Our decision to leave NJ wasn’t a hard one… in the beginning. But the car ride home after our first sonogram at 5 weeks made official news of what I already knew: we were having a baby. After that, the decision became significantly more difficult. I had been ping ponging this idea back and forth for the last month:
Would we stay? Would we go?
“I still want to go!” I belted out in the silence of our car ride as if holding it in would cause me to explode and implode at the exact same moment. (I am not a Physics teacher and have no idea if this is actually possible) “I still want to go.” I repeated immediately calmer.
Husband in his infinite patience and understanding reassured, “We can do this however you want to do this. If you want to stay, we can stay. If you want to go, we can go.”
I still struggle daily with our decision. Not in a should-we-go-home-or-stay kind of way but in the small moments of missing my parents and our families and wishing that my father could see his granddaughter, his namesake, dance and sing. She loves music; a gift I’m certain she got from him.
Everyday I am also grateful. Grateful for all of the things I never would have seen if I’d stayed in NJ.
I’m lucky in the expected way, yes. The beautiful family. The encouraging husband. The healthy children. The two loyal dogs. And good friends. But this is not what I mean when I say I am lucky.
When I say I am lucky, I say it with new eyes; eyes that have seen what real poverty looks like. Poverty exists in the U.S. but I’ve never really seen it. I’ve seen homeless people in the streets of NY but somehow they blended into the background of what New York City looked like and most of the time – they had a coat and shoes. I’m not saying it isn’t poverty, it just isn’t this kind of poverty.
The poverty I’ve seen here is hungry and shoeless, walking on streets dirtier than what Alphabet City looks like. The poverty I’ve seen here carries an infant in her arms while begging for change. An infant smaller than my son and as pretty as my daughter. The poverty I’ve seen here doesn’t have a shelter to turn to or a soup kitchen to eat at.
The poverty here lives within walls that are standing but by the grace of God and stands on a dirt floor. Sometimes I feel bad that my daughter runs around barefoot by choice when others do so as their only option. The poverty here politely asks to wash my windows for a coin instead of being at school. He wipes his wet squeegee on his shirt in order to not leave wet marks on my window and I can’t help but wonder how many shirts he has. The other day, when he finished washing my windshield, I gave him his change and noticed he looked at a Coke bottle in my passenger seat. As I drove off, I thought I should have given it to him. And then that thought went to another thought: I spent more on my Coke than he made for washing my windshield. I made a u-turn around to buy him a Coke and a bag of chips which made me feel no better because that won’t really change a thing will it?
And there came this thought again:
The only thing different about him and I is where I was born and who I was born to. I haven’t struggled in life. I haven’t had to choose between an education and actual money in hand. I’ve worked since I was 14, but didn’t have to. My parents taught me the importance of work and the value of money but they were lessons with secured safety nets below. Lessons I would never suffer at the hands of.
It isn’t always about hard work and education and determination. Sometimes it it just about plain luck. Lucky to be born where you were born and lucky to have been born into a family that could take care of you. Lucky to be able to get an education. Lucky to be you.
Those that have it and those that don’t.