Some days you may feel poor. You may even cry poor… but you are not.
If you have food in your fridge, you are not poor.
If you have coins in your wallet or in your car or in a dish by your bed… you are not poor.
If you have fuel in your car… you are not poor.
If you have any of life’s extra’s that are not necessary… think, cable tv, coffee machines, take out, an item of clothing that you bought not because you NEEDED it, but because you wanted it at the time… out of season produce, fancy treats, new furniture, fashion… the list goes on and on. If you have any of these things, chances are… you are not poor.
Just because you don’t have the money to go on a resort holiday, or buy a bigger house, or a bigger car, or a bigger life or a better newer fancier pair of jeans… YOU ARE NOT POOR. You are privileged. Endlessly, unbelievably privileged. You may feel sorry for yourself because it seems as though everyone else has a better phone, or a better camera, or a better computer, or better clothes, or a newer couch… the list goes on and on. You may feel poor. But you are not. You may lay in bed at night and worry about how you are going to make your home repayment on the house that you bought that is far more extravagant than you need… you may have serious debt. You may have real financial problems that don’t have simple solutions. This doesn’t make you poor. This makes your life complicated, sure. We are all complicated. Debt is hard. it is stressful. It causes pain. But debt doesn’t make you poor. It’s hard to get out of debt. Really hard. But it doesn’t make you poor. You may have a business that is failing or a car that you can’t pay off. You may have too many expensive things and a credit card you can’t manage. You might live week to week on a minimum wage that doesn’t give you much breathing space.
You may be broke because you live out of your means, but that doesn’t make you poor.
True poverty is not having the means to feed your children. Or keep a roof over your head. Or keep yourself warm. True poverty is having very few choices about the way you live your life. Being poor is not having only a little money left over at the end of the month for non essentials. I have seen true poverty, both here in Australia where I work and in countries all across the globe.
You are not poor. Trust me. You don’t want to be.
I am a single mother living on a modest social security payment and a small income from my work and creative pursuits. I make far less than your average wage. I am careful about where and how I spend my money and I put value in particular things (primarily food and experiences) and I am not poor. I feel very lucky for the security system we have in this country, a system that while flawed and often painful, it is also supportive and financially generous and something I know MOST people take for granted. I don’t have debt. I don’t buy anything on credit. If I can’t afford to pay in cash, we go without. I drive a shit old (ugly old, not funky vintage old) car and we shop at op shops and I upcycle trash into furniture I love. And I prefer it that way. Instead of buying things we don’t need, I save money to travel. Because without travel I don’t know who I am. I have my own priorities, we all do. There are so many things that we may want, but we certainly do not need. So I happily go without.
We (our society) put so much value in money. How much we earn. How much we have. How much we can show the world we have with the fancy things we buy. Our big car loans and home loans and credit card debt… We judge each other on it. I am so grossly opposed to it, and even I JUDGE PEOPLE ON IT, I judge myself on it… even if for only a moment, before I am able to remind myself that this is not the way I want to live. There is something so backwards about the way we teach our children about what is valuable in life.
What if money wasn’t the most important thing?
What if instead of putting so much value on what we have, we put just as much value on what we did. On the way we behave. On the way we treat other people. Imagine how different the world would be.
I see lots of blogs and articles and writing around that strongly focus on messages of non-consumerism more wholesome living. But then feature clothing and furniture and family props and childrens toys that are very expensive and extraordinarily unattainable for most people.
It’s really no wonder that people think they are poor, even when they are not.
It’s really no wonder our world is full of people who are putting themselves under great financial strain and stress to just keep up. And when they can’t, they feel like they are failing.
Never mind that we don’t know our neighbours… or that we are afraid. Never mind that as a society we are lonely and disconnected from one another on an honest and personal level. Never mind all of that. Instead we shop. We buy. We push past each other in stores to get to the best deals. We fill our trollies with crap to wrap and give for the sake of giving, without thinking of the cost these gifts have to other people. We try to prove ourselves to other people who are all doing the same thing. Keeping up. But with what exactly?
Why do we put so much value on money and possessions? Why is every second post I read about a “wish list” or a “must have list”?
Is this really what matters most to us? Is this what matters most to YOU?
With Christmas just around the corner, there is a lot of crazy spending going on. I get sucked into it most years. To do my part at my family Christmas. To fill a stocking. To fill a need. The need to keep up. The need to buy. To give. To receive. I wonder if we do it because that’s what we truly want to do, or if we are just so well programmed we do it without even thinking. We just go through the motions, handing over cash for colourful chunks of plastic and useless nicknacks. Cash that could be used for much more important things.
Imagine if we did it differently?
The spirit of Christmas is beautiful. It’s a joy to give. It truly is. But when we give and receive so much, do we really appreciate any of it? Or have we already started lamenting what we didn’t get? Or what we couldn’t afford to buy? Or have we already moved on to the next big thing, without pause.
Instead of buying enormous amounts of useless things to stuff stockings and pile gifts under the tree… what if we bought one well thought out thing. One thing that someone will truly love. One thing that someone will really appreciate. Just one. One thing for our children. One thing for our family. One thing for our friends. Or what if we made things. Or focused on experiences. What can I give to you that you need. Do you need my time? My skill? My love? What can I give to someone I don’t even know? Instead of stretching ourselves so thin financially that we are stressed and in debt and struggling… why not celebrate comfortably within our means, whatever that is, and focus on what really matters.
The people we spend it with.
And be bloody grateful for the fact that we have means with which to choose how we spend the little bit we have left over.
We get to choose how we celebrate, what we eat, what we give. And that in itself is a blessing that is NOT afforded to everyone this Christmas.