Karla’s Korner: What Does It Mean to be Poor?


I am proud to introduce a new column to Madame Deals! I think we all need a touch point a place we can go to be inspired. Karla is my children’s teacher, a good friend, and a person with a heart of gold. I hope that her words will inspire you to do more. We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. It is important to listen with your heart and proceed with your eyes open. Enjoy!

What Does It Mean to be Poor?

My husband and I have been having what I like to call a progressive discussion (meaning we talk about it quite often) about the definition of being poor. With our economy being in the “tank” lately with everything from high gas prices, to home foreclosures, job loss, school budgets being cut, etc., the idea of poor vs. rich has become a hot topic. So a few weeks ago while watching cable news after dinner my husband asks me the question “what does it mean to be poor?” Hmmmm, I had to think, was this a trick question or was he being serious. My first thought was that being poor meant that one did not have a lot of money. No sooner than I let those words leave my lips, did he try to convince me that a financially poor person could be wealthy. And so this never ending conversation began.

Poor is defined by my trusty online dictionary as not rich; lacking money or material possessions; inferior; not of good quality; low and inadequate. Well, if that is the case then I know a lot of poor people. But after reading this quite strong definition, I began to think (and discuss with the husband) about the fact that money and material possessions should not really define wealth or lack thereof. Taking a look at the Hollywood scene, I can come up with a few celebrities who have more than enough financial wealth, but are poor meaning they are not happy. We’ve heard recently of a famed football star who apparently chose suicide because of poor financial decisions and loss of wealth. Somewhere this person felt that suicide was better than being financially poor. How often do we pick up a newspaper or read online where spouses turn on one another hiring hit men to take the others life so they can collect life insurance or one parent murdering a child so they do not have to pay child support. For many money and material things define wealth.

My mother in law was born and raised in Jamaica and while she always had what she needed she never had abundance; even while she was raising her family. I remember the first time I visited her in her home, I noticed right away that she did not have a big house and that she did not have kitchen cabinets. There were a few cabinets under the kitchen sink, but most of her groceries sat in neat little organized rows on the counter top and what couldn’t fit sat in brown paper sacks on the floor in her tiny dining room. At first I was sad for her for not having a nice big kitchen; I shared my thoughts with David and he politely shared with me that his mom was happy with things just the way they were; she was comfortable. She did not need a fancy kitchen to be happy. Her family did not go without meals because her kitchen was less than others. In fact, she probably cooked more in her tiny kitchen than most cook in a bigger fancier kitchen.

Who defines wealth? Who has the authority to say that just because I do not fall on the financial scale at a certain level I am poor? I have known quite a few people in my life who have lived simply without a lot of money but had the love of their family and were completely satisfied with the simple things life has to offer. Solely relying on money to get us through life cannot define happiness or wealth. Just because someone is a garbage man doesn’t make him or her less wealthy than someone who works in a law office or big corporation. If what you do makes you happy then you are already wealthy. If you are working in a job that does not bring you joy then all the money in the world cannot make you wealthy. It can buy you things, but it cannot bring you wealth in spirit.

I teach preschool because I love it, not because I get rich from it. The riches I receive are in the lives of the young people I spend my days with. The wealth I obtain comes from watching a child zip a zipper for the first time, write their name on their paper for the first time or color in the lines. Oh sure, I am thankful for the paycheck I receive twice a month, but the real wealth comes from knowing that the job I have brings a little bit of meaning to the lives of the children that I teach. What about you….are you rich or poor or comfortable?

Karla Robey

Check out all of Karla’s Korner articles here.

Also, please visit Karla’s Lifetime Moms page and read her articles.

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  1. To me rich and poor should be defined by how many children you have, how many friends, how many pets know a home since meeting you, or how many elders know company since coming into your life. I don’t define myself as rich monetarily, but I do think of myself rich beyond the stars when it comes to love. I have 3 children, 1 grandchild, 5 pets, countless friends, and a good citizen to my community, I will never own a mansion, fancy car, or fat bank accounts….But if you need a friend to listen, food cooked, babysitting or help, then I can give you riches. 🙂

  2. Hmfff..I think poor is how you see it, my husband and I were doing good considering that out of all our friends (at our age of 23/25 and being married for 3 years) have our own place, one working car and decent/ok jobs…a job pretty much. We only get what we need, we dont have cable (everynight is movie night. lol) Paycheck to paycheck is how we do things, but weve been making it by for about 2 1/2 years. Last year we finally got a Christmas tree but we didnt get any gifts for each other, the tree was our main accomplishment. It would be nice to have more money (less of a headache) but overall, we got food (pizza and mountain dew everynight lol), jobs, a car (nice to have two, three, like the higher class) roof over our heads. It does take alot out of us though, especially when we see other people making it like its nothing, buying stuff that we would love, going on vacations, ect. but by the end of the night we end up making jokes about how we live and we see humor in it. Weird but at the same time its not. I was raised that money wasnt everything and I stand by that 100%

    • I remember buying our first Christmas tree….that year we made homemade cookies as gifts for everyone. We worked very hard for everything we have and I think that is what makes us appreciate it more…no handouts. Hang in there, you can make it through and believe me when I say that one day you will look back on these days as some of the best times of your lives. Some of our fondest memories are from the first few years of marriage when we would save all of our pocket change for the week and buy two burgers one drink (no fries) and a Sunday paper for coupons! Blessings to you =)

  3. Good read. I try to remember that although we aren’t rich with money, (& sometimes not even comfortable). Also, that money isn’t everything and we have more stuff than we need. It’s easy to have a pity party and be envious of others & that is a battle I have faced many times. I’m trying to improve there. This makes me think of It’s A Wonderful Life. (No man’s poor who has friends?, I think.) We are hoping to upgrade to a 2 car family soon. We haven’t had 2 since before our oldest was born, almost 11 years. I thank God that my husband has had a job that provided a work vehicle all this time, or we wouldn’t have been able to do it. Where we live, you need a car. We are to rural to not have one. 😀