Final thoughts on ‘Being poor…’ and this viral age in which we live

I fear this may be a long one….

This evening I returned home from work shortly before 5pm. I am blessed to live 5 miles from where I work, so commuting is such a breeze. I have had the other end of the spectrum, where my commute is an hour, and this is much, much better!

Today was  a fairly short workday for me, having arrived at 6:30am and finishing up at 4:30pm. Many days I arrive at 5am and stay through until at least 4:30pm. I’m also known to go in on weekends to catch up and work from home when necessary. I am NOT complaining….I absolutely LOVE what I do and at 45, fully appreciate the amount of my life spent getting to this position where I actually look forward to going to work every day! It’s been a long journey, with the inevitable twists and turns and forks in the road. But I am happy the last two and a half years where I ended up, even though I am paid at least 30% less than market value because I work for a small company in a small town.

I stuck around work a little later in order to call my best friend. He is dying of cancer. Sometimes I put off calling him because it makes me so very sad, but that is so very selfish of me. This afternoon his wife had to go to her very senior mothers and take her to the hospital and she had asked me to check up on him. I asked if I could bring him over some dinner, which he steadfastly declined as I knew he would. he said he was going to bed. It wasn’t even 5pm yet. He told me he just wished that this ordeal was over with.

That sucks.

It really, truly does.

So then it was home for me. It gets dark so early this time of year, and that can be a bit depressing sometimes. Up the stairs I come and after dumping my work bag I check the woodstove. There are enough coals left over from last nights fire that the kindling flames up almost instantly, so at least that will be easy enough. While the fire gets up to snuff I turn on the furnace for a bit, a greedy little indulgence that I sometimes allow myself. Living alone does have its advantages; no one complains if the house is too cold or if I leave the lights off. You see, I am on ‘time of day’ metering for the electricity, so it’s kind of a game with me to see how low I can keep the utility bill.

Something that has weighed heavy on my mind this weekend is the blog post that I tripped over very early on Saturday morning on Huffington Post entitled “This is why poor peoples bad decisions make perfect sense”.  It was written by Linda Walter Tirado, a woman living in Utah.

The article goes on, in some detail, to explain why she, as a person living in poverty with her veteran husband raising two children, has made some of the ‘bad’ decisions that are so often attributed to poor people. The article has gone, to say the least, viral.It has touched many peoples hearts, mine being one of them. Her message resonated with me in a very personal way. i couldn’t wait to show my girlfriend the article. She is raising two daughters on her own, and she works so very hard but like many, struggles from paycheck to paycheck. After reading the article to her, I decided to go to Mrs(?) Tirados Gofund me webpage and donate $10 to her. She was seeking donations in order to quit one of her two jobs and use the extra time to write a book on poverty, from the trenches so to speak. I, like many others, thought that this is exactly what was needed. I was proud to donate, even though it was a small amount.

I kept checking back through the day to see how she was doing in reaching her goal. Early saturday morning she was already up over $20,o00 on a goal of $25,000.

Then, suddenly, the goal changed to $29,500.

Ok, I thought. She is overwhelmed by the quick response and is just making sure she has enough to do it right.

Then the goal changed again. To $39,500.

I started to get an uneasy feeling.

I started to ‘google’ Linda Tirado.

I found other blog posts. I found out that she had posted about wanting to write a book back in 2011 about being a political activist. I found out that she had met President Obama ‘several’ times and had even ‘broken bread’ with him. I found out that she was heavily involved in student politics at a university in Utah.

Then, from her own update on the Gofund me page, i found out that she had went to private schools as a child. By her own accounts she has an above average IQ, born out I guess by her graduation from high school at age 16. I found out that the events she had previously portrayed were not actually happening to her right now, but had happened over the course of her life. That they had ‘been taken out of context’.

The taken out of context comment troubled me, as the only context the reader had was the one she herself gave in writing the account in the first place.

She asserted that she only had three hours sleep a night, which under scrutiny, would seem to leave precious little time to blog. I know this to be true from experience!

