Sunday, June 19, 2011

Being Poor With Flair: The First Step

And the first thing you have to do as a poor person (or a rich one, for that matter) in order to truly enjoy and get the most out of life is...

Grow up!

Okay, so maybe that's a bit harsh, since I assume that most of you really are adults, both in age and in maturity. However, each of us has some areas of growing to do, and I learned (usually the hard way) that if you're poor, and if you want to enjoy life despite being poor, and even more so if you want to escape the maze of poverty, you need to really put some effort into the process of self improvement.

I've learned over the last couple of decades that despite the fact that many of my woes were caused by the actions or inactions of outside persons or forces, and despite the fact that there were and are lots and lots of people and organizations out there who want to help me, there is only one person in the entire universe who has the power to change my life for the better.

And that person is me.

I have to take responsibility for my own life and my own problems, no matter how or by whom they were caused.

I've known, and still know, a lot of poor people in my life. Those who are most unhappy with their situation and most stuck are those who spend their days blaming others for their predicaments. Instead of acting to make a better future for themselves, they react to negative situations without thinking, often going from one disaster to a worse one.

I'm disabled. My brother hacked my bank account and stole all my money. The company I worked for folded and there are no other jobs around here that pay enough to support me in the lifestyle I'm accustomed to living. I lost a bundle on the stock market when it crashed. My wife took the kids, the house, and half my paycheque...

You get the drift. There are countless ways the world knocks you down. You get hit by a car, and while you stumble around dazed, a freight train comes out of nowhere and flattens you. Life really isn't fair!

No, life isn't fair. It never has been, and never will be. So the first step in growing up and becoming an adult is accepting that fact, and learning to stop moaning about it.

Step two is realizing, deep down in your gut, that no one, absolutlely no one else on earth (except for God, if you believe in God), cares more about your future than you do. If you won't do at least some of the work to help yourself, no one, not even God, can help you.

There's a joke about this: A woman (we'll call her Ruth) prayed to God daily that she would win the lottery. "God," she prayed, "I really need this money to pay of my student loans and my kids' student loans and my husband's credit cards and to help my daughter go to graduate school and to set up a trust fund for my disabled son."

Day after day, Ruth prayed earnestly to God.

Finally, she heard the voice of God replying to her earnest prayers.

"Ruth," God said. "Meet me halfway on this, will you? Go out and buy a ticket!"

Resolving to take responsibility for your life and to act on your own behalf after thinking through the alternatives is like buying a lottery ticket, with one very big difference.

The difference is that instead of having almost zero chance of winning, your chance of winning is 100%.

So go look in the mirror, and say to yourself, "Self, it doesn't matter whose fault it was that I'm where I am now. It doesn't matter how or why my life got broken. The only thing that matters is who's going to change things, who's going to fix things. And that who is me. Starting right this minute."


Anonymous said...

I've heard this message many times before but today it just resonated with me. Maybe I'm just ready to hear it now.

Thanks for posting.

Ruth Cooke said...

It took me a long time to hear it, too, but once I did, the difference in my life was astounding.

Good luck to you on your journey!