Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us. I can attest to that Christ’ admonition as I began life in a solid middle class family…and then after my mom and dad divorced…slipped into the poor that are all around us. I vividly recall loving milk, especially whole milk. I did not drink water…only milk. In those early days it seemed so much better than water…or as my mother-in-law, Fernie, asked me when she developed kidney problems toward the end of her life, ‘Jay, do you remember people always talking about drinking water?’ In any event when mom and I struck out on our own…there was no money for whole milk…only powered milk that came from a box and you mixed it with water and it was horrendous… I lived on 6th street and the kids on 7th street did not wear shoes all summer. This was due to the economical fact that the shoe money was for school. Mom and I stood in what was called commodity lines where a person would throw food to we poor folks off of the back of the truck. Commodity cheese was good. I will never forget the caviler attitude of the commodity food vendors for we less fortunate. I had the impression that they felt that we were bilking or gaming the system and were somewhat lazy. My wonderful mom worked in housekeeping at a local motel as well as going to adult education classes to become a photographer. I would save my pennies until I had 10 and then go to the local restaurant on State Street to purchase a glass of whole milk. Mom required that I receive a crewcut for my haircut in order to cut down on barber visits. We had meat perhaps once per week and there was a lot of split-pea soup.
, I have enjoyed an increasingly stable financial lifestyle as an adult and indeed have need of nothing…for the past several years. I am able to focus on travel and hobbies and collections and enjoying my golden years. I have not forgotten what it was like to be the servant and the outcast and the marginalized. I remember what it felt like to be the only child in my first grade class who could not afford a 20 cent per day hot lunch. I know how set apart that I felt to be the only one who carried a brown bag to school…and later a Gunsmoke lunch pail. I wish that I still had the Gunsmoke lunch pail as I am certain that it would be valuable.
Sunday night I watched the first episode of the limited series, White Lotus, on HBO. It is a satire of the ‘Haves and the Have Nots.’ It is a satire of the affluent. A parody of the upper middle class and the slave like servitude of the poor and working class to facilitate their prosperous holidays and vacations. I saw myself in both the haves and those who have not. MJ and I as well as our sons, Aaron and Jonathon, have taken several cruises. I could not help but notice the herculean efforts of the ship staff to make our stay…care free. Most of the staff, who are from the Philippines and Malaysia as well as countries across the world…work 18 hour days for very little money. I remember a little elderly man who was our cabin steward during our first Alaska cruise. He transported all of our luggage for 3 people and the mound of suitcases was taller than him. Of course tips of $10 dollars a day are figured into your onboard bill…but you can remove the tips at the conclusion of the cruise. Also many, including us, leave an additional tip in an envelope for our servers and caregivers…but that does not solve their third world problems.
Jamaica was MJ and my first holiday directly after my retirement at the conclusion of 2010. We flew to Jamaica and then took a bus from the airport to a Sandals Resort…of which there are several on Jamaica, and I could not believe the abject poverty that I saw from the bus windows. There were no window glass in most of the homes and many of the adults and children were in varying stages of undress. I witnessed a hard working Jamaican working diligently on his house without any trousers on…and he seemed oblivious to the fact of his missing garment.
Sandals was an oasis in the desert. When we arrived we were greeted with a wet towel and a glass of champagne. Soon we arrived at our suites that were cool and pleasantly Caribbean. Ron had told me that Jamaicans enjoyed their alcoholic beverages…but I did not fully understand until I sat at one of the many bars and asked for a vodka tonic and watched the bartender mix the strongest vodka tonic that I had ever experienced. When I mentioned that his liberality with his alcohol pouring was much appreciated…he commented…’We are a drinking country…Mon!’
There is a scene in the first episode of White Lotus that reminded me of how I have been treated on more than one occasion. A young married woman is trying to strike up a conversation with two female college students on the beach of the resort that they all shared a flight too. The college students are aloof and non-communicative for most of her questions and have a basically, ‘Better than thou.,’ approach to the newlyweds honest approach to making friends. I was reminded of the times that I have been treated in just such a fashion. When I was a young person and I had had friends who had done well financially. Our relationship moved from equals to their not feeling the need to even respond to my greetings at the little church that we mutually attended.
It has been said that, ‘ power corrupts and that ultimate power corrupts ultimately.’ So may it be said and noted that money causes the poor to forget their past…