials for the truly poor.

4 Comments:

Anonymous cranky mama said...

This made my day. I'm feeling incredibly good about the fact that my spur-of-the moment rant actually *moved* someone. That is about twelve different kinds of awesome, and so are you. :)

1/1/08 4:57 PM  
Anonymous norby said...

I saw a single mom trying to use her WIC coupons for cereal for her young'un, can't remember now if it was a boy or girl. But the child wanted, of course, the kind of cereal he/she saw on tv, that had the toy in the box. But it wasn't on the list, so mom had to say no, and naturally, crying ensued, with mom muttering, 'Why do they do this to me?' under her breath as she put a box of some other kind of healthier, approved cereal in her cart.

I remember agreeing with her. There was no price difference between the two, and yeah, the second cereal was healthier. But in the end don't all three year olds deserve the cereal with the toy in the box every now and then?

Because of my divorce I'm going to be going through all of my belongings in the next few weeks. Everyone keeps telling me I should wait for yard sales, but honestly, I would prefer to just drop it all off at Goodwill.

1/1/08 7:26 PM  
Blogger Christa M. Miller said...

Jessica, thank you so much for stopping by!!

Norby, I was telling Rain Dog last night that it's really striking how the entire system seems to seek to dehumanize those getting support. I suppose the "incentive" is to get them off it as quickly as possible. But how does low morale motivate anyone in a positive way?

ITA with you about yard sales vs. Goodwill. I could make a ton off consigning my boys' baby clothes, but I'd rather they go where needed!

2/1/08 4:48 PM  
Blogger PT-LawMom said...

Great post, Christa! I try to give to local small women's shelters. They often ask for soap, toiletries, etc., that you can easily pick up on sale or in bulk. It's the small things...

4/1/08 8:04 AM  

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