I don’t think too often about being around seven or eight years old, and in all honesty it’s because I don’t remember much from that part of my life. I lived, and still live, with only my mom and a few of our cats. Nothing about the way we lived was extravagant; we went grocery shopping on Sundays, we did chores around the house, we got by just like our neighbors and everyone else we knew. Our small family was what people referred to as “middle class”.
What I do think about a lot from that point in my life is when my mom lost her job. In fact I think about it more now than I really did then, most likely because I’m at the age where I can now comprehend what that really meant for us, and other people like us.
The recession of 2008 hit hard on the American working and middle class, the peak unemployment rate following the year after at around 10%. I never thought of myself as a part of a percentage in my life, and even then at age seven it was just another thing I couldn’t really comprehend. I now belonged to a group, and that group was the impoverished.
I think something important that other recognize, but more importantly that I recognize, is that it could’ve been a lot worse. I feel like people tend to say that to invalidate their own problems, or make things seem better than they really were, but the matter of fact is that there were people who got it worse than us. Even today there’s still people struggling financially, there’s the homeless and the starving. My mother and I lost our home and we still had somewhere to go because her brother let us come live with him. Moving from where I lived my whole life to Warren, leaving behind my elementary school for a new one that accepted kids from any city (my mom didn’t want me in Warren schools, I only partially don’t blame her) had to have been one of the most eye opening experiences I had ever lived through. This was the reality for a lot of American children, they moved around a lot. They relied on welfare that came from the government, welfare people thought that they and I didn’t deserve. We got by on those same things, along with my uncle’s factory job; I’m still surprised he was able to keep it through the recession.
I don’t necessarily think I have to, or want to, go into detail of what my life was like at that point. I can tell you it’s when I learned my mom lived with depression, she didn’t even have to tell me directly. I would find out later in my life that she passed it on to me and that I would live with it too. I can also tell you that I see people now talk about how the poor citizens of our country are lazy, freeloaders, parasites cheating the system and draining money from the government. I wish I could tell everyone of them and then some how hard people like my mom worked, and continue to work in order to make it out of situations like that; How even more we see people like that unable to pull themselves out of that loop of being poor and not having any clue how you’re supposed to help yourself when no one else can do so much as lend a hand themselves.
One thing I can say I learned from this is that sometimes, the work does pay off. But more often than not it takes what some people would consider a miracle, or maybe a right time-right place moment to help set your life on a better path. It’s getting that job, or any source of income or sustenance that can change everything. My mom did get that job. We did move back to Royal Oak, we did live out what people would call an American Dream. We could buy our own groceries on Sundays, do chores around a house that really was ours.
I want America to be a place where everyone can do that.
I want America to be a country where a home is not a luxury but a right, right beside water and food and healthcare. I want people to see what a life without a secure sense of where those things will come from is like. I think, just in this experience alone, we can see what the majority of Americans live through too; this country isn’t all hot dogs, nuclear family, getting your first car and voting for who you believe in. It’s a place where poverty and many other features of the “lesser” Americans intersecting and where a lot of those who are more well off do their best to hide those they see as lowly. We were lowly at one point in our lives.
Through this experience I realized I want to do what I can to help others, I encourage you all to do it too, I don’t think it’s right that this many people live like this.
Through this I ask myself: What's to be done with these lowly people?