Like lightning striking.
That’s how Linda Tirado described it. Writing the post, having it go viral, the book deal being offered.
All she’d wanted to do was let off a little steam. She’d wanted to respond and stick up for poor people. To explain that decisions that from the outside might look irresponsible or self-destructive might sometimes feel to the person making them like the only options.
She’s certainly angry about being poor, but she acknowledges that she’s partial to other people who are as well. They seem to live more realistically. They are also resourceful and creative. They are compassionate and generous. They are loyal and hard-working.
Yes, she knows that’s a generalization. She also knows that she generalizes rich people. She knows that there good and bad regardless of income.
But that’s really kind of her point.
That wherever you are is largely due to luck.
It’s not your strength of character, your virtues, or your abilities that got you where you are; at least not solely. Some people do bad things and make bad choices and good luck or circumstances smooth them over. Some people do good things and make good choices and bad luck and circumstances negate them.
And all of this, she reminds us, has a lot to do with money. Whether you have it or you don’t.
Money makes good decisions easier and bad decisions less catastrophic.
But whether you have money or not should not mean - does not mean - that you don’t get to be human. To have human desires for instance. From the simple like buying things you don't need to the more complex like deciding to have a family.
So she finds questions like why did you have kids if you’re poor, particularly galling.
Can we blame her?
As if people who, by the luck of the universe have the means are the only ones who are worthy of grappling with that very personal choice.
Oh, and that’s another point.
Poor people are, after all, people. They are no less worthy of our acknowledgment, respect, and gratitude. Because remember, she says, they are often doing the jobs that others don’t want to do and, therefore, have as vital a role in society as anyone else. More vital even.
So treat them as such, she demands.
Instead of looking down on them because we think we can, treat them with humanity because we should. Instead of behaving as if they are disposable, remember that they have a right to fairness and dignity because well all do.
And mostly, I think, especially if we've had a little luck, to keep in mind that it could easily have gone the other way. That we are not special because of it.
That good luck or bad is not what gives us value and speaks nothing of who we are.
Inspired by Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America, by Linda Tirado