THE NUMBERS ARE IN, and it’s not pretty.
Like haircuts and electrical work, some things are best left for professionals. So I’ll spare you my interpretation of the statistics and get right to the hideous:
According to a census report on poverty released a few weeks back, America’s getting poorer. Georgians are more broke than most.
Savannahians are as worse off as they come, with one in four people living under the poverty line. This “line” is a $22,314 yearly income for a family of four, which I believe was decided upon by a drunk cat person who has no idea how much small humans actually eat.
As I mentioned, I am not a professional number cruncher, but I’m quite positive there are plenty of families making far more than that who are feeling rather impoverished these days. But feeling poor and being poor are different.
As the numbers tell us, real poverty exists in this city. Children go without food, disabled people get evicted, seniors live in squalor. It’s a political problem that the professionals can’t seem to handle.
Feeling poor should be categorized as a mental problem. This is good news, since the solution doesn’t involve using tax dollars to form a committee that will officially mull over the possibility of creating a task force to implement a list of indeterminate actions that won’t go into effect until 2050.
Neither does the cure require libido–dampening medication or hours with a therapist who is secretly sleeping while you natter on.
You probably know where I’m going with this. It’s that simple “accentuate the positive” deal. Cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” and all that. Keep your perspective positive and you’ll find you have exactly what you need.
As someone who has attempted to make a living as a writer for the last 20 years, I believe wholeheartedly in it all. I also give you permission to slap the person who tells you any of this after your debit card has just been denied at the gas pump when you’re late for work.
You can’t pay the power bill with platitudes, it’s true. Still, it’s vital to remember that numbers don’t necessarily add up to wealth. Some of the most emotionally and morally bankrupt people in our society have plenty of cash – which, as of this writing, still does not buy love, good sense or class.
Or, for that matter, sanity. Bringing us back to how to nourish a wealthy mental attitude in the face of unfriendly numbers.
To paraphrase a certain Savannah movie hero, poor is as poor does, and even at one’s most destitute there’s an opportunity to feel prosperous.
Here are a few weapons in my personal arsenal of cheap thrills:
• Go outside. Hell and its legions of demonic biting gnats have moved on to torture the Southern hemisphere, and we’ve got several months of bucolic breezes ahead of us. Take a walk, find a bench, watch some birds and be glad you don’t live in Tasmania.
• Clean out your closet. You will be amazed at how many treasures will be unearthed and how many times a person can buy the exact same black shirt. Gift your friends with possessions you’ve picked out especially for them. How can you possibly feel poor when you’re giving things away?
• Paint your toenails. The weirder the color, the better. If you’re a guy and you’ve never painted your toenails, the entertainment value is tenfold.
• Read a book. A friendly reminder that they’re still free to borrow at the library. What’s awesome about books is that there are no commercials.Unlike television, which only exists to brainwash you into spending money.
• Grow something. Plants always provide the excellent lesson that a little sunlight, dirt and water go a long way. Some of us scored lovely free plants on Saturday at Jane Fishman’s most amazing fall plant swap at her majestic Boundary Street garden.
• Get up and dance. As long as you feed it, clothe it and bathe it, your body doesn’t much care what’s in your bank account but it does love a good shake. You know this already if you were at Picnic in the Park, where Eddie Wilson and his stringed geniuses rocked the glorious moonlit sky. (That was me going all groupie–girl for my favorite local voices Jane Ogle and Christopher Blair.) The tunes: Free. Prancing around barefoot in the grass with 20,000 of my neighbors: Priceless.
• Be generous. Forget about money; give your time, your attention, your smile. You may not have the resources to bring someone above that numeric line, but kind words can raise spirits to the moon. No matter how annoying it sounds, a surefire antidote for feeling poor—and maybe even poverty itself—is to give freely that which is already free.