Being broke and humble

NOT having much money is a lesson in humility. And it’s a lesson that the majority of the population will experience more than once.

Worse still is that it’s something that is not to be discussed.

Most people struggling financially are loath to admit the dire straits they are in.

Subsequently, they continue accepting invitations to dinner and living a life they simply can’t afford.

I know because I’m guilty of it myself. With just a few measly dollars in my account and the petrol running low in my car, I went to visit a friend in Brisbane for lunch.

I thought, as a matter of precaution, that I should get some fuel before I blew my non-existent funds on the luxury of food.

I put in $5 worth of fuel and went to the register. What I hadn’t realised was that insurance had come out that morning and I was seriously overdrawn.

I had no cash in my wallet and no money in the back.

It’s about here that you really appreciate the kindness of strangers.

The lady behind the counter kindly paid for my fuel.

There’s never really an adequate way to express gratitude to a literal stranger.

Anyway, I got to my friend’s house and gave her the unfortunate news that she’d have to shout me lunch.

Living on Centrelink wages, she had to dip into bill-paying funds so we could eat.

But getting through the occasional “tight spot” is markedly different from living below (or even just above) the poverty line.

People living on pensions, student allowances and other government payments ought to be given more credit than they receive.

They have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get the pittance provided by Centrelink. Even then, it’s not always enough to pay the bills.

I know people who are waiting on the sale of treasured items to pay debts, I know people who are taking on dual courses so they can dispense of paltry student allowances a year earlier, I know people coming out of retirement because they just can’t afford it.

It’s a tough life, especially when Centrelink beneficiaries are given the extra stigma as “bludgers”.

Having once been labelled a “bludging arts student” myself, I know just how frustrating it can be.

I studied full-time, worked part-time and didn’t consider myself lazy.

In fact, for much of my uni days, I expended a lot of nervous energy just calculating how I would get through the week.

I remember catching a cab once a week to ferry home $50 worth of groceries, watching the meter ticking steadily towards $10 and worrying I may have to get out and lug my things home.

It’s not a nice feeling to have.

There are some who may be taking advantage of the system but I don’t believe many are living like kings.

 

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