Gratitude Sunday: To Our Health

Gratitude * Sunday


Quote of the Week
– “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” Confucius

Sunday Haiku

Sun, rain, snow, sleet, hail;
late winter does not confuse
Mother Nature’s wit.

Sunday Musings

Let’s say it out loud because many of us are afraid of the word and the condition. Poverty. There. There it is right out front.

We fear poverty. Many of us are poor but we won’t admit it because we live under the myth of self-sufficiency, which means we are living the best lives we can with our chins held high, never admitting we’ve worked our asses off all our lives and are still only one illness or injury away from living under a bridge. We also live with the myth of bootstraps to pull up, and rags to riches success if only one works hard enough. It doesn’t work for everyone.

I’m not talking about dirt-floor-leaking-roof-wind-through-the-walls-no-blanket poverty or living-in-your-car poverty, though there is embarrassingly plenty of that around. I’ve done both. I don’t know why it embarrasses me, except America is supposed to be the richest country in the world and yet some people who work all their lives continue to experience housing and food instability.

I’m not whining just for me. Even with every moment on the verge of collapse, I live with abundance, I have a modest home whose thirty year old roof does not leak (yet, thank you universe!), and the carpet is serviceable and not yet threadbare. The leaking toilet is fixable. I’m cranky for the people who can’t find work or can’t qualify for jobs they want. I’m whining for people who are much less able and need help to get through their day. I’m bitchy because people working 40 hour weeks cannot afford to rent a modest home for their family. I’m freaking out because high quality national health care would cost us less in taxes than we are currently paying, and the current administration is sloth-like moving toward making sure the least of us are cared for.

I didn’t know we were poor when I was growing up. I was lucky to have parents who made good with what they had. We lived a modest life with few dull moments in a two bedroom, one bath, a little over one thousand square feet of post World War II suburban tract house. When I was 12 they turned the attached garage into a bedroom and added a carport. Sister and I were older than our brothers and suddenly in need of our privacy. We got our own room to share, the car got a new home as well. Over the years Mom refinished the hard wood floors at least three times and hand stripped and re-finished the moldings throughout as well. When it came time for a new roof after the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, Mom did most of the work replacing the roof with the help of male family and friends who spent most of the time on the roof drinking beers.

Mom worked a part time job to pay for “extras” for us kids like scout dues, summer camp, music lessons, Christmas presents, and hand made fashionable clothes. Dad had a side hustle making police leather which funded the boat and camping equipment. Dad made sure we went camping every year, learned to fish and shoot, and when us four kids got older we got to go on a trip to Disneyland. We saved for a year for that trip. Summers we often met extended family at the beach for day or weekend trips.

We ate well because Mom was home part of the day to cook. She cooked from scratch, using vegetables from the garden they raised, and meat from the half beef they bought a couple times a year to fill the freezer. It takes planning time to cook out of the freezer because some things take days to defrost. Some of the meat was venison because Dad liked to hunt. We had lots of freshly caught fish in the summer. Mom spent the last half of the summer canning and pickling whatever came out of the garden. When I was little, raw milk in glass bottles was delivered to our doorstep, along with butter, from a local dairy. Mom made bread every week and fruit pies almost every day. Dad loved pie. We were never hungry.

Dad did much of the work on the family car and around the house. Mom made our clothing, our quilts, and costumes needed for school or play. Mom volunteered as room mother for us in school, as a Camp Fire Girl leader, and after she got her driver’s license when I was 12 she spent much of her time as chauffeur. Both Mom and Dad volunteered with Boy Scouts when my brothers (both Eagle Scouts) participated. (Historical note: though she’d driven farm equipment since she was a child and could drive a team of horses, she was 36 when she got her driver’s license; this was 1965. She did not have her own bank account, though she was family bookkeeper, and she did not own her own credit card.)

If you have a full tummy, a roof over your head with a dry clean bed to sleep in, a creative mom and dad to keep you busy, lots of love and little drama in your life, you might not know you are poor until you go to school or church. In school you learn about comparisons: appearances, clothing, sizes, colors, belief systems. There you learn about difference and if you are lucky you survive. Some people survive because they learn to assimilate, others survive by not giving a flying diddlydoo about what other people think.

