Being Poor, Part Two

Part one is here.

You really need to read it to get the full feel for just how poor we were. As a reminder to those of us who need reminders of things we read more than two minutes ago- we were broke and I broke one of two eggs we had to eat for the next 24 hours.

It is so long ago that I can’t remember anymore if it was that same day or the next day that I let my husband talk me into applying for food-stamps. This was something I never expected to do in my life, and I was deeply ashamed. I felt horrible going into the office, I felt humiliated about receiving state aid. Not, however, humiliated enough to tell my parents or our church just how broke we really were.

The social worker who did our paperwork hummed Amazing Grace while he wrote down our information and did his calculations. When he finished, he looked at us and asked in amazement, “This is impossible. How on earth have you made it this long on this tiny income? What else are you doing?”

I could not tell him. We kept careful records during that time- at least, as careful as we could. Of course, not much money was coming in, so it wasn’t very much of a burden to sit down and keep the family books.
We tithed all through this period. About twice a month my mother would come by and quietly leave a twenty dollar bill on the counter. Two dollars of that went back into the collection plate. The rest was most often our grocery money. If we so much as found a dime in the street, we picked it up, wrote it down in our book, and made a note that we needed to add one cent to our weekly offering at church. I do not share this to brag about ourselves, but to offer an experience that runs counter to our cultural norms. I am sure that nobody at our church or in our extended family expected us to tithe under these circumstances, but we did. Incidentally, you can find quite a bit of change in the street if you don’t have a car so you must walk everywhere you go.

Later I would look back on our little bookkeeping records and note with surprise that we always spent more money than we had coming in, yet we were not in debt. I cannot say where the extra money came from. We paid our bills, and, until that fateful moment of the broken egg, we put food on the table.

Meanwhile, our hymn humming social worker wanted to know how we were managing to survive on the income that we had, and we wanted to know where our next meal was coming from.

That will be part three.

Part one is here.
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

Readers may also be interested in ‘Do Foodstamps Make You Fat?’

This entry was posted in frugalities, Who We Are. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  1. tootlepip
    Posted October 22, 2005 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    Your story is a great testimony of how God takes care of his people.


  2. B. Durbin
    Posted October 22, 2005 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Ah, yes. “God’s math.” That’s how my parents’ church’s food kitchen works— full portions always doled out, and nobody looks too closely to see if what comes in equals that which goes out.

    Of course, 20 years in, the books are doing just fine, but I’m told that in the beginning it was occasionally a moment of prayer and hope.

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