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National Editorials & Columns

I’m grateful to live in the USA but remember those who have much less

Literacy pervades all our life, either because we enjoy it or because it causes us problems to be solved. 

I came across an article that I saved from 1994 by “Freedom From Hunger”, the U.N. Food and Agriculture magazine.” I doubt much has changed since then.  Today, as a citizen of the U.S.A. we have many fears and many of them are real ones. What we may not realize is that we have the solutions if we are willing to give up some freebies, if we are willing to hold elected officials accountable, and if we are willing to be involved. We forget how fortunate we are to be U.S. citizens by birth or naturalization.

The article suggested we take time to close our eyes and place ourselves in much of the world’s population. First it suggests we picture our home. We need to take out our furniture, yes even those sentimental pieces inherited from our ancestors. We keep a few old blankets, a kitchen table, maybe a wooden chair, but no bed.  The blankets on the floor make our bed. 

Next we clear our closets.  Each person in the family keeps the oldest outfit plus a shirt and pair of pants. Only one head of the household owns a pair of shoes. You can’t microwave anything for you not only don’t have one, but you have no other appliances.  You do have a box of matches, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a handful of onions, and a dish of dried beans.  There is no fast food or even restaurants and you had best rescue those moldy potatoes from the garbage can; those are tonight’s meal.

Now, dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, take out wiring, lights, and everything that runs on electricity.  Actually, your house is gone so you live in the toolshed. Don’t feel too bad because when you look around you see only shacks in place of all the other houses in the neighborhood.

I don’t know if I could cope with all that but here is what hurts me big time.  I have to cancel all my newspapers and magazines and throw out my books. Of course if this scenario were true, why would I need them, because I would be illiterate? Thankfully, in this new setting we aren’t completely without outside technology as one radio serves our entire community.

At least we won’t be standing in line demanding services, because there are no postal, fire or government services. The two-classroom school is three miles away.  Only one of our children can go, so which one gets the privilege?  Health is so important to learning, but it is hard when there is no hospital or doctor nearby. The nearest clinic is 10 miles away.  That doesn’t sound too bad, since we often travel further. How many of us need to go to Des Moines for medical tests. I might be able to get there by bus in this new scenario, but not quickly. Otherwise, I’d have to walk or ride my bicycle (if I have one).  How would I get my sick baby medical help?

One thing I don’t have to worry about is cash flow as I will maybe have $5.00.  I throw away my bankbook, stocks and pension plan. I’m not lazy so I work hard cultivating about three acres to earn $300.00 a year in cash crops.  Out of that I give my landlord $100.00 and my money-lender $30.00. That leaves $170.00 for my family and me to live on for a year.  I now rejoice in those moldy potatoes.

In my case, I probably wouldn’t be alive as life span is much shorter in this scenario. You might feel old at 50, but in this scenario, you probably won’t reach 50.  I imagine that some who might read this considers themselves poor and may think I don’t know what poor looks like.  I certainly don’t know the kind of poor I’ve been describing.

My worst days were when by the 20th of the month — we ate beans and by the 25th — we ate pancakes without syrup.  We rejoiced in February as it only had 28 days. Then there was leap year and the other longer months and so we ate gravy.  Still, I did not have to eat moldy food.  The landlord often gave me a month to pay our back rent and I still had heat in the winter.

Yes, I am glad I live in the U.S.A. and I remember those people who have so much less and try to share as much as I can. Life may not be easy and it frightens me the way our country may go, but I vote and I keep involved and because I am literate I keep emails and letters going to my elected officials. When they do well I praise them; when I think they could do better I tell them. If they want my vote they have to work for me, not to give me freebies, but to help me keep what I earn. 

Until next week … Christine Pauley

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