Uplift My Story
There are two kinds of poverty: material and spiritual poverty.
Material poverty is what’s argued about inside the Beltway, such as the poor are defined as poor because they don’t have iPads or own a PlayStation. I’ve heard activists grumble because their communities have no Starbucks or Harris Teeters.
Material poverty can be solved not by federal programs or higher taxes, but by making personal sacrifices and prudent investment decisions.
Spiritual poverty is much more difficult to overcome. It is a mentality that’s born or develops inside you. I equate spiritual poverty to a pot of boiling crabs. As the water boils, the crabs try to crawl out by grabbing the legs of the other crabs until they all eventually fall in the boiling pot of hot water.
Whenever I hear others blame poverty on structural forces, I just want to unload — it’s utter nonsense. I’ve stayed at a shelter. What drove me out was not injustice, but the crab mentality. Too many people were relying on others to do things for them instead of taking the initiative to do things themselves. Some would degrade you for selling newspapers but then have the audacity to ask you for a couple of dollars. Others stay well-dressed but couldn’t rub two quarters together.
I grew up with a family that had no money, but they exposed me to a strong spiritual foundation. They taught me the little things, such as if you don’t borrow money, you won’t be in debt. Another lesson they taught me was that paying for something is more rewarding than having it handed down to you.
These principles got me through tough times. I had holes in my shoes but never felt compelled to rob someone over a pair of Air Jordans. My parents whipped my butt, but this didn’t drive me to join gangs or drop out of school.
There was a time when a drug dealer saw me digging through the trash for an apple, showed me three crisp hundred dollar bills and said if I ran a package for him it was mine. I told him, “Go to hell.”
I’d rather turn my back on a drug dealer than turn my back on my creator.
Tough times never last, but tough people do. I’ve been broke but I’ve never been broken. I grew up in a small town where a man survived on his wits. There were no great factories or job opportunities. My parents struggled but they would not allow us to blame external forces for their misery.
My parents never protested or joined mass movements. They were resourceful. The word “can’t” was never in our vocabulary. When hard times hit, my family didn’t sit around praying for sunshine. We would go out fishing and sell our catch to fish markets. During the winter, we would shovel snow or jump-start someone’s car.
What I learned from my parents was that when no opportunities exist, you create one. However, the mentality of my grandfather and the greatest generation doesn’t exist in today’s great land of ours.
Today, activists believe everything is a right, such as housing and healthcare. These arguments need to be debunked. If my father could commute hours to fix cars, why can’t an unemployed person from Ward 8 go across the bridge to fill out job applications or sell newspapers?
Once upon a time, when opportunities vanished, people didn’t sit on their musty dusties demanding entitlements. They went to where the opportunities were.
My family was part of the great black migration. My grandfather grabbed his family and moved from Georgia to Ohio, while my father traveled from Ohio to New York, eventually settling in New Jersey. I know many immigrant children whose parents did the same thing when the going got rough. They kept moving until opportunities were opened for them.
In Washington there is an entitlement mentality. People are like babies with a rattle, demanding everything under the sun: jobs, housing, paid vacations… It seems like nobody wants to exercise self-discipline, save their money and purchase something through hard work, sweat and toil.
Many of these activists blame everyone else for their failures. It is corporate greed, Republicans or the white man. However, I wonder what capitalist tells someone to purchase a home that they can’t afford, or what racist is so ingenious as to tell a woman to have multiple children with different fathers..
I’ve been homeless but I’ve never been helpless. I don’t speak from an ivory tower. I’ve been there.
Our city is changing, and I don’t care for gentrification anymore than the activists. However, the poor shoot themselves in the foot when they engage in behaviors that reinforce common stereotypes of them.
No one will be compelled to provide more services or better living conditions to someone selling drugs on the corner or drunk in the park.