I’ve been reading a book: a memoir of sorts, called “On a Pedestal.” It was written by a friend of mine, Bessie David, using recordings of her Grandmother’s stories. This woman recounts living through the prohibition, the depression, WWII and so on. I can’t tell you exactly because I haven’t finished the book yet. But something that’s leaped out from the pages over and over is the cycle of poverty and prosperity. Life throws some pretty hard stuff at this woman, some because of choices she makes and some because life happens. Like a hurricane knocking parts of her roof in as she runs with her children from room to room. She’s got some pretty sour men, some better than others but all who leave her relying on her grit, wit, and work to keep herself and her children alive.
Along with limited legal rights, because she is married to her abusers and the system is not in her favor, there are truly some moments when despite best efforts, she’s backed into a corner. It’s been fascinating to see her resourcefulness. And heartbreaking because she’s working, putting her life back together, getting to a place where she’s comfortable again and then something happens to kick her back into the low point of poverty. It’s making me see people around me differently. I’ve been poor. I’ve had moments when not getting $30 I’d expected was crushing. I have a good, solid family structure so I’ve never been dangerously poor, but in my early days trying to be self-sufficient, I’ve done a lot of jobs and cleaned a lot of toilets. So I know what it’s like.
But now, because of this book, I know what it’s like to be truly stuck there. To have children who need to be watched, but also need to work to feed those children. To do the best you can and still appear to be the kind of person most people pretend not to see. And it makes me realize, there’s good in all of us. There’s bad in all of us. The key is to be kind to people. We can’t let them excuse themselves or wallow in places that aren’t good for them, but we can all reach out and lend them a hand up.