The Stars are the Diamonds of the Poor - Part 1 of 3

“The stars are the diamonds of the poor. The rich, in their shame, hide their diamonds in vaults because theirs can’t compare with the heavenly ones.” Italian Proverb

One of the key issues people with disabilities face on a daily basis is being poor. We live in a society where money has become “the report card” of adults. So I’ve begun asking people with disabilities their thoughts about what not having money means to them, both the curses and the gifts. In this three part series, I’ll report what I’ve heard. First the tough things: some irritating, some soul-destroying.

• No extras: No cable, framing pictures, bath salts, air conditioning.

• You can’t buy justice. Any legal trouble and you’ve got a public defender.

• No vacations or traveling to the beautiful places you’ve dreamed about.

• No buying beautiful or expensive things that are always in the catalogs.

• Not being able to afford to do sports that are expensive: golf, skiing.

• Not having expensive hobbies or collecting nice things.

• Not having quality food to eat. No delicacies with food stamps.

• Not having nice or new clothes to wear. Marshall Fields, forget it.

• Not having the best health-care, and having to wait for it.

• No long distance, you have to call collect. You can lose connections.

• Embarrassment and shame at being poor, saying you have no job.

• Planning ahead for Metro Mobility is hard.

• Can’t buy a good or new car, only junkers at best, and a ticket or tow or breakdown will financially crush you.

• Waiting for and taking the bus is cold, time consuming, and flat-out dangerous.

• Just try figuring out where you’re going to want to be three weeks in advance. It’s like NASA planning a Voyager mission.

•No money or clothes for fancy restaurants. Crummy, fattening junk food.

•It’s hard to date someone new with no car for wining and dining.

• Always having used things. Nothing new or owned just by you.

• No puppies or kittens, because you can’t afford food and vet visits.

• Not being able to afford advanced education, classes or tutors.

• Not being able to see theater or baseball games or live concerts.

• No money to just plain “blow.”

• Being ashamed to go to church because of the collection plate.

• Always having to budget every stupid little thing.

• Can’t buy nice presents for loved ones, so ashamed at Christmas and birthdays.

• Can’t pay my way to do things with friends with money.

• Can’t buy musical instruments or new CDs, and get sick of the radio.

• No computer or internet access. That puts you one down in today’s world.

• Being afraid to go off assistance. You have to give up so much to get on it, and it’s your only security.

• You aren’t looked at as a person of “substance.” You’re looked down on.

• You don’t have the same sense of safety if something, anything, goes wrong. No backup or cushion something to fall back on.

• You can’t afford children or daycare or nice things for them if you have them.

• You can’t make extra money or you’ll lose your medical that you can’t live without. You get in a terrible trap.

• You can’t get credit, or a credit card, so you can’t rent a car or a motel room, or borrow money to invest to make money or buy anything to establish credit. It’s the ultimate Catch-22.

• It’s hard to stay positive when you’re always afraid, always under stress.

• Not having a beautiful home of your own. Having to always rent a little apartment, with paper-thin walls so no privacy. Cheap doors so no sense of safety. No way to even paint it the color you like or make it “yours.”

• Always having to dress like you’re racing in the Iditarod because you have to keep the heat low in the winter.

• You can’t crank the stereo and dance, and no room to dance if you wanted to.

• No garden of your own with flowers or tomatoes, no garage or storage for a car or gardening tools.

• No nice furniture or bookshelves or books. Not even a decent, comfortable bed to sleep on.

• What do you do when you wake up from a nightmare and your life is worse than the bad dream?

• Sometimes hard to even love or be loved.

• It takes so much time and energy and thought and fear just getting by day to day, every day, that it’s hard to have dreams for yourself, hard to read a book, or think about your life or plan for the future.

Hang in there. Next month is Part Two, the wonderful gifts that can come.

Pete can be contacted at PFeigal@aol.com