I drive not only an ugly, but a busted, car. We have two cars, one that looks almost passable but doesn’t run well, the other looks broken but runs reliably. I suppose we could spend a little money to fix the ugly car up, like paint the hood so that it matches the rest of the car, repair the dented bumper, and replace the missing headlight. But those repairs would cost more than the value of the whole vehicle and besides, it runs just fine. The other car looks almost normal but has a knock in the engine and leaks coolant. It will die soon but until it does, we will drive it.
These cars are a choice. Now some of that choice is dictated by money, if we had more we might just buy new cars, but we don’t have more money and consequentially we drive what we have. We could get a loan and buy a new car, my credit is good. But I don’t want a shiny new car enough to have a shiny new car payment. So I choose to drive that ugly thing.
It must have been the car. It couldn’t be our apartment.
Most of my money goes toward rent. I pay too much in rent. We chose to live where we do, despite it being overpriced, because we wanted our kids to go to a specific school. We wanted this school because it was the best school within close proximity to my job. It was the cheapest place to live that was still on the right side of the street. It is cheap compared to the neighborhood yet remains ridiculously expensive.
Maybe it’s the clothes my kids wear.
I think they look fine. Sometimes the outfits they choose aren’t in line with my taste, but for the most part I let them choose, and they don’t choose crazy things. We don’t spend a lot on their clothes. They grow so fast and don’t have real strong opinions about brands, so I will admit; most of what they have is second hand. Macklemore said this is cool. I don’t really trust him but I hear others do.
It had to be something.
It had to be something because today the Church of Christ called my wife. They said they got our number from our children’s elementary school and that we had been referred to them as a family who might need a free turkey for Thanksgiving. My wife was a little surprised and politely declined. The person followed up by explaining that they were prepared to help us buy Christmas presents for our kids. Again my wife politely declined. Having turned down the caller’s generosity, they ended the call.
Should we be flattered that someone thought to do something nice for us? It didn’t feel flattering. Maybe it didn’t feel flattering because it was obvious that whoever referred us didn’t really know us, they simply judged us. I could be wrong. I want to be wrong. This feels wrong.
It feels wrong because I am not really poor. I know what poor is and while I surely don’t have what I would like, I know full well I have more than I need. It feels wrong because someone tried to do something nice and I don’t feel nice about it. It feels wrong because we invite people into our home to eat almost once a week and someone thought that we couldn’t afford enough food to feed our kids. Why would they think that? Because of our car? Because of our clothes? Are those things that important?
I don’t know who thinks we have fallen on hard times and maybe that’s what bothers me. It bothers me because I don’t think they know me either. Do they want to know me?
We all make assumptions about all sorts of things. It is natural and it is easy. We assume things for just those reasons; because it is easier than investigating and learning. It is easier and faster than asking questions. It is easier than caring. This does not feel like caring. This does not feel like help. It actually hurt.
It hurt because someone just looked at me, at us, and decided we couldn’t handle things. Someone looked at us and just decided we needed their help, and the help they were willing to give was a turkey. Just last week my wife and I discussed with each other our plans to hedge against our children’s holiday materialism and then the help someone thought we needed was another toy to go in our children’s already full toy bin? No.
Make no mistake this is not my pride speaking; I am not above help. I would love some help. I would love a promotion at work, I would love for one of my paintings to sell, I would even love a new headlight. I would love a Jeep Wrangler, I would love to see Istanbul, I would love for my daughter to have her ballet lessons scholarshipped. Give me any one of those things and I will grovel at your feet. I will sing your praises and write a post in your honor.
But no. Now when I pull up by the curb and idle my bucket in that long line of cars and kids I know you aren’t thinking, “Oh there’s Dalyn and the kids.” You are thinking, “look at those poor people.”