A MinD in MoTown

Snip snip here. Snip snip there.

Embarrassment. That’s the best word to describe how I felt as a child when my mother would whip out a coupon as we dined out or went through the grocery line. I’d feel nearly humiliated that we were forced into needing those money-saving sheets of paper each week, almost as if my mom was claiming defeat and acknowledging that we were, indeed, “poor.” This attitude of mine carried into my teen years as well, feeling nearly mortified that we couldn’t affordably enjoy an Olive Garden supper without saving $4 on our meals.

But now, at 24 years old, living free from my parents with my own set of bills and household concerns, clipping coupons simply makes sense. Today I’m the one stuffing dozens of coupons into my wallet, ready for the next shopping excursion, eager to save a dollar here and there (especially at Kohl’s). After all, who doesn’t prefer a few extra bucks in the billfold sometimes? And with the economy barely improving over the last several months, everyone could benefit from saving some cash, including myself.

Yet that wasn’t something I could see in my youth when it was my mom with the coupons in hand. Now I look back on that slight resentment I once experienced with regret, wishing I better understood the reasoning behind my mother’s Sunday mornings with the scissors and newspaper ads.

It’s far from shocking that things change as we age — everything from our perspective on the world to political affiliations and more sometimes sway a different direction as we progress into adulthood. However, it’s somewhat mind-boggling to realize how much variation can occur.

As I sit here now, contemplating this evening’s shopping trip to Harris Teeter – where I plan to take major advantage of triple-coupon week – I’m almost embarrassed to have once been that snotty, snobby, bratty girl who couldn’t grasp the importance of savings a few dollars at times. I get it all now, for sure, but I certainly wish I did quite a bit sooner.

I’d give the shirt off my back.
December 3, 2009, 4:26 pm
Filed under: MoTown, Tis the season, When poverty strikes

“I’m here to do a job,” I say to myself as I walk into the Mooresville Christian Mission, carrying my fancy $250 digital camera with my two-month-old $175 North Face jacket half-zipped up. Sure, I might be wearing a pair of shoes that have been falling apart for nearly a year and I’m clearly in desperate need of a touch-up to my highlighted hair, but my personal version of “poor” in no way compares to what I see before me.

Here are people – perhaps down on their luck this holiday season or maybe just unable to truly make a moderate living – spending what little they do have on worn clothing, discarded household items and used toys in the hopes of making a better Christmas for their families. Some are even inquiring about free food they can obtain. They actually struggle. They truly need. They face hardships I can’t even imagine.

And there I am, not exactly “rich,” but evidently different.

People like myself – the middle class 20somethings, if you will – often feel as though we’re tackling the same battles that those individuals I encountered earlier today deal with on a daily basis. We cry “I’m poor,” we complain about our inability to purchase a new cell phone or iPod, yet we have no real idea what it means to seriously contemplate foregoing gift-giving because the heat bill can’t be paid. We’re the people who have bad days when it comes to cash flow, maybe even bad weeks or months on occasion. These people are the ones who confront bad years or even lifetimes. Their struggles are different than our own, no matter how much we sometimes feel they’re similar.

Yet they, and even we, are the ones most willing to give, most eager to volunteer our time or put up what little we may have in the hopes of brightening someone’s holiday.

It’s the student teacher who decides he’ll assist at the soup kitchen and buy holiday gifts for a six-year-old girl he doesn’t know. It’s the college student who donates $1 to various organizations every time she’s asked. It’s the news reporter who works a second job yet “adopts” a 10-year-old boy for Christmas who only requests Star Wars figurines from Santa. It’s those of us who maybe live paycheck to paycheck, with little “extra” money each week, eating Ramen noodles far too regularly, who would give anything to ensure no child wakes up Dec. 25 with nothing under his tree.

We’re the ones who make sure a mom can get her sons haircuts or who ensure family-less senior citizens are still remembered during the holidays or who help dish out food to those who may have no home, let alone a place to cook a Thanksgiving turkey.

And hopefully you’re one of that “we.” You would step up if need be, if you saw poverty prevailing and Christmas slipping toward non-existant for someone in your town. If you came across a man who couldn’t buy his children the red wagon they wanted from Kris Kringle because the mortgage was due. If you heard a family would have nothing if not for the donations given to the local Goodwill.

It’s this Christmas feeling of giving, of hope, of love that we need to carry all year. It’s easy to remember those less fortunate when the holidays approach, but what about in May when you’re planning a beach vacation yet a young boy down the street won’t get to celebrate his birthday?

I, for one, must become more diligent in this and – I apologize for saying this already – I’m sure you have to, also. It’s so simple to go about our lives 11 months of the year and then when charities come begging because the countdown to Christmas has begun, we feel the need to do our part. Us 20somethings will soon become the 30somethings, then the 40somethings, and so on. Imagine how much good we can do in our own communities over time if we start the giving back now, while we’re young and barely getting by?

I walked into the Mooresville Christian Mission today just to take a few photos for the newspaper. I departed with more than a desire to give back, but an absolute need to do so. Me, a 24-year-old who sometimes borders broke and penniless for days at a time, wishes she could’ve “adopted” 50 kids this Christmas, but whose wallet will only allow her to make a difference in a little boy named Dylan’s life this holiday.

I’m doing my part – and I promise here and now to keep to it throughout the year – and I hope you are, too.