There’s a lot of noise being made about people jumping on the so-called poverty bandwagon. Apparently lots of highly successful, super affluent people had a tough start to life. Apparently they experienced poverty. Apparently they know the pain associated with the breadline. I say apparently because I am not them and cannot make comments on their lives. I can only talk about my own experiences and views on the world.
Poverty is no joke, and is all too real for too many. According to leading charities, 14 million people live in poverty in the UK. That’s approx. one in five of the population, which is made up of eight million working-age adults, four million children and two million pensioners. Eight million families living in poverty, where at least one person is in work. Think about that for one minute.
If you search #poverty on Instagram you’ll find over half a million posts. I honestly don’t have the words to articulate how I feel about this, but perhaps that’s part of the problem? Can everything in life really be summed up with a catchy, SEO optimised, Google friendly hashtag?
Poverty and dysfunction don’t have to go hand in hand
I have spoken about my dysfunctional upbringing since my very first blog post on here in 2013. I never talk about my childhood to jump on the poverty bandwagon, or stay relevant. I talk about it because it still affects my day to day now. I do not know a single person, not one, who escaped a traumatic childhood without war wounds. How deep the scars run varies, but no-one gets away scot-free.
We can stick our broken pieces back together. We can have all the counselling in the world. We can write until we own the word catharsis. We can do everything in our power to break self-destructive behaviour cycles. Ultimately though, whether we like it or not, our past is a part of us. Making peace with it will help us heal, but it won’t erase the memories of it.
Dysfunction stems from not dealing with our demons and allowing them to overtake our lives. Dysfunction occurs regardless of the size of our bank accounts. None of us are immune to negative cycles turning into serious dysfunction. It’s up to us all to be self-aware enough to either stop things spiralling out of control, or admit when things have spiralled and seeking help.
Some of the kindest, most generous people I’ve had the privilege to know throughout the years have been dirt poor. Poverty doesn’t stop you from being a good, kind hearted person. Just as money doesn’t stop others from being mean spirited and unkind. We all have a moral compass and can choose to tune in or out to it.
Poverty certainly doesn’t stop us from being the best parents who ever walked the planet. Love is free of charge, after all.
Lack of financial wellness
In April 2008 I had to declare bankruptcy. At the time it was a truly horrendous experience – degrading, humiliating and soul destroying. However, it forced me to take a long hard look at my relationship with money. Toxic doesn’t come close. No-one had ever taught me about financial wellness. I had zero idea of the impact on my mental health that being in debt from the day I could legally have a credit card would have.
Had I not gone bankrupt I might still have ridiculous and snobby views on buying things second hand. These days pretty much everything I buy comes from charity shops or selling sites. I’m not ashamed for my kids to wear clothes that have been kindly passed on to them, and they love knowing their friends wore it before them.
When I was a kid we had loan sharks who preyed on those with little cash to lend small amounts of money at extortionate rates. Nowadays they are on almost every high street in the form of pay day loans. I’ve often wondered how many are being kept in poverty because of them. That’s a whole other blog post though.
Poverty is not glamorous
Whilst I have never experienced living poverty as a parent, living through it as a child was very valid. Yes it was a different era, but no electricity or food in the cupboards on a regular basis was pretty tough going. Sleeping on floors at fifteen years old. Being exploited working underage. Having dirty old men ply me with booze and try to take advantage of me every week. Do I honestly think these things would have happened if I’d come from a “nice and wholesome” middle classed family? I doubt it very much indeed.
Right now, today, I live a comfortable life. I don’t have to stress about where my next £10 is coming from. Whose to say this will always be the case, though? I am all too aware that falling into poverty could happen to most of us. I’m not setting up a hashtag, or going on a crusade, but I will continue to donate to women’s refuges and food banks and hygiene banks. I’ll still take food to homeless people and carry on trying to help in any way I can. Be it spreading the word on social media about a crisis campaign or not buying Christmas presents and donating what I would have spent.
Great things can happen when people put their heads together
Scotland recently announced they would make sanitary products available for all students, let’s hope the rest of the UK follows suit. This incredible initiative would have never happened if girls and women had stayed silent about their situation, and carried on putting up and shutting up month after month.
There are success stories all over the internet. Of people who experienced temporary poverty and turned to their local community for support. When communities help their own, it builds lasting foundations. It helps get to the root cause of problems, so cycles can be broken.
There are some absolutely amazing people making noise for those less fortunate, in a non-patronising, non-IG filtered way. If you honestly want to help, start by opening your eyes, and taking a proper look. This A-Z guide of grass roots charities is a great place to start.
If you want to do something good, don’t jump on the poverty bandwagon with second hand stories and tenuous links. It pisses people off, and takes away from the truly needy. If everyone has had it “really really hard”, then how do we know who genuinely has?
**many thanks to Unsplash.com for the gorgeous, copyright free, free to download photos**