Feeling Poor?: Things I Forget About that Don't Cost a Thing

By Sarah Winfrey on 17 July 2007 (Updated 18 August 2007) 9 comments

Here in America, we're rich. Sometimes, I hear that and file it in the same place that I filed the eat-your-dinner-there-are-starving-people-in-China lines from my childhood (I learned, early on, to smile and say, "Great...can we send them this?"). But it's true. We have the dubitable priviledge of managing our money, simply because we have more than it costs to buy our basic food and clothing. In our everyday lives, we have so much that we forget about. Here are a few of the hardest ones for me to remember.

1. I have space. Some have more than others and many have more than me, but I have space and I like that. I get to control what goes in and out of it, and what it looks like.

2. I have the leisure to pursue the things I like. I only work 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, and the rest of the time is mine. Right now, I'm training for a sprint triathlon and taking an art class, and I'm thankful for the time to do that.

3. I'm paid a fair wage. So many people aren't (scroll down to Table 1). I happen to work for a nonprofit that can't pay top dollar, but I'm compensated fairly. I don't have to work 6-day weeks to make it work.

4. I am respected for doing my work and doing it well. I don't have to deal with being underappreciated, forgotten, or treated poorly. People care about what I do, but they also care about me as the one doing it.

5. I have choices. While everyone's choices matter, more wealth equals more choices. And more choices often mean more empowerment and greater general satisfaction with life (when they don't mean more distraction and more frittering time away and more indulgence). For me, they're usually good, and I'm glad I have them.

6. I have easy access to good medicine. As someone who grew up getting sick a lot, this one is important to me. If I'd grown up in a 3rd world country, there are illnesses I very well might not have made it through.

What are the hardest "item of wealth" for you to remember?

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Guest's picture
John Aitek

There are homeless people in America.

Guest's picture

I have a wife and child that love me :) Sometimes I get so caught up in how much work they can be that I forget how happy I am to have them.

Also, working from home freelance over the Internet rocks too.

Sarah Winfrey's picture

John, there are homeless people in America...but my guess is that most of them don't read Wisebread.  It's called a target audience.

Josh, it really is so easy to forget that those relationships we work so hard to maintain give us something back.  Or, at least, it's easy for me  ;) 

Guest's picture

So true - we in the West have had it good for so long that it often is purely taken for granted that this is the just the way life is. Of course its not easy for everyone in the West, but compared to the billions of people on Earth who don't have clean drinking water and have never even used a telephone (let alone a mobile phone), its a world away.

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Rebekah

I live $5K below the poverty level, if I count medical expenses. I'm sponging off my family because of said medical expenses.

But I remind myself how rich I am. It gets me through the day,

My children are fine young men. I have family -biological and chosen - with whom I exchange amazing amounts of love.

I have clean sheets whenever I want. I can take a shower whenever I want. I have stuff to eat and drink. I have the luxury of a pet - and even though he's low maintenance, he IS a luxury.

I have access to a television. (Mine broke and I won't bother to replace it - but I've had offers of gifts.) I have Internet, and my own computer, and the skills to use them.

I have the ability to earn a living, and I love my job.

I have a roof over my head, and doors to come and go as I please.

I have my vision. I can read, and I found a church that sells books for a quarter, once a month. I have a library card. I thank my parents for teaching me to read, even though they laugh when I do.

I can drive. When I take my parents, who don't drive, to the doctor, I can repay them, somewhat, for what they do for me.

I have knowledge that I can share - and I do, all the time. I know a little about a lot of things, and I can talk to anyone. I also know how to ask for help - for myself or for others.

I have clean clothes. I have cosmetics, and inexpensive jewelry that makes me feel prettier when I wear it.

Even with money so tight, I can manage a few bucks for a homeless veteran, a care package for a soldier, or a donation to a charity.

Sarah Winfrey's picture

I'm deeply moved by your post.  Thanks for sharing a little bit of your life with us.  And thank you for being thankful!

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Sean

No one is shooting at me.

Guest's picture
C

Obviously written by somebody with a job that provides good health benefits, a nice disposable income and plenty of leisure time. This represents a minority view and is not representative of the day to day lives of tens of millions of Americans.

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Guest

dang, you have free time? space? a fair wage? you're APPRECIATED at work?!? sounds like i'm poorer than i thought