On Being Poor

My very good friend, whom I’ve never met or spoken to, John Scalzi is an excellent writer.  I cannot over state the influence he’s had and is having on my life.  I’ve chosen him as the archetype for my chosen profession.  There is no question in my mind that he will be regarded as one of the finest science fiction writers of this era.

Now, it’s worthwhile to examine why I feel a connection to this person that I’ve never met and with whom I do not have a personal relationship.

I discovered John Scalzi through a link on Wil Wheaton’s blog to Scalzi’s advice for writers (it was on the Wil’s old site wilwheaton.net, which is like, broken).  I was immediately drawn to his frank, conversational style of writing.  I became a regular reader of the Whatever, along with 25K other daily visitors.  I ordered Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades from the SciFi Book Club and read them in a weekend.  I knew that I would be a fan for life.  But what sealed the deal for me was this post, which has been remarked upon several times by other people.

I grew up poor.  We moved from house to house, because my mom wouldn’t have the rent and we would be evicted.  I had a lunch ticket and was always embarrassed to use it, sometimes going without lunch so my friends wouldn’t know I was on welfare.  My mom couldn’t find a doctor that was willing to do tonsillectomy.  I broke my wrist roller skating when I was 14 and we had to wait in the emergency room for 7 hours.  My wrist has never been the same.  There were times that there was no food in the house and I drank barbecue sauce because I was so hungry.  I watched my mother’s boyfriends beat her mercilessly and I started provoking them, so they’d hit me, because I knew she would never leave them.  I ended leaving and moving in with my grandmother, and that’s how I stopped being poor.

I know what it means to be poor and without hope, and here to tell you, so does Scalzi.  I don’t know if he grew up poor or if he is just a very good observer. 

There is a way out, a way up.

Please, share John’s essay with everyone you can.  If you are blessed enough not to be poor, help those in need in your community.  Be a mentor for your local school.  Be an example.  Be grateful.  Get involved.

My grandmother rescued me, you can rescue someone else.

If you are poor, don’t lose hope.  There are wonderful people in the world that are willing to help.  If no one steps up, you can do it on your own.  Libraries are safe places to stay after school and you can learn there.  Do your best to stay in school.  Be nice and respectful to everyone.  And if you get out, make to lower middle-class or above, remember your roots.

I’m only 32 and I’ve been a Youth Coordinator and Assistant Director for a Youth Center in San Francisco.  I’ve worked a Drug Rehab counselor.  I’ve participated in many homeless outreach programs with my church.  And I currently work for the County welfare office.  I have not forgotten what it was like to be poor, and I try everyday to make a positive impact in people’s lives.  And, really, I’m nothing special.  Anybody can do it.

I have say, though, the coloring books and crayons from the community center Santa were pretty sweet!

So there it is.  Through empathy and style, Scalzi has made another fan for life.






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