I was forced to know from the start assimilation would never function. I was let to know by my classmates my body was not acceptable, my face was less than beautiful, my clothing was wrong, our home and car and family were not as good. Fortunately I was loved and supported inside my family, so I was able to learn how not to give a flying diddlydoo. I also come by compassion and empathy naturally and I was struck to the core about those of us who have less, and are treated as lesser persons even though our poverty was not in our control. Every kid I knew who was judged to be lesser than or poor had one or more parent who worked to support them. Some of those poor parents were hiding alcoholism, but I learned in church the kids with wealthier parents dealt with the same issue.

How is it that people can work 40 hour weeks (or more) all their lives and not be able to rise to the next level or even create stability? How is it that this can happen across generations even when drugs and alcohol are not involved? Does past generational poverty set up the next generation for poverty? And if so, how do we break the cycle?

We need only to look to history to see that for some of us the game is rigged. Despite the myth of self-sufficiency, some of us don’t have the wits. Then some of us who make strides and plans and goals don’t seem to achieve success no matter what we do or the quality of our work. Some do, though I’m not sure why some succeed and some don’t.

I like to propose resolutions when I bother to complain. Complaining is how I define issues and challenges. It’s not the most elegant way to go about defining issues, but there I am, mired in poverty. Did you know there is a “poverty mind-set”? I learned about it in a diversity class I took. Because poor people have so much instability in our lives, planning skills are poor as well. We don’t know what we can count on so we don’t count on anything. We can’t plan for the future because we don’t know what we are doing right now and we’ve been burned in the past. We have not learned success in the past so we have nothing to build on.

We no longer have the benefit of small town, village style community support; we are isolated in our single family homes with our screens and our fenced yards. More than 50 percent of Americans are now living under the poverty line. There is no cushion: we can’t plan; we can’t save; we don’t take risks or vacations; we can barely take care of what we have and we can’t replace it when it breaks; retirement is a unicornian myth. Your neighbors and friends and family are living this way and you might not even know it because of that ugly myth of self-sufficiency. We don’t talk about poverty and the class issues poverty hides. Many of us work very hard to rise above our poverty to look on the bright side of the abundance and gratitude we do have, like love of family and friends, a wealth of insatiable curiosity and the intelligence to find information when needed, morals and good work ethics (harder and harder to find it seems; it’s not that hard to know what is right and what is wrong), tenacity in a swirling dervish world, and any modicum of stability we might have within our grasp. We may be cash poor, we are not character poor.

I would like to have more than one solution in my tool box, but right now, my sights are set on sharing the tax burden. If you are fortunate to be wealthy, whether it is inherited or you’ve convinced yourself you are a self-made person, pay your share of tax to the country that supports you. That’s patriotic. If the country that supports you is Russia and you live in America, you should probably consider you are living in the wrong country. If you own a corporation that is fortunate to be thriving on capitalism, pay your workers a living wage (I know enough about economics to know wages are a deductible cost of doing business, and in my opinion the most justifiable expense a business can have), and then pay corporate business taxes. That’s patriotic. Don’t go paying lawyers to figure out ways to hide profits or cheat the country that supports you. If you are wealthy by birth, never have to work a day in your life or worry about meals or housing, pay a “wealth” tax to the country that supports you. You’ll still have enough to pay for that fourth house in the Bahamas, and the yacht to get there, and the private plane to jet home because you forgot your pedigreed dog. That’s patriotic. The tax you pay is the price of living in a society. The poor and the wealthy use the same roads and public services. Fire fighters are paid to save your home as well as mine. We all pay a share for public services.

Notice I didn’t say fair share. I mean, how much do you need to live comfortably, in stability, without concern for paying your monthly bills (not talking yacht, personal jet, or third house payments here)? Many wealthy people spend more on lawyers to get them out of paying taxes than they would if they just paid the taxes. For it to be fair, mathematically, the wealthy would be paying far larger percentages, but because of their wealth they could still lead comfortable even outrageously extravagant lives. And as a poor person I don’t mind paying some tax, because I am a member of this society. But math again (I know), ten percent of $33,000.00 is a huge annual difference (like a couple months’ utility bills or even a month’s rent or mortgage), while ten percent of 20 million is not even the breath I took just now. If we were talking about fair share, we would be having an entirely different conversation. I know better; Mom always told me life is not fair. I believe her.

