I've mentioned this before, but part of Mom's duties at our local library were social services. This included loans of food, money and clothing for the needy in town. But mostly mom was a library clerk, something they've never credited her for doing. But back to the social services. While she was handing out money so people could pay their bills, we were barely making it at home. I remember eating dry spaghetti and bullion cubes many times before grocery day. It was always so lovely when the house was full of food. My tummy would hurt so bad from overstuffing myself with cookies and whatever treats we'd been able to buy. But sometimes those shopping trips happened only because Mom had given herself a loan, just like the other folks, but not like the other folks. One day, and I remember this because it was summer and very hot, Mom brought home a trash bag full of doughnuts that the bakery had been about to throw away. As she pulled open the trunk to her car, and showed me all the smashed and gooey doughnuts, the thought went through my head that this was wrong—no person should eat food out of a trash bag, not even a doughnut. But when she brought home a bag full of donated clothes that had already been picked through by the needy, I felt neither excitement or sadness. I was already wearing my sister's hand-me-downs so more, or where it came from, mattered little at that point. There was one shirt I grew to like, and this is more of the tomboy coming out in me—it was brown with a big green toad on it that was made with a shiny, puffy decal. I just loved that shirt. It got so that I wore it almost every other day. But then one morning at school a boy came up to me on the stair leading to third grade reading. He looked me in the eye and said, "That used to be mine." A wave of shame spread through me, my cheeks lit up with a hot blush. As soon as I got home I tore off that shirt and never wore it again.
Being poor isn't a sin. I look back at these things and I feel a sort of melancholy about it all. Like I lived a modern day Dickens novel, if you will. Being poor is great for your soul. And there's always that camel thing. However, I've heard many times that when asked, most people would say they'd rather have money. I would too. It's like driving around in a hot Ford one summer, and the next a nice, air-conditioned Chevy. I'd rather take the Chevy.