Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Examining the subject of ‘poverty’: an employee shares his story

Do you remember your first pay stub? For me, it was pretty basic. I was making about $30 per week after expenses and was lucky to get any free meals given to me by people who needed extra money. I landed some nice part-time jobs which, at the time, paid better than the food stamps. As I got older, I was fortunate to find steady part-time jobs. I’ve worked at CNN, Al Jazeera, ABC News, MSNBC, and Late Night with Conan

O’Brien. Although I’ve been fortunate to find good jobs and a steady salary, many other people aren’t so lucky. I think we hear more about why we are stressed and unhappy than actually identifying what is triggering it. As I said before, I was a college freshman when I got my first unemployment check. I quickly realized that it didn’t feel like much—at least not compared to my meager help and financial support as a

child. In those days, many people barely had enough to eat. I spent my first weeks of unemployment bouncing from McDonald’s to Wendy’s and even Chili’s, often spending more money on food than money for a friend. Since I was in my early 20s, I think it was very difficult to understand how I was going to afford college, let alone pay back all that student loan debt. But I wasn’t alone. I imagine that there are a lot of

college graduates right now either living out of their cars, eating out of McMansions, or paying rent at the library. It makes me wonder if we are too quickly forgetting those who are the last ones to truly enjoy the golden years. By my late 20s, I had a consistent job at a profitable company. I got another job with a company that needed employees and was fortunate enough to eventually be promoted to a position that

demanded more work. But this still wasn’t enough to pay my bills or take care of the many medical bills from the traumatic birth of my son, Thomas, a non-ambulatory, cerebral palsy-afflicted child. In 2016, I started a new job as a firefighter/paramedic with the Virginia Commonwealth University Fire and Emergency Services Department. I was responsible for the health and safety of the thousands of VCU students,

faculty, faculty and staff who work and live on campus. Although, I wasn’t much younger than the last two groups, my kid is far disabled and I never thought I would go through a similarly difficult time. But at the age of 36, even though Thomas is able to walk and talk, he is blind in his right eye and his body is chronically swollen. Thankfully, he is a happy baby; but life for us has not been easy. It has been a

crazy journey to get here.

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