My Name is Poverty

My Name is Poverty

Hi. I am ten years old. My name is Poverty. I have also been called Hungry, Cold, Alone, Homeless––just to mention a few of my nicknames. I was sitting at a friend’s house the other day, when I overheard my friend’s mother talking, with her friend, about some new government thoughts on putting this HST tax on food and drugs, and lifting its exemption off other things that are now exempt.
The thing is, even though I am only ten, there are times that I feel I have lived at least twice that long.
My parents work hard, but there are not a lot of permanent jobs out there, anymore. Dad lines up at the employment agency every day, hoping to get a placement. Most days, he does, I think, but the wages are not the best, and he has no benefits to help us to pay for the medication that my little sister needs (and the government wants to add another 13% to drug costs, so I heard). If my sister does not have these drugs, she will die.
Mom can’t work outside the home anymore, because she has to look after my little sister. She was laid off from her last job, anyway. She tries to make extra money by taking in kids before and after school, and sometimes the odd kid for a day or two here and there, but it is never steady, and sometimes those children eat the food that should be going on our table, because my mom wants to make sure they are well looked after. Not that she doesn’t want to feed her own children a good meal; she just … well … yeah … I guess there are times I don’t understand.
I went to the food bank with my mom the other day. Dad wouldn’t go with her; he was too ashamed that he couldn’t provide for us. My dad doesn’t smile much anymore, and I have noticed he doesn’t walk quite as tall as he used to, either. I heard grandma tell grandpa that she was shrinking, something that happens when one gets older––but somehow I knew this wasn’t the reason my dad seemed to be shrinking.
Anyway, I heard some people talking when I was at the food bank. They were saying that if food gets taxed, it will probably affect the food donations. Plus, there would be more people needing the help, and whatever would they do. People’s generosity could only go as far as their pocketbook. Volunteer time, although good, doesn’t put a meal on the table.
Mom took my sister and me to a Community Supper that one of the local churches puts on. Once again, my dad didn’t join us. My mom asked if she could have a meal to take home to him. I noticed how downcast her eyes were, and the redness of her cheeks, when she asked. These kinds of meals are becoming a habit, now, for me and my mom, and my little sister; however, last week when we went to one of the regular ones on the list, I overheard the lady who was spooning out the vegetables, say to the lady who was spooning out the potatoes, that she was not sure how long they were going to be able to keep the community dinner going if the government taxed food. It was already difficult, sometimes, finding enough food to feed the hungry masses that passed through on a weekly basis.
I came home from school the other day and saw my mom crying at the table. I hung back in the hallway, not wanting to impose. Dad was sitting there too. I wanted to cry when I saw the lost look on his face. Scattered in front of them, on the table, were some open envelopes and sheets of paper. I heard dad say there was nothing more he could do; there were just no jobs out there. He told my mom to think of all the factories that have shut down; there were thousands of people out of work. Dad said he would call the hydro and gas company, and see if they would accept a minimal payment until he could find work. He didn’t know what else he could do. My mom just kept crying.
I went up to my room and shut the door. I looked around. It didn’t bother me that much that I didn’t have all the nice things some of the kids at school had; I was used to going without. I didn’t want to complain, either, because I didn’t want mom and dad feeling any worse than they already did. Christmas presents had been sparse last year, and I saw the look in my parent’s eyes. There had been no presents under the tree for either of them. I also knew that the big presents my sister and I got had come from the Christmas Basket Program. With everything I had been hearing lately, about a tax on food, and stuff, I wondered if there would be presents next Christmas. I didn’t really care for myself, but my little sister would be disappointed. She didn’t understand. I would tell mom just to put her name on the list. That way, maybe we would get at least one present. I would be eleven on my next birthday, so I would be okay.
Talking of birthdays, I usually make up an excuse not to go to birthday parties because I know my mom can’t afford to buy a present for my friends. Usually, I don’t even tell her about the invitations, so she won’t feel bad. A couple of friends tell me just to come anyway. They are good friends. One friend’s mom gave me a bag of clothes to take home to my mom. It was full of treasures for me and my little sister, and there were a couple of things in there for my mom too. She cried.
Dad finally got a job yesterday––and it wasn’t from the Temp Agency. I thought things might be looking up for us, until I heard my dad tell my mom that he knew it was just over minimum wages, but it was all he could get. At least it was a steady job, and he would try to find something else, part-time, to do in the evenings. Guess I won’t be seeing much of my dad if that happens.
Maybe, I can get a paper route, but I think I live too far from the drop off spot for the papers, and we don’t have a car anymore. I would have no way of getting the papers, and I don’t have a wagon to carry them in, either. Maybe, I can mow some lawns for the neighbours this summer. Old Mrs. Jones gives me five dollars to shovel the sidewalk in front of her house, when it snows, but we haven’t had much snow this winter. She does have a bit of a yard; maybe she has her own lawnmower, and would give me five dollars to mow her lawn.
I saw a program the other day when I was at my friend’s house. It was about children in third world countries. I realized how much more I had than them, but you know, I am still only ten, and it is hard to understand when I don’t live there. But, I wonder, will that be my plight when this tax comes out?
I am ten years old. My name is Poverty. I have also been called Hungry, Cold, Alone, Homeless––just to mention a few of my nicknames.

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