“Are we poor?”
I remember being a young girl sitting in the backseat of the car with feet that couldn’t yet touch the floor asking my parents that confusing question.. Poor seemed like a sad thing to be but for what I could see we were a happy bunch. My parents were hard working living within their means, and our family of five always had all we needed growing up. I never saw differences between our modest home, used cars, and hand me down clothes from the rest of the families in our small town.
I just assumed everyone got their food from the local pantry. Or that it was totally normal for fathers to get a $20 bill slipped within a handshake during a church’s passing of the peace. And there wasn’t anything strange about a family visiting on Christmas Eve with a black trash bag full of wrapped gifts telling my sister and I, “The grandkids couldn’t make it this year, can you enjoy these gifts for them?” I was so thrilled about the presents, it wasn’t until years later I happened to ask my mom why they couldn’t they just give the gifts to their family after Christmas. “Because the gifts were never intended for their grandkids,” she confessed to me.
Growing up with enough and not a lot extra never made me feel less than. Instead I embraced the challenge to prove that money doesn’t buy happiness. But the truth was I didn’t believe there was enough money to go around for all of us to become rich. Since the odds felt slim, I think I decided early on to embrace being semi-poor to avoid disappointment. I made a promise to myself though that if I ever did become rich I would live like I wasn’t. Cause I was afraid of money and more concerned of the bad things it could promote over the good. I feared it would make me greedy, selfish, and proud. And I thought being poor made me empathetic and kind, so who would I be if those things were no longer me?
I didn’t have a healthy or truthful view on money for quite some time. And it wasn’t until I started my own business that those layers started to be stripped away. You mean I can talk about money and want money? There are good and necessary things that having wealth can provide? I don’t need permission to make money?
To this day I still get anxiety when logging into my bank account, and my palms sweat when I hand over wrinkled green bills. Some things never change, and I’m okay with that. Early in my life I learned how to be frugal and scrappy, a professional wardrobe thrifter, and fairly content when I have little or much. I’ve also learned the invaluable characteristics of humility and generosity.