In four months I've come to realize how little I actually understood what it must be like to live in poverty. I always knew that being evicted would suck, but I just thought, well they'll just have to get a new place. Somehow it never occurred to me that if one is being evicted for not paying rent, they almost surely aren't going to have enough money to put down a security deposit on a new place. I also didn't fully appreciate how awful a money judgment can be for someone. Should our clients ever get a good paying job or come into some money it doesn't really help because they owe so many people money.
I did a lot of complaining about the job market and my struggles finding a job, but it really was nothing when compared against what my clients' go through on a regular basis. For one I had food and shelter during the time I was looking for a job. I had family I could live with for free if I couldn't find a job. And any job I found, no matter how much I complain about my low public interest salary, pays far beyond what my clients could hope to make.
I got all this because of my privileged upbringing. Sure I worked hard in school and I like to think I'm pretty smart, but without my family there is no way I'd be here. No way I would have worked multiple part time jobs to put myself through school. No way I would have been able to handle raising a child while going to school. I'm not only privileged, I'm weak.
As 2010 starts I'm trying to get a better understanding of what life must be like for my clients. I've decided to see if I can go an entire month without buying anything but food and necessities (i.e. toilet paper). Should be easy, but I love to shop, have a new house to decorate and have been reading books and magazines like crazy. Now I don't think this will give me any real insight into what my clients go through (after all I'm still going to be buying fresh local food and organic products whenever possible), but it will hopefully make me think more about the things I buy and the money I spend. Maybe make me appreciate how much I have.