Poor - quotes and descriptions to inspire creative writing
There is all the difference in the world between helping another soul and exploiting their hardship for your own gain and deceiving yourself that they are the same. To feed the hungry is very different from asking them to work such long hours that they are denied a family life, good health or enough of themselves to pursue their own passions and curiosities. Love heals and helps; greed masks itself as help yet enriches itself at the expense of the other. One brings happiness, the other hardship. The rudder of our collective ship is not in the hands of the poor, it never was.
Maya slumped against the wall, feeling the bumps of the archaic wood-chip wallpaper dig through her t-shirt. She looked down at the picture that had once been a vibrant union jack. Without lifting it to the light that struggled through the window pane she could see her skin below. She turned to watch the street for signs of the gangs, she couldn't stay in all day, she had to get to Micky's before sun-down. It was hard to see through the cracks that distorted the outside world in their spider-web way. She could only just make out the rain-drops she'd been hearing all morning through the grime. It looked empty enough, perhaps now was a good time. When she pulled her hand back from the cold aluminum frame the tips were black. Curious. On closer inspection the dark seal was covered in what she supposed was black mildew. With a quick wipe of her hands on the jeans she'd slept in it was time to find her keys. Her runners were already on her feet of course, she didn't want them stolen...
The window is single pane. It's old but not attractively so. It's just the kind they threw in twenty years ago expecting it to last fifteen at the most. Even inches away it's like standing in front of an open refrigerator. No matter how much heat I pump out from that three-bar gas fire it just flees out of the window or up the chimney. Last year we bought that thin plastic stuff that's supposed to make it double glazed, this year I spent the cash on a thicker coat at the thrift store. Doesn't make the skin on my face any warmer or stop the condensation that pools on the peeling ledge, but it made more sense at the time. Now at least I don't look so poor out on the street, unless they look closely at my shoes. But who does that? Who cares anyway?
Matthew slumped at the vinyl desk-for-one, flicking at the tape that peeled from the side to reveal the MDF board underneath. These plastic chairs were alright a few grades ago but now all the heights were wrong and it made his back ache. The teacher droned on, he wasn't quite sure what the topic was, some king or other. Someone dead. What felt like the back end of a pencil jabbed him in the shoulder blade. He turned, it was Tyler. "Wanna take a package tonight?" He knew exactly what was in it and his mother had told him not to, ever. But he also knew how much it paid and he was hungry 24/7. Growing up on food stamps wasn't easy for a boy heading over six feet tall. He imagined his mom eating her old favourite dinner, lemon chicken and thyme. It was just a parcel, wasn't like he was pushing them was it? He nodded once and Tyler sank back into his seat, returning to running his empire from his cell phone.
The cobblestones are wet with the night's rain and made slippery by the wintry temperature, casting the water film into ice. Edward's worn shoes slip and bend, were there any sharp edges he'd feel them though his thinning grey socks but these over-sized pebbles were pounded smooth by the Atlantic ocean long ago. The road is one carriage wide with slim pavements at the edge. As always he takes his chances with the traffic, walking in the middle of the street; a better choice he feels than receiving a bucket of sewage or bath-water from an upstairs window. The crocked houses that are build without gaps, save the odd alley to the long gardens behind. The homes are either redbrick with bare ivy tendrils reaching the rooftops or the tudor style, white with dark beams. He no longer notices the stench, or the sea air that mingles with it. He has no thoughts for yesterday or tomorrow. He only knows that he must reach his employer by dawn or his family won't eat today.
I know the season has fully turned when bath day is something to dread. In the fairer weather each week passes by less pointedly, marked only by the finer food we eat on a Sunday and by the long sermons in church. But in these long dark months of winter the usual tepidness of the wash is so icy that I'm left shaking and blue. There are weeks that I fake it, splash water on my chapped face and just wipe the worst grime from my hands and feet. I take the soap that has lost all trace of softness and rub it against the wooden metal tub. My hair I make just wet enough to pass mother's scrutiny and then keep it tight under a bonnet all week long. Then I pull on the next week's clothes, the ones I will wear 'till next Saturday evening, and they always feel so thin. In its utter coldness the fabric feels wet and steals even more of my precious body warmth. I want my sweater back but I'm not allowed it until I learn better manners...
Gordon got in and slammed the door to his bedsit harder than strictly necessary. He liked the sound it made, like it was telling the world to go to hell on his behalf. He stripped of his chef-whites and hung them on the back of the door before cracking a beer open and slamming a ready-made meal for one in the microwave and opening a family sized bag of corn chips and a shop-bought jar of salsa. Home wasn't for cooking, he had enough of that at work.
The pizza is one of those cheap ones mothers buy in bulk for quick meals, or at least mine does, maybe you're better fed. It's small, disappointingly so, perhaps four inches across. When I cut it from the clear plastic with my kid sister's school scissors I take a closer look. There is barely any cheese at all, it's a red disk of tomato puree with less cheddar than I'd put on a single cracker. The base is white of course, I'll digest that in a few seconds and be hungry again. Time to make this sucker gourmet. I open the fridge feeling like Gordon Ramsay, inspired, but with a fair measure of inner rage to find no cheese, no meat, just some wrinkly mushrooms. Dammit, I hate being poor. How am I supposed to keep my grades up on this crap? I open another four and put them in the oven, looks like the best me and Stacey are getting tonight.
