This is our life today. Actually, this is the way our life as a family has been for a while now.
There was a time in my sophomore year of high school when the only income my mother had came from babysitting. Those were very lean times. I didn’t realize how lean they were until I saw a picture in that high school yearbook of some friends of mine sitting on some grass, and I saw one guy who looked particularly skinny. I was trying to figure out who it was, and when I finally made the realization of who it was, I was shocked.
It was me. I didn’t recognize myself.
Things aren’t that bad for us now, but we do go through a daily struggle. We’re still tight as a family, the struggle comes in providing for ourselves. Tight as a family, extremely tight in our finances. How do we survive on the little money we have until the next pay day?
That’s with me working a full-time job. That’s with my wife being self-employed, working in teaching music lessons and doing horse training/riding lessons while perhaps making more money than if she were to be employed elsewhere making minimum wage. That’s with our children helping out.
It’s still a struggle. The weight of the world feels like it’s all on our shoulders.
We’re tired of that load.
We have to find the least expensive yet still healthiest food we can buy. The two don’t often mix.
We let our back yard go dry because we can’t afford the higher water bill in the summer. The best we can do is try and keep the trees alive.
We try not to drive any more than we have to because it costs too much to fill up.
We juggle bills constantly, trying to keep the utilities going without being shut off and paying a high cost to get them turned back on.
We ration things like bread and milk to get us to a certain point around pay day.
We put off things that need to get done because of cost, and we wonder how much longer we can put things off.
We don’t make trips up to our hometowns to see family, either because it would cost too much in fuel and food or we don’t have a reliable vehicle to get us there. I haven’t seen my mother in over 3 1/2 years, and her physical and mental health hasn’t been the greatest lately. I wonder if she’d recognize us if she saw us.
I know I’m not alone in this. I see friends going through similar or worse situations. I know we’re lucky to have each other to help us through. I don’t like feeling needy, but I do appreciate the times when family or friends have reached out to us to brighten our lives during the hard times.
It shouldn’t be like this. This is supposed to be the land of opportunity. We keep working hard, we keep reaching out for something better, we keep trying to find that “thing” that’s supposed to help us pull ourselves up. Getting turned away repeatedly is tough, especially when it seems like options get slimmer.
That’s how it was when I was a kid too. That picture of “skinny me” is a reminder. The game of survival when you’re not born into a glamorous, comfortable lifestyle is tough. We have to keep playing that game.
It shouldn’t be like this. I see people not much better off than we are who see the facts on growing income inequality, and they laugh it off and vote for those who go against their own best interests. They vote for those who’d allow good jobs to be sent overseas, they vote for those who don’t mind taking away regulations meant to fight business practices that line the pockets of those who don’t need it, they fight against a higher minimum wage.
Some people think a $15 an hour minimum wage is too high. I’m here to say, right here and now, it’s not. It’s better than $7.25 an hour, but it’s not going to put anyone in the lap of luxury if that’s all they have to rely on. And people not all that much better off than us fight against it. Why?
It shouldn’t be like this.
Right now, that’s life.