The Intentionally Poor

Yesterday I was running across the news headlines and I found an article that I thought was pretty interesting. Basically, a story about a man who pretty much walked away from modern trappings, dug himself a little “hobbit hole” and lives on no more than $5,000 a year. The article really did pursue people who decided upon stripping themselves of the current material status quo, but it really didn’t go into a discussion about people who were FORCED into that lifestyle and had to learn to cope, deal, and move on. (If you want, you can read the article here.)

I think we first have to recognize that poverty is pretty much someone else’s standard. The man in the hole doesn’t consider himself poor. Neither do I. What I mean is, although I only live on $8,000 a year, I don’t consider myself poor. I’m broke, yes, but I would never call myself poor. I found myself falling quickly into this situation two years ago and it has been a struggle to get out. I went from a $1,000 a month apartment to being on the streets… a matter of days. It happens, and when it does, it happens fast.

Obviously, there is a VERY serious problem with poverty in America. But, we have to be honest. Being poor in America is a helluva lot easier than it is in many MANY other places in the world. Services, and generosity aside, opportunities to get OUT of poverty are prevalent here. We may have a problem with poverty in America, but I often think the bigger problem in our country is self worth.

My road to financial recovery has never had ANYTHING at all to do with stuff, things, televisions and cars, designer jeans and finicky diets. It had to do with food, clothing, shelter….and purpose. AND THAT to me is the measure of a man’s wealth: his desire for a purpose. Food, clothing, and shelter are the basic requirements we all need for physical survival, but PURPOSE moves one into a glowing moment of self acceptance and existence that no touchable, tangible item that you can buy will ever equal. THAT is wealth.

I’m lucky that my knitting gave me a purpose, my hand scribbling daily in a diary gave me a purpose. I was also fortunate enough to see, when I no longer owned anything other than books and a skein of yarn, that I could live sparingly. I didn’t need validation from the things I owned. I didn’t need other people to see me in the nicest, flashiest car to make me feel as if I belonged to society. But, it was society that tried to remind me that I was poor, I was below poverty level, I wasn’t a successful man….because I didn’t have things.

But, it seemed the less I had, the more valuable I became to myself. I was no longer focused on gaining, acquiring, buying, having….I was more concerned about being, existing, experiencing, affecting, giving something back to this world, rather than find things to take.

So, being poor is simply a state of mind. Poverty is in the eye of the beholder. So, I don’t have very much. I tell you this much, the thousands of friends I’ve met because of this blog all around the world is more valuable to me than anything. That makes me a wealthy man.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d love to be able to afford a bike right now. But, its just not possible. And I will admit, that there are some days I really would rather not buy my clothes from Goodwill. But, despite how much money I may ever have (or not have), I imagine I’d still live pretty close to how I do now. I’d still live in a small 15×20 space, I’d still find my clothes at Goodwill, and I’d still make a feast out of rice and beans. If I were financially wealthy, and didn’t have to worry about feeding myself, or losing my apartment, I’d still live like I do. But, these teddy bears of mine wouldn’t cost a penny. They’d all be donated. And I wouldn’t BUY stuff with my money, I’d DO stuff with my money. I’d pay forward all the beauty that this life has generously blessed me with…one little teddy bear at a time. And maybe one day that will happen.

So, am I intentionally poor? No. I’m intentionally wealthy.

Adopt a bear!




  1. Bravo!!!! If there was only more who would understand what wealth really is! I admire you, and really love the person you are! All else will come. And I know you will pay forward when the time is right! You are an inspiration!

  2. Gregory….you have such an amazing way with words. I think a newspaper should hire you to do an article in their paper – you would be an instant hit. I love your perspective on wealth….I, too, feel extremely rich with just simply my family, friends, and pets…without them I am nothing.

  3. You are so right Gregory! I have no income and no savings but I have a roof over my head and food in the cupboard. I haven’t had a job in 2 years and have severe neuropathy which is not only very painful but also debilitating. I have lived in my car in the past and also ended up marrying a multimillionaire who died in 2008 and I watched all that we had disappear in the economy. I never want to say I am poor because I can go outside and see all the beauty around, I have friends who send me things from time to time and I have God with me as does anyone who cares to reach out to him. Even though I don’t know how I am going to pay for bills I take one day at a time and I am always thankful.

  4. Thank you for putting it so well, we’ve lived in a touring caravan/trailer from choice for 20 years, and our gratitude for being in the world, rather than isolated by ‘stuff’ grows all the time. I, too, would give away my teddies, if I possibly could afford it!

