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Poverty Is Not Pretty

Jim's vehicle won't be ready until Thursday night, but I'm just going to assume Friday morning to manage everyone's expectations (including my own). I've extended him at the hotel through Friday morning (total on the extra days is $236.70). I did ask if there were any other vehicles that would be suitable so we didn't have to wait until Friday, but there really aren't. I know from my own experience, and from the experiences of friends who've recently purchased used cars, that it's very hard to get a used Honda or a Toyota. They usually go pretty quickly. And given Jim's circumstances, there are relatively few models we could go with.

The folks at the dealership apologized and said they didn't realize that the vehicle needed so much work. Apparently it needs 26 or 27 hours worth of service, including the timing belt and the water pump, which we did decide to go ahead and get done now so Jim doesn't have to worry about major maintenance for many, many years.

These past few days of this journey haven't been pretty, I know. But extreme poverty isn't pretty. It's not glamorous. It's hard and it's expensive and it's dirty and it takes the life out of you. For those of us feeling less than ebullient right now (including myself), imagine how Jim must feel after years on the street.

Linda Tirado vividly details the tribulations of poverty in her book Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America, I try to read it every year to remind myself of the problems people face and how challenging it can be to get out of poverty.

I am very lucky that I am intelligent and was healthy enough to join the Marine Corps. Because of those two blessings, I was able to attend and afford college, then head off to grad school. Because of my education, I have a fantastic job and a great boss (who's been very kind about letting me take time off to help Jim out).

But not everyone has those kind of advantages. Not everyone can envision a way out of the circumstances into which they were born. Everyone makes dumb mistakes, but some people's dumb mistakes are more permanent than others--or they get caught by the wrong person making those dumb mistakes.

I remember when I first moved to Columbus, I met a dental student who talked about the prejudices faced by people with bad teeth--they have fewer job prospects and therefore less opportunities than people who have attractive teeth. I never even thought about the fact that my teeth (which are pretty good) may have set me up for better jobs, and I more or less forgot about what he said until Ms. Tirado detailed her own dental issues after a disfiguring car accident.

Poverty is very expensive.


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