There are numerous things I know now that I didn't know until you were breathing down my neck.
I needed that breath.
You see, I never did understand what my Dad meant when he said things like, "Do you want it or do you need it?" and I never understood why my mom would always tell me how lucky I was to grow up with a pool, and horse, and a nice house.
I didn't get it until we met.
Here are a few gems I must thank you for:
1. I don't need it
Learning to do without is not glamorized in America. But it is a beautiful thing. Poverty forces people to let go of "keeping up with the Jones's." No more rat racing, no more competing for material. Very liberating.
2. The best things in life are free
Like the LIBRARY!! I must thank poverty for my healthy obsession with the library. One semester my professional student husband was telling me that he needed to buy yet another book and then it hit us. There is a building in every town filled with free books! It is the most magnificent thing and I'm keeping it forever.
3. How to cook from scratch
I can now bake my own bread, pizza, tortillas, sweets, anything really. I'm not ashamed to say, I'm an awesome cook now. Thanks to you for keeping me from being able to afford all the garbage I wanted to put in my face ...
4. I can wait
I can wait until that movie goes to Redbox, I can hold this laptop together with duct tape until we can afford a new one. I can wait for the things I want. That's new.
5. I ain't nobody's fool
If all the ingredients are the same and one costs a dollar more than the other, I, being nobody's fool, choose the knock-off. I am positive Raisin Bran Clusters tastes better than Raisin Bran Crunch. I must thank you for the introduction.
6. I can fix it myself
I never knew I could take apart my sink, air conditioner, and car and put it back together no problem ... but I can. That feels good. Thanks for forcing me to do that so many times!
7. How to stretch a dollar
When we occasionally go to restaurants with menus that don't feature pictures of the food, I can't stop thinking, "15 dollars for a plate of pasta?! I could feed 40 children with 15 dollars worth of pasta!" And I could. Thanks to you.
8. The ability to recognize true poverty
It happened when my husband and I were in our first 350 square foot apartment. We didn't have much in the fridge or anything in the bank. I realized we were poor, but I also realized that we weren't starving or thirsty or freezing. This particular level of poverty was not so bad ... I just couldn't afford Cheetos. I can speak of poverty lightly because it went easy on us. I haven't had to watch my children go hungry. I've just lived with less than the typical.
9. A good attitude is free
A positive attitude is more spectacular than a pair of designer jeans ... and a lot less expensive.
10. I'm prepared for the garbage of life
The boy scouts have NOTHING on me. I am not only prepared for anything but I'm expecting it. I've learned that something expensive and unexpected is going to happen ten times a year. If you don't have a little something set aside for such disasters, you're toast.
11. Live simply
The largest place we've lived in the ten years since we've been married is 750 square feet. That means we don't have the luxury of bringing crap into our lives that doesn't add to the happiness of it. Thanks for the confinement, I know the difference between "want it or need it."
12. Appreciate the job
Work is not something I dread because I'm too grateful to have a job. I know there are people who have it worse off than me and the difference between me and them ... is work. So yes, I work hard and I smile while doing it.
13. I am not better than McDonald's ... and the people that eat there
Because, as shame-faced as I know I should be ... McDonald's is awesome. I know the food is terrible for you but come on, where else can you go to watch your kids play for an hour while you sip a hot chocolate in the rain? Thank you McDonald's and poverty, for the introduction.
So with that, thank you poverty.
I hope to never see you again and I wouldn't wish you on anyone ... but I'm happy we met.
One of the lucky ones
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Candy House Blog. It has been republished here with permission.