I took The Challenge. I clicked on SPENT, an online simulation of living life in the poverty zone.
There’s no way to win at life, get ahead, to make the ‘ethical’ choice when the decisions you have to make always come back down to — will I have enough money to pay the rent, buy food to feed my children, pay their school fees, pay insurance, utilities and get to my minimum wage job on time.
At one point in the game, while driving my children to school, I hit an icy patch and my car slid into a parked car causing damage. I had a choice. Stop. Try to find the owner. Leave a note. Get the kids to school and be late for work (which would cost me precious money). OR. Leave the scene and hope no one saw me. Except my kids of course. They were watching from the back seat. Tracking every move I took. Learning from every decision I made.
Sure, in my non-poverty defined real life, I wouldn’t drive away. I would be accountable.
But in my real life, I have more than $326 left in the bank to take me to the end of the month 20 long days away. I earn more than $9.00 an hour.
In my real life, I have resources, resilience, possibilities.
In SPENT, I lasted 11 days before I hit bottom. And even then, if my life had been circumscribed by longterm exposure to poverty, I may not have chosen to pay for my kids field trip because that $15 made a difference between milk and bread on the table for the week, or not. And maybe I would have bought a new shirt for work when I spilt bleach on it while helping the dishwasher. At least then I wouldn’t have lost a day’s pay because my boss sent me home for ‘bad attitude’. And maybe…
That’s the challenge of poverty. “Maybe tomorrow will be better” is never an option. The decisions today are between one hard rock place and losing it all. There’s no soft landing, no cushion. There’s only rock bottom, every day.
In the game, when I spent out, I didn’t worry about what happened to my kids when we didn’t have a roof over our heads. Or all my stuff, at least the stuff I was able to salvage when I lost my home and had to move to a rental apartment. It was just a game.
But what about in real life? What really happens?
Yup. Poverty Sucks.
It sucks the life, hope, possibility out of daily living turning it into a daily grind against hard rock places that will not give you a break.
What about you? Can you beat poverty?