Thursday, December 4, 2008

"For you have the poor always with you . . ."

. . but when do you know you are one of them? My title today is part of the bible verse from Matthew 26:11. I think about this often these days. You'd have to be living under a rock to escape the realization that we're in some kind of economic recession. Some days I even wonder whether it will end before we see a modern version of this:

The photo is from 1928. Interesting, exactly 80 years ago. Maybe it's a cycle. Doesn't really matter, though, does it?

I have to start by saying that never in my life have I considered myself to be "affluent." There were difficult times as a single parent but no time in which I needed to resort to welfare or charity beyond my own family. And I've been very spoiled for a number of years now. My husband started the spoiling and I quickly learned to participate in it myself. And let's face it, the meaning of "poor" is so very relative.

Lately I've been obsessing about, of all things, my toenails. I had my last pedicure before we moved to Illinois at the beginning of October. Of course it's the french pedi so it's not all that evident to the casual observer that I'm beginning to grow talons. Costs a little more but it's SO worth it! I've been avoiding getting a pedicure because, frankly, I just don't want to spend the money. I know, I know, it's only $30 or so. But we've been having to "tighten the belt" following four months of unemployment earlier this year. And the transfer to Illinois for two years has required us to rent -- for everyone knows one can't sell a house in Florida right now without a loss. So here we are with rent on top of the FL mortgage and double the utilitie bills. The FL house still has to be heated or cooled, right? The irrigation system still has to run in order to maintain the landscaping. And since we're not there we have the additional expenses of pool and landscape maintenance, things we used to take care of for ourselves. Boo hoo. I hear 'ya.

Today I was at the grocery store filling up the cart with the normal food items, the deli sliced ham, the Dove chocolates, the Christian Brothers brandy and eggnog combo. It was in the bread aisle that I encountered two women, seemingly strangers, talking about the high price of bread, of all things. As I passed them one said to the other "Oh, well, I guess we'll have to wait on that." Imagine going to the grocery store and one of the items on your list, bread, has to wait because it is too expensive. I wanted to buy the bread for her and perhaps I should have offered but at the time I thought she would be embarassed.

It's something to think about for most of us, I'm sure. Yeah, I know you believe you deserve that daily beverage from Starbuck's. There are/were 262 working days in 2008 for those of you who have to make a living (just kidding). Let's say you didn't go for the $14, 13 shot venti soy hazelnut vanilla cinnamon white mocha with extra white mocha and caramel. Still, are you really sure you deserved that daily Venti Mocha for, maybe, $5? Or do you more deserve the $1,300 and change you would have still had at the end of the year? Yes, of course I realize you cut back to going out to dinner only once a week and you just get the quick car wash instead of the full detailing. As I said, "poor" is all relative.

All of this thinking about the economy and our personal expenses has led me to a lightbulb moment. When did I forget how to use a nail clipper? When did I become unable to paint my own toes? What a revelation!


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