There were holes appearing in her story. Her stories were beginning to take on multiple timelines. She mentions that her parents (grandparents?) gave her and her husband a trailer to live in, and then ‘set them up in a house’. I’m not clear on what that actually means.

I started sifting through the comments on her Gofund me page and the original article on Huffington Post. I was not the only one having doubts. people were raising legitimate questions. her supporters, and there are many of them, labeled anyone who asked a question as ‘haters’. Well, that just didn’t wash with me.

While I was doing this ‘research’, the goal of her fundraising was raised to $55,000!

Well….what the hell?

This seemed like way more than what she needed to accomplish what she was looking to do. I was becoming somewhat suspicious of the whole thing. I do not think she did this maliciously, not for one second. but, I think as it went viral, she saw that she could get more and went for it. i was surprised by how many people left comments urging her to get every dollar she could.

This just seemed wrong to me at the most basic level.

By Sunday the contributions were starting to slow down. She had raised close to $30,000 on Saturday, but just over $5,000 all day Sunday. I don’t think she understood that angle of it. late Sunday night she once again boosted the goal.

To $100,000!!!

She explained it in a very lengthy post which accompanied the increase.

“Right now, I have the ear of a lot of very talented people. They can help me do the thing properly. And so I am raising the cap to $100,000, and if this insanity doesn’t stop and we get there, I will make it $150K. I will keep raising it by unthinkable amounts until it stops. People are giving me these resources of their own free will, and they are doing it because they believe that I can do good.”

She went on to explain that she now wants to start a non-profit and advocate for people in poverty.

Well, on its’ own, I think that’s wonderful.

But what happened to the book?

Greed happened to the book.

I read her story, I donated to her so that she could devote time to writing a book about her experiences.

It was at this point that i send Lind Tirado a personal e-mail asking for my $10 back.

This is where I will give her credit. She responded quickly to me, explained herself, and then told me that she had sent my personal info to her friend Crystal, who it turns out has been hired by Linda to handle these type of things. Her friend (assistant?) did contact me, and in due course I was indeed issued a refund.

By the way, according to a post by Crystal, she is being paid minimum wage by Linda to work for her. isn’t that interesting? How about a ‘living wage’ in true poverty advocacy?

Before you think that i myself am an uncharitable man…. I sponsor a young girl in Ghana through World Vision. I like to donate to, which fixes cleft pallets in the third world (you want to change someones life in a HUGE way? Give these guys $240 and make a difference!). I give blood every chance I get. I have helped friend financially even though the end result meant adding tens of thousands (literally) to my debt. I give KIVA gift certificates as Christmas presents.

I sold my old car for crap last year (and replaced it with a 1999 model!) and took half the money and went shopping for the local SPCA. It was FUN! I loved being able to do that!

My point is not to fish for compliments or say ‘look at me’… just to point out that I am not ‘cheap’ and I do like to help when and where I can. I am not rich. I work very hard for the money I get, but I do believe in ‘paying it forward.’

I know what it’s like to be poor.

My family moved a lot when I was young. I went to seven different public schools and 3 different high schools. My father was always chasing his dream of owning his own business. he succeeded, for a few years. then came the recession in the early 1980’s. Interest rates of 20%. My parents lost everything.

It wasn’t the first time. A few years earlier our house burned down.

My parents started over.

They lost their business, their cars, our house, had to declare bankruptcy (which in those days was akin to being a Leper).

They started over.

I remember wanting to go on a scout camping trip. I REALLY wanted to go, but you had to bring your own food for the weekend. All we had for me to bring was a loaf of bread and a jar of home made jam. I took it and went on the camping trip.  It’s true when they say that kids can be so cruel.

I had to wear my fathers work pants to school because we had no money for clothes. My feet were coming through the bottom of my sneakers.

Every year on my birthday my grandfather would give me a $20 bill. From the time I was 13 until I was 18 I just handed it over to my mother. Cheