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…..in 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.