Poverty kills us all, for both the upper and lower classes; it eats away at the way your body and spirit works, and changes your body chemistry and how your brain functions. What I’m asking is we treat people of poverty with as much dignity as people of wealth. Not everybody has the wherewithal to create wealth in their lives, and certainly very few of us are born to it. But as a wealthy nation we could manage our combined wealth (taxes, natural resources, human labor) to take the edge off for those who have, or are able to do, the least, to the benefit of us all. The poorest of us already pay our share of tax with little benefit.

If we are going to keep increasing the wealth of the wealthy the least we can do is provide national health care, so honest, decent, hardworking, accountable American workers can have the health to be more productive and continue working hard. Since it’s been shown national health care would save money compared to what we are spending on health care now, to me it seems a no-brainer: better system, better coverage, less expense for all Americans: win-win-win. I hope I’m not the only one to realize if our work force is not healthy, our nation fails. The more healthy individual people are, the healthier and wealthier a nation is. We may not be able to end poverty through health care but it is a step up and in the right direction.

Color Watchcolorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week –Late winter is the time to appreciate ghost bushes. Whitely silhouetted ghost leaves on gray sidewalks. The dried beige fluff of phantom cattails. The burst of green of new spring weeds. The yellow budding promise of spring on hold because of cold.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Needed some safe mindless light-hearted viewing this week, so I finished the last available season 4 of Schitt$ Creek (2017, rated TV – MA) with Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy. The adventures of a wealthy spoiled family who loses everything they own except a run-down hotel in a little po-dunk town and the cognitive (and reality) dissonance they face when lifestyle differences abound. * Nothing beats The Great British Baking Show (2010 – current season, rated TV – PG) for mindless viewing. No real teaching about cooking takes place, though there are a few tips and tricks sparsely sprinkled, along with an occasional short history segment. You can watch any season and it won’t be out of context, the participants aren’t particularly compelling (little drama), the failures are as exciting as the successes, and what it lacks is sample-vision so one can taste the goodies created along with the judges.

Currently ReadingLook Alive Twenty Five (2018, fiction) by Janet Evanovich. Side-splitting humor with multiple shenanigans gone wrong. The protagonist, Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter by nepotism, is a train wreck and subject to Murphy’s Law. This series is so much fun the novels read too fast. * The Last Lecture (2008, psychology, death, grief) by Randy Pausch. I don’t know whether I feel disappointed, ripped off, or full of admiration for an author who insured a future income for his spouse and family through the publication of this book and the availability of his web-site for viewing the lecture. **Spoiler Alert** This is not a transcript of the author’s last lecture. This is the story of how and why he wrote his last lecture plus a mini-autobiography. The author is up-beat, easy and entertaining to read, if you don’t mind knowing the end for this dying author. The last lecture can be viewed on-line. I guess I don’t need to read it.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Wild ducks floating on a flooded field.
  • Being safe while driving in a sudden hailstorm.
  • The full moon rising and shining right in through my front window, telling me to be aware of it.
  • The sweet little baby-mermaid who joined my pool work-out Friday night. Her parents are pretty cool as well.
  • A friend who brought me my favorite canned tuna because she’d gone over to the store that carries it, and she knew I was waiting to get my car fixed before driving that far.
  • A phone conversation with one of my newly-found sisters-in-law, where she shared about herself and allowed me to learn more about her challenges while she kindly listened to some of mine.
  • Hearing from a friend I rarely get to see or talk to, even though it was brief.
  • Losing my place on a work project, and with some help figuring out where I was. Thankful I keep a work log. Getting back on track is good.
  • Recognizing my distractibility, and writing stuff down so I can remember where I was and where I should be going.
  • Accidentally discovering a software capability my computer has that I had no idea about. So exited to try it.
  • Pens and scraps of recycled paper.
  • Nearly March and only a couple more months until my local farmers market opens for the year.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

This entry was posted in abundance, Aging, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Housing, Medicine, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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