Winston rested his head in his hands. What a night. Either someone screaming or car horns honking. He just needed an unbroken night and he'd be a new boy. The teacher was droning on about atoms, nucleus this, electron that, then a question directed right at him. He raised his red laced eyeballs from the graffiti on the desk to look at the bespectacled man in the tweedy suit. “Tut tut, no studying, Winston?” Study? Where? In their family's single motel room there was no place quiet and he wasn't allowed out after dark anyway. His brothers and sisters screamed, threw tantrums and the television droned on, looney tunes mostly. His fingers curled tightly around his pencil, he could to see the man's neck snapping in his mind and it felt good. He could feel his fist smashing into his nose, splattering red blood on the dirty walls. What an improvement that would be. But instead he just replied as if his jaw were wired shut.
Eddy didn't swim so much as drown slowly. Every few strokes he was swallowing the chlorinated water and within metres he was fully submerged. Sometimes his clawing back to the surface was so dramatic a lifeguard would appear next to him and drag him out. After another lecture about taking lessons his Mom had no money for he'd be allowed back in. Next summer he wanted to get on a full scholarship survival course, but swimming was mandatory. His teacher was YouTube and his trunks from the thrift store, but his determination was pure gold.
My family was as dysfunctional as it was large. My parents enthusiasm for procreation vastly outstripped their meagre budget. With each new sibling the resource pie got cut a little finer. By the time I was a teen, fast growing and hungry, I got the same meat portion as the toddlers. The rest of my plate was potatoes and peas - and never enough of either. It's true that we older kids learned more self-sufficiency and parenting skills than our more pampered peers, but for the most part we really just wanted our freedom. As soon as I could earn a buck I was buying my own food and some for my sibs too. I'd usher them up to a bedroom and we'd have a "big-kids only feast" away from the little ones. Afterwards our moods were better and we didn't mind reading bed-time stories so much or even helping to fold the stacks of laundry. Mostly Mom was just snippy, short tempered and constantly over-worked. Dad was stressed from being flat broke in a never ending sea of necessary expenses...
The roller-coaster was a lonely skeleton for three long seasons. The poles jutted into the sky-line no more vibrant than the naked winter trees. For some it was a promise of the summer to come, for some a reminder of the one just past. But for the children of the downtown core it was just a playground for the middle classes, a symbol of one more thing that was only for those with enough money to pay.
The child was scrawny with an oddly grown up look on her face. Though scrupulously clean, she was dressed in an odd assortment of worn and mismatched clothing. Her scruffy sandals looked out of place for a chilly autumn morning and her toes hung a good centimeter of more over their ends.
His saggy jowls gave him the appearance of one who has recently lost weight. The weathered lines on his craggy face seemed to be mirrored in the creases of his shabby grey clothes. His pants were worn and patched on one knee, the pant legs hung high on his ankles like a child who's recently grown several inches. His thin sweater was loose and baggy at the elbows, it had the appearance of clothing that's overdue for a wash.
The old man lifted his battered suitcase onto the overhead compartment. His weary frame slumped into the worn seat as the train jolted out of the station. Out of a cloth nap sack he pulled his meager lunch, one apple and two crackers. He nibbled them slowly despite the stabbing hunger pains that had wracked him since an equally pitiful breakfast. An icy blast flowed down the center of the carriage and right through his unseasonably thin clothing. He shivered and eyed the jackets of the other passengers with envy.
You can't tell from the clothes who's inside 'til they look up. They line-up for more clothes for hours and take the next parcel to come out of the window. Every thing is in extra large no matter what their size is so a length of rope is included to keep the pants from falling down, I've never seen a skinny roamer anyway. On the bench there's a jumble of sweat-pants and tweed jacket, both damp from the light rain. The head is under a baseball cap and the feet dangle sock-less in shoes about to fall off. We put down the bucket of breakfast sandwiches and call out, "Hey! Food!." He startles and sits in a split second, eyes wide and mouth hanging slack. He looks like my friend Joey when he gets a brain freeze. Then it hits me. He's about Joey's age, still suffering the last throws of acne. His hair was dyed black but now only the tips are, the rest is as brown as the wood he rests on. Jenny grabs a still warm foil wrapped cob and takes it over. "Thank you" tumbles from his numb lips...
And it became the fashion in those times for the rich to buy homes for the poor. They got them cheap and the charities made them beautiful inside and out. The homes were then either donated or put into long trusts so they would always be homes for those who needed them. It was true investing, investing in what really matters to our nation, our kids and their parents. As for accumulating interest? It did. But it was the right sort of interest, that in the wellbeing of our hearts and the mending our our society. As things turn out, a "Housing act" can be an "Act" of generosity and nothing to do with the law. I guess it became part of our "lore" instead, part of our instinct for fairness and doing right by each other. We all cried from happiness. There were back to back renovation shows on the television showing the homes that were made so lovely and with such love. We watched the families move in, the relief only a sense of home and security can bring. I think we were born anew in those times, everyone of all faiths and backgrounds "mucking in." Those were good times, that transition. We got to feel good again and that had been missing for too long. Nobody cared about the "rich list" anymore, the only list anyone talked about was the "homes or land donated list" and they were new superstars in their own way - the ones who chose giving and showed that love was the more powerful force within them.