November 28, 2011

Living on the Edge (November 28, 2011)

Living on the edge.  It sounds . . . exciting . . . thrilling . . . care free . . . courageous.  Guess again.  If you're talking about living on the edge of poverty then the descriptions are a little less glorious.  Try . . . nerve wracking . . . often boring . . . burdensome . . . and unfortunate.  I can hear the little children now, "Oooooh . . . Mommy, when I grow up I want to be struggling financially!" Not.

I'm essentially one month into Phase II of That Poverty Project - Struggles of the Working Poor. I've been reflecting on my experience thus far, but I can also draw upon my additional life experience in being part of the working poor.   Allow me to elaborate on my descriptions above.  Nerve wracking - when you have very little in the way of resources it takes a lot of energy trying to decide what you can or cannot spend your precious funds on, and then being so close to the "line" is like a waiting game for the other shoe to drop.   You can drop your whole load (all $20 of it) on groceries, and then find yourself waiting for "that thing" to arise that you cannot afford but which must be dealt with. Often boring - not surprisingly, I have found that one has way fewer options as to what to eat and what to do when one has little, and so it can get monotonous.  Burdensome - everything that could cost money feels heavy . . . very heavy.  Things like buying a shovel becomes a major purchase (I had to get one today), and anything bigger becomes unfathomable.  Unfortunate - living on the edge of poverty is usually not courageous as usually one doesn't do so intentionally.  Poverty is not really one of those things that most of us would choose as a lifestyle.

So how does it compare with living in a tent for 3 months?  It's different.  Whereas my time in the tent was more difficult physically (colder, more walking, and feeling grungy), my time with really limited resources seems more continuously troublesome from a psychological perspective.  Being in the tent certainly brought on mind games that attacked my self esteem and caused me to be down from time to time.  However, I didn't experience much anxiety compared to what I am experiencing right now.  That said, a lot of the anxiety comes from knowing that it is worse being on the street, and not wanting to get to that point.  So, I guess I would have to choose the struggles of the working poor over being homeless on the streets . . . but not by much.

"Living on the edge" is a very apt descriptor for the struggles of the working poor.  It's a constant balancing act.  What can I afford?  What can I put off paying for the time being?  How can I deal with this situation that has just arisen?  One could easily argue that such questions are a normal part of life.  Yes, but there is freakishly large difference for those who are around the poverty line as opposed to those who are not . . . NO NET.  Most people in the developed world may not like the curve balls that life can throw at them, but they have an ability to absorb them because they have a protective buffer.  However, in poverty there is no buffer, no safety net. 

That's where we can come in.  We . . . society . . . community groups . . . churches . . . you and I.  We can be there to help people when they fall.  As a group, we can decide that no one will be without their basic human rights being met.  It's what we would want done for us if we were in their shoes, isn't it?  Simply knowing that someone will help would sure relieve a lot of anxiety that comes from living on the edge.

Phase II - Struggles of the Working Poor Daily Report
Day 26 - 28 (November 26th – November 28th)

Weight at Beginning of Project:  233 lbs
Weight at End of Phase One:  216 lbs
Weight at Start of Phase Two: 221 lbs
Weight at Start of Today:  218 lbs
Available Funds:   $0.00 (leftover) + $8.50 (Nov 26) + $1.00 (found) + $9.00 (Nov 27) + $7.50 (Nov 28) = $26.00
Funds Spent Today:  $44.20 (loan payment & purchases)
Remaining Funds:   $0.00 (see New Loan)

New Loan:  $18.20 (Nov 28)
Loan Due Today: $28.89 (Nov 26); then $19.68 (Nov 27), then $10.84 (Nov 28)
Loan Payment:   $9.50 (Nov 26); $9.00 (Nov 27); $0.00 (Nov 28)
Outstanding Loan: $29.04 @ 1.5% per day . . . $29.48 due on Day 29

Items Purchased:   Shovel, Windshield Wiper Fluid
Free Stuff:  Nil

Gas Purchased* & Remaining:  $0.00 (i.e. 0.00 litres @ $1.089 per litre . . . 0.0 km @ 10 km/litre) + 2.18 litres (gas remaining) = 2.18 litres (21.8 km)
Driving Today:  16.0 km (i.e. 1.60 litres)
Gas Remaining:  0.58 litres (i.e. 5.8 km)
*Will not include any fuel or driving related to work that is paid for by work.

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