While you’re in school, certain classes, certain lessons, stick with you. You remember a particular person in history, or a particular formula or math equation, a certain poem you can still recite. I don’t know why one thing sticks while so many others are forgotten – something about it sparks a flame inside your mind, and it stays lit for years.
One such lesson for me came in a community college course I took called “Social Problems.” In that class, we studied sociological, economic, political, and environmental issues that we face, some of us daily. I had a great professor, and I think that’s key in lessons sticking with you. He was intelligent, personable – he was very much “one of us.” He was young, and cute, come to think of it…maybe that’s why I remember him. 😉
Anyway, the one thing that stuck with me in this class was a film we watched. In it, this couple, very poor, could not afford to feed their three kids and themselves. They would periodically give up one or two kids to the foster system, so that they would be taken better care of, so that they could eat. I thought that was very noble of them…until I found out that both parents were two-pack-a-day smokers.
You know what? IF YOU QUIT SMOKING YOU COULD AFFORD TO FEED YOUR KIDS!
People struggle. I can bitch and moan all day that I’m struggling, being unemployed, but I know that others struggle much, much more than I do. I know that I don’t know what poor is. I don’t know what struggle is. I think most people who “struggle” also have no real concept of the word.
ABC’s The Middle is about a middle class family in the Midwest. It’s a cute little show, with the working parents, the academically challenged child, the socially awkward child, and the bright but quirky child. They are the typical middle-class family, struggling to raise good kids, keep their marriage together, pay bills, work their jobs, and get dinner on the table.
In this week’s episode, the mother accidentally buys a $200 jar of eye cream, thinking it cost $20, which she already thought of as exorbitant. She knows her husband will be upset, and he is, but, we find out, not because she made the mistake she made. He’s upset because a $200 mistake means they both have to take a second job. He’s upset because he doesn’t want to be in a position where that small of an amount, $200, makes that big of a difference to their finances. He thinks they should be old enough, have learned enough and saved enough and be making enough, that $200 isn’t a big deal.
It was a great episode, and I think a lot of people, especially these days, are in the same boat, where a $200 mistake is a big deal.
But here’s where I tie all this together: Being the “typical middle class family,” their dinner regularly consists of fast food. The mother very rarely cooks, because, like the typical middle class mother, she doesn’t have the time or energy after a long day of work. And I just flash back to that video of the smoking parents, and I think, Maybe if you didn’t buy fast food all the time, a $200 mistake wouldn’t be as big of a deal.
Of course, the fact that they were eating Popeye’s Chicken at the end of this episode, making me incredibly jealous because I can’t get Popeye’s Chicken where I live, has nothing to do with my angst. 🙂