  5. Thank you for reminding me how blessed I am. You words really touched my heart. It was a gentle reminder not to take things for granted. I am so glad I found your blog. Keep on keeping on. God is good all the time.

  6. I think we have got poverty and poor mixed up in our brains, I who some very well off poor people whose lives are not happy or fulfilled, and I know some very happy fulfilled people who are living in poverty but it doesn’t stop them! You are one of the richest people I know, that isn’t in the money sense but the life way! you live life, every day and every week. It is sad to see people struggle to find happiness while rushing through their very high powered days, with many material things and no peace in their lives 😦 I made a choice many years ago to not rush up the ladder, to work and do things to enjoy my life, I am finding now I am slowly creeping up the promotions ladder and I am so much more settled and happy in my own self that I have been put forward for things, which I feel comfortable enough to say no to the ones I don’t fancy!
    But I still see folks who spend as much time ill as well and always seem to be running late, these people are poor to me, in life and world view. Thank you for being you and being so positive, you help me keep my own balance, and make me appreciate every hour I get with my friends and family, and to keep an eye on my job to make sure it stays fun!

  7. What a great journey I’ve been on ….my friend posted the H.P. story and I read it out of curiosity. I don’t knit but am fascinated by it. You’re humble. You’re deserving. You’re spiritual. Great job!

  8. The Figure in the Doorway
    By Robert Frost

    The grade surmounted, we were riding high
    Through level mountains nothing to the eye
    But scrub oak, scrub oak and the lack of earth
    That kept the oaks from getting any girth.
    But is through the monotony we ran,
    We came to where there was a living man.
    His great gaunt figure filled his cabin door,
    And had he fallen inward on the floor,
    He must have measured to the further wall.
    But we who passed were not to see him fall.
    The miles and mils he lived from anywhere
    Were evidently something he could bear.
    He stood unshaken, and if grim and gaunt,
    It was not necessarily from want.
    He had the oaks for heating and for light.
    He had a hen, he had a pig in sight.
    He had a well, he had the rain to catch.
    He had a ten-by-twenty garden patch.
    Nor did he lack for common entertainment.
    That I assume was what our passing train meant.
    He could look at us in our diner eating,
    And if so moved uncurl a hand in greeting.

  9. I love this. Very nicely written.
    As someone who comes from a farm family and after four days of workin in hay us three girls scavenged the house and vehicles for any and all change we could find so hopefully we could get up $5 to get into the lake after the last day of work.
    it didn’t matter if we ran out of gas and had to walk the last mile home, by heaven we had swam until the moment they closed the lake up!
    We never considered ourselves poor.

  10. Reblogged this on Two Bit Acres and commented:
    Love these thoughts on money and poverty. Some of the most generous people I know have the least amount of money to give. I heard a good one recently. I can’t remember exactly how it went but it was something to the effect of, “I’ve never had any money anyway so why not share what little I’ve got.” I love that philosophy.

    1. Hi:

      I am a new blogger. I am the one the posted the Robert Frost poem on the page. It speaks to choosing a simple life, or as this article says: “choosing poverty.”

      I hope you will follow my blog.

      Best regards,


  11. Yes! That is how we live too. (Though I have to admit that we live in a larger space than you and have a slightly higher income.) My niece describes it as “choosing simplicity”. I call it “living graciously on limited means”. A friend calls it “simplicity without deprivation”. But it all boils down to the same thing.

    Maria Von Trapp once said, after coming to America as a refugee, “We’re not poor. We just don’t have any money.”

    P.S. I hope you can eventually get that bike … I love my 27 year old road bike to death and mean to ride her until she falls to pieces. (She’s a relic of our more affluent days, and is now so old that she has acquired “vintage” status.) Keep your eyes open at Goodwill – they do get bikes in sometimes.

  12. Inspiring to read from a man who’s journey has brought him to such a place of wisdom. I am operating a farm raising Shetland Sheep and struggling to pay off debt and support myself. But you have shown me a new way of looking at things. I need to support others in addition. I would be honored if you would accept my gift of lovingly raised yarn.

  13. Yea, it is kinda of strange for those who do have considerable bucks they want to ‘experience’ poverty. Maybe that guy in the hole, gave his money to charity.

    You sound as if you could take a vow of a priest.

    True poverty is in the eye of the beholder: I was raised in a 1-bed. apartment in southern Ontario, Canada with my immigrant parents. Am the eldest, family grew to 5 kids, before parents bought a house. Kid #6 came then.

    I don’t know how my mother kept sane. Anyway, I’m sure my parents still felt they were “richer” and of course, freer in Canada. (Mao was at the height of his cruel totalitarian power in China during those decades when I was a kid.)

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