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I am experienced in recognizing the psychology of the poor. I know the vacant expressions of those who have lost hope and have traded their aspirations for humiliation. I have watched close friends pawn their bodies to feed the crutch of their addictions. I know that there is escape from destitution, for I have supported my ambition with creativity, resourcefulness, and most important of all, persistence.

Jo Goodwin Parker, in her essay entitled “What is Poverty?” writes, “Look at us with an angry heart, anger that will help you help me.” I can relate to her indigence, but it is her prison of inertia which invokes my anger. Her inability to act in spite of her humiliation drives my anger. She adds, “Others like me are all around you”, and this further fuels my indignation.

I have experienced the same impoverishment that Ms. Parker describes: the cutting smell of urine and sour milk, cold baths with acrid soap, ‘friendly’ neighbors content to neglect or abuse my sister and I while our mother was away. I know all too well that poverty is, “cooking without food and cleaning without soap”, but I was able to use the discarded stub of a pencil to write my first poem. I was able to dig in the trashcans for bottles and unwanted treasures to sell. I looked for opportunity, even when it took the form of charitable alms of food and clothing. The poor may not have money, but they do have a fortune in time: time to master skills, time to write, paint, or sculpt – even when the pencil is a dull nub, the paint is made from egg whites and tea, and the sculpture is cast from mud.

Resourcefulness is not an option for Ms. Parker, who justifies her lack of ambition with the “acid that drips on pride until pride is worn away” and the “chisel that chips on honor until honor is worn away.” She can “dream of a time when there is money”, but has overlooked the time to make money from her dreams.

When we are born, we have no cloths, no possessions, and are ignorant of the judgment and criticism of others. When we die, we return to this natural human condition, taking little comfort in valueless material objects, and finding no humiliation in judgment and criticism. Poverty is this natural state, bereft of social value and material comforts. We are supplied with creativity, resourcefulness, and persistence of action. Every animal is afforded these, and those that do not must rely on the charity of others to provide them. Ms. Parker has no faith in persistence, instead choosing to believe in despotism, defeat and despair. She asks if we could persist year after year. In reply, the late President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge is quoted as saying:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

The poor may be without education, employment, or the luxuries which are commonplace for many of us, but they do have the most important qualities inherent in every human being. These are the intangible assets that each one of us has, regardless of our station or qualifications. The ability to create, to exploit opportunities, to take action and to persist until a goal is reached are the wealth of mankind. There is nothing more valuable than these, except the omnipotent power of sentience to put them to use. Ms. Parker asks, “What is poverty?” My answer is that Poverty is the ability to rise above the natural human condition through creative, resourceful, and persistent action.

"Perfection of self is the highest philosophy, one which most will never aspire to, nor admit to if they had." -Anon.

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The following comments are for "What is Poverty?"

Jo Goodwin Parker's Essay
I thought that I would leave a link to the original essay.

I find it interesting that at the time of this reply posting, that the only rating given was a 3, but the essay has been selected as a part of one teacher's High School curriculum as an example of contrast. It has also been published by Octavia Publishing in Alberta, and has also been included in a periodical produced by the same. Not bad for an overall rating of so little.

( Posted by: SOTA [Member] On: November 29, 2003 )

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