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Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
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Poverty Sucks. Sometimes.

My old friend Billie just moved in her mother’s home so she can keep her real house in pristine condition while she tries to sell it. The home is worth a fortune, and it must sell because she is a single parent who was laid off — another victim of the demise of daily newspapers.

I’ve known her for more than two decades, and I reminded her of the filthy apartment I helped her clean at the beach before she moved in. We were both in our 20s. She was my editor, mentor and friend. We made no money. But, we lived at the beach. We didn’t go to fancy restaurants or take expensive trips. But, we lived at the beach. We drove old cars and didn’t have any expendible income. But, we lived at the beach.

At the time, I was making $15,000 a year. I remember going out for payday dinner to Quincy’s steak house and ordering the hamburger because it was the cheapest thing on the menu that came with the salad bar. I remember countless camping trips to the barrier islands in North Florida and South Georgia. I remember walking over a beach dune on Cumberland Island one night as the wild horses ran through the water, silhouetted by the heat lightning. And boating on the Okefenokee Swamp, surrounded by a million alligators. And tubing on the Ichetucknee River. Plus so many nights of youthful revelry with our cohorts.

Those were truly happy and fun times. I had so little money and so few things, but I had so much fun. I know I laughed more in those years than any since. We were so young and carefree.

So, here we are. Years later, with nice houses and nice things, eating in fancy restaurants and enjoying the “best” of life. Looking at it now, I realize that we had the best of life when we didn’t have very much at all.  

Granted, Billie’s situation is challenging because she is so devoted to her daughter and wants the best for her. It’s so unfair — she’s truly brilliant. But, she’ll get through this. She just will. And, if she scales back, maybe she’ll remember how much fun it was when we didn’t have so many “things” to worry about.

Last night, she reminded me how I once “punked” her when I sent her a letter  that I’d forged on our publisher’s letterhead. The letter told her that he’d heard she was complaining about her low salary and, while he couldn’t give her any more money, he did want her to have a small token of his appreciation. Inside the envelope was a round button that had been wrapped in paper. Billie felt that package, figured it was a make-up compact, and the publisher’s allegedly sexist gesture infuriated her. But, when she unwrapped it, she discovered a button that said, “POVERTY SUCKS.”

She found the letter recently — and the button. About “POVERTY SUCKS,”  she wrote: “I’m beginning to get the msg. :)”

Maybe the message is that the poverty of our early years didn’t suck all that bad. When did we get so grown up that we forgot how rich we already were? I don’t think I have ever been as rich as I was, way back when I was poor.

1 Comment
  1. You are so right. It amazes me how I have complicated my life in the years since I was footloose and fancy free. I remember when I was young and rented my first little apartment and had parties and boyfriends and even took vacations. It was so uncomplicated back then. Now I pay more in health insurance premiums than I used to pay in rent. Maybe we should all just go back to our little apartments and eat those cheap payday dinners and forget all these worries we’ve bought and brought into our lives.

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