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Poverty Poverty
by Judy Eichstedt
2007-08-19 09:52:43
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I remember the very first time my family and I were evicted. My husband had lost his job a year before and the unemployment had run out. We had a yard sale where we sold everything we had worked so hard to get for next to nothing - our washer and dryer, the kitchen table and the living room furniture. We even sold the beds and slept on the floor. It was hard to watch everything go and yet with six children we knew we had to do what ever it took in order not to be homeless.

I pretended that it did not bother me and that we could always buy it back when we got on our feet. However when you live in a house and it's empty it’s a constant reminder that you are in deep trouble. At night I cried myself to sleep. I told my kids not to worry that everything would be ok. Yet in truth I did not really believe things would get better. It was a shock to my system that without warning we could just end up in the evil grip of poverty.

The loss of our things paid most of our rent at least for another month. The landlord was not happy at all. He warned us that we had better have all the rent and the balance of last month's rent as well or else. We knew that it would mean eviction. That whole month we did odd jobs but earned very little. I took in ironing but some people did not pay. My husband did yard work and hauling but was paid very little. My kids and I went out every day and found cans and bottles to return for the deposit. All our efforts failed and we just could not come up with enough money to pay the whole rent.

Fear seized hold of me and never have I felt like this in all my life. Every time there was a knock on the door I froze solid. My god I would say it must be the landlord hear to kick us out. Quickly I told my children not to say a word and to be still so who ever it was would just go a way. I felt like a crimal hiding out from the police. The drapes in the house were all ways closed so nobody would no we were home. At night we only had candles to light the way because the power had been shut off because we could not pay the bill.

Weeks went by and the stress we all felt was mounting as my husband and I begin to argue about everything. What are we going to do I would yell. I don’t know what else to do he would scream back. We were falling apart and it felt like our world as we new it was coming to an end. We were so scared and did not want to end up homeless.

In the end we were evicted and begin living in our car. Eight people piled into one car. There was no kitchen to cook a hot meal and no living room to sit back and relax and no bathroom to take a hot bath. We parked mostly in rest areas outside of town and sometimes in the parking lots of stores and schools. We thought we would be safe there at night and could sleep. Sleeping I learned to do without it because it was impossible to fall asleep sitting upright. The nights were cold and fear never left us alone.

We ate out of garbage cans and sometimes found good stuff to eat - some cheese that we cut off the green on it and bread that still seemed ok. Sometimes some rotten fruit and a few times there were some pasties. We just did what we had to do. I prayed that none of us would get sick eating out of the garbage. It was horrible to fight the flies for supper.

As we lived in our car we had to deal with people who, for what ever reason, thought being homeless was funny. Some looked into our car at us and just laughed while others pointed their fingers at us and called us bums. Many times some would scream at us to get off the streets or we don’t want you here. Some of the names we were called I would not ever repeat. When we had nothing to eat my husband would stand out with a sign and people would throw cups of coke on him or a half-eaten hamburger. Once he was chased by a couple of teens and I thought for sure they were going to beat him up or worse. All this abuse because were were poor and for no other reason.

I called friends and family and begged for help as many who are homeless do. The same people I once ate dinner at their homes and walked our kids to school together now acted like they did not even know us. I can't begin to tell you how badly that hurt. Yet nobody wants to know you if you are poor and homeless. It’s as if being poor you lose your right to be a human being.

When nothing worked out and we had spent months living in a car we worked our way from Oregon to Tulsa. We heard there was work there. We found a shelter that we lived at for a week. I had never been in a homeless shelter and it was heartbreaking to say the least. There were so many people who had nowhere to belong; young and old, all forgotten and thrown away. All I could do is cry. People huddled together like cattle. At night at the shelter I heard the women crying and the children asking when they could go home. How do you explain to kids that you have no home to go to?

I wondered if we would ever escape the bondage of poverty if every night this shelter was packed full. Dose anyone ever escape, it worried me greatly. I saw the look in the eyes of all the people at the shelter and they were filled to the brim with pain. I saw that same look in my own eyes. I knew in my heart that I would never be able to forget all of this suffering and would remember it always.

Life in a homeless shelter was like nothing I had ever experienced in all my life. They had a payphone in the lobby where people lined up and called friends and family to plead for help. The looks on their faces when they hung up the phone said it all without using a single word. Nobody would help them. There was eating beside stranger who was as fearful as you were, each wanting to just get out of the shelter but with no place to call home you had to stay. Hopes being stripped away with each passing day as many left the shelter without any other place to go.

Our luck changed and I believe that God knew my family and I could take no more and sent help our way. A woman had offered a job to my husband and a tiny apartment for us to live. It was the first time in many months of great hardship and darkness that a little light began to show through. It was hard to say the least as we worked hard to pick up the pieces and put our lives back together. In fact it took a few years before we were back on our feet. I have never forgotten what it is like being poor and homeless.

It does not matter where you live because I am sure everyone knows that people are suffering in poverty in every city and state and yes every country. We see the homeless on the streets and we quickly pass them by as if they are not even there. We condemn and judge them without realizing the pain they suffer. They are human beings who are lost and are hoping to be found.

Think twice the next time you pass by a homeless person because it could one day be you. You can’t go wrong helping out another person. Love and kindness goes a very long way. Take the time to reach out to another in need with what ever help you have to offer. We change the world by changing our hearts.

Visit my new website at www.wearysouls.com


  
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Paparella2007-08-19 12:01:19
Poverty is like punishment for a crime one didn't commit. Francis of Assisi chose it voluntarily as his Lady Poverty. To do that one is a masochist, or a romantic, or a lunatic, or a saint, or perhaps a combination of the four or all four. Take your pick.




Thanos2007-08-19 12:05:31
Reading something like this from Judy you feel somehow ...speechless and defenceless. I have this feeling that this article should be there every day so more and more people can read it.


Alan2007-08-19 22:15:50
I don't know what to say!!!


Matt Williamson2007-08-19 23:24:22
Beautiful work Judy. It inspires compassion.


Asa2007-08-20 11:11:15
Extremely touching.


Jack2007-08-21 03:05:23
Paparella put it well in his recent article about Dr. Z. "...people and events seem to be tied together at some fundamentally uncanny and providential level".

Part of my bio includes raising funds for a Homeless Drop In Center, Shelter, Kitchen,Clothier, etc.in Wichita, Kansas. I appreciate your passion for the poor.

You are so right when you said "We change the world by changing our hearts". Your article has changed mine. Thank you.


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