What My Hurricane Irene Evacuation Taught Me About Poverty
1 year ago
Keli Goff talks about battling Hurricane Irene
Nothing will force you to come to grips with what really matters to you and what doesn’t than being told you have to leave your home quickly and can only take so much—only what you truly can’t live without---and that you must accept that whatever you leave behind you may never see again. When I realized that my home fell within the dreaded New York City “Zone A," which meant I was under mandatory evacuation orders thanks to our friend Irene, suddenly those prized Gucci pumps I was so proud of getting for 70% off didn’t seem nearly as important as my laptops, irreplaceable documents and mementos, and my favorite pair of jeans. (The ones I’ve had so long and worn so much that they are on their second round of patchwork. They would be worthless to anyone else but are priceless to me.)
Despite worrying as I write this that I may return home to find a pond of floating furniture and broken glass where my bed used to be, I’ve spent much of the last day or so counting my blessings, because I know that regardless of what happens, ultimately I will be okay. The reason? Because I am not one of the 43.6 million Americans living in poverty.
Most of us know that there are countless downsides to being poor, but as far as the day-to-day reality of what that actually means for people living in poverty, many of us are vague on the details and prefer to remain that way. For instance, when we see headlines that say that those living in poverty have shorter life expectancies than the rest of us, it’s easier to sleep at night if we can assume that means they simply don’t make the right choices, health or otherwise. That’s a much more comforting alternative than going to bed each night and knowing that someone’s life or death may be in our collective hands.