Day #11 – Poverty Is Still Poverty And Christmas Is A Great Reminder
There is never a better time than Christmas to remind people exactly where they fall in the social ladder. The people who have, the people who want, and then the people who just want to survive. These three groups view the holidays very differently and treat it as such, but you would not know this from watching TV or reading articles. The media would want you to think that everyone pretty much has the same Thanksgiving and Christmas, yet that is hardly the case.
Let’s start with the easiest group and that is the people who have. This is the group who does not worry about living paycheck to paycheck. They are comfortable in their nice homes or fancy apartments and have the things they need and want. Their holiday’s are often full of social gathering with people of similar status. They look at the world and often never see the people who are just struggling to survive. When they do they just throw a little money their way or donate some food or clothes and never give them another thought. Their Christmas’s are filled with trips to ski resorts or cruises because this is a time for leisure and a time to get away from the rat race of day to day life. They will spend time with their family but they are never in a rush. They value the experiences over items, however, when items are given they are usually somewhat lavish. It may be a new car or diamond necklace or even remodeling their kitchen.
Now don’t misinterpret what I am writing here. They are not inherently bad people and they don’t go out of their way to keep the down trodden down, instead they are usually just oblivious to it all. There are just as many people who do bad things in each of the other groups as there are here, however, often these people are the people of influence. They carry a weight with their actions that no one in the other two groups can copy. They often don’t think about this when making decisions because they do what all of us do and that is look out for our family. The results of their decisions, however, can have lasting consequences on the other two groups, especially the people just trying to survive.
The second group is the people who want. This is the group for whom the holiday season is marketed. For as long as we have been a country there has been a class of citizens who look at those above them and strive to have what they have. They believe that their status is with their possessions and so they strive to have the same things as the people who have. They do not live paycheck to paycheck but they also cannot be frivolous with their money. Yet the holiday season can create a fever in many of them and it drives them to possess when they really don’t need. They will go into debt to get things that their peers will covet and things that will show that they are in a higher station than those near them. This group, unknowingly, has the most influence on how the holiday season is run. They are the major consumer and as they consume more and more then the holiday season will become more driven by consumerism than the meaning of the holidays. If they want to see a change then they would need to make a concerted effort to curtail the amount of items they purchase during this time. However, because of the nature of this group of people always wanting to have more and more, this will never happen.
This group is also the most outspoken about what the holiday season has turned into. They can remember a time when things were calm and had meaning. While the desire to get those days back, they do not understand what they have to give up in order to make it happen. There are a few in this group who recognize what is going on and try to make a difference. They try to open people’s eyes to the suffering around them. They try to show them what all the mad shopping is doing to the holiday season but they might as well be trying to empty a sinking ship with a fork. Again this group is not inherently bad but you do here more about their misgivings than the first group because of the nature of those problems. Their problems when come to light seem shocking because that person is just like everyone else. They are also the most likely to step on someone else to get a leg up in this world. They see it as part of evolution and if people wanted more they should work harder.
The last group is the most sad and you can divide it into two subgroups. Both are struggling for survival, however, one group is trying to deal with the bad hand life has dealt to them. They are working hard to make a more stable life. They live paycheck to paycheck and so any surprise expense can derail any progress they have made. They want to provide a better, safer life than what they currently have to their family. This group is often driven and may work two or three jobs just to make their family work. But as with the nature of the station they hold in life, theirs is filled with setback after setback. Some unknowingly set these setbacks upon themselves and some they have no control over. This is the group that will often need help but not want to ask for it. For them it is a sign of weakness and it takes a lot to get them to ask for help and by then they are usually in dire circumstances. They still believe in the American dream that if they work hard enough they can become anything they want. So they will sacrifice everything for a chance for their kids to have a better life. What they have yet to realize is that the American dream is a myth generated during the depression era to provide hope for many of the impoverished people. It was driven by the media and the government to make the people want to succeed again when all they saw around them was failure. This group is often in a cycle through the many levels of this group. When things seem at their best, they seem to fall and then when they think it cannot get any worse it does.
The other subgroup are the people who are struggling to survive but not actively trying to make any changes. The live off the good graces of others and rely on services designed to help people get on their feet and work to better themselves. However, this group uses this charity to create their life. This is the group who often gets the handouts around the holidays. They seek them out to provide a better holiday season for their family thinking it is their right to have a good holiday. That it should be provided to them because in their mind everyone else has it better than them and should feel responsible for helping. They don’t understand that if they spent the same amount of time looking for the handouts as they did working then they could be able to provide something more for their family.
This section of people should not be confused with the group who might use public services to live because of circumstances beyond their control such as disabilities or things of that nature. I put those in the other subsection as they would gladly work to change their circumstances, however, they are incapable.
This subsection, who lives on the generosity of others, makes it difficult for those people who truly need help to get it. The holidays for them is a time of more, more, more. They take what they can get and do not feel bad about it even if they truly don’t need it. They may go to two different food pantries and get two holiday meals for their family without thinking that now another family with have to go without.
The other subsection who is struggling but trying, will avoid asking for help but sometimes through the good graces of others around them they get the help they could use but don’t need. It may come in the for of a secret Santa or a gift card in the mail. Things that they cannot refuse because they do not know where they came from. They are grateful and try and payback the generosity by giving and helping others, even if they are not in as dire as situation as themselves. They can be selfless almost to a fault. It is this group that I feel the worst about. They are the ones who really miss the magic of Christmas. The small things that used to be done by families instead of all the buying. They could do with very little because the focus was on the spirit of the holiday season not the consuming of the season. I was once in this category and I work hard to help people still in it, even if it means giving up things for my family. If only the rest of the world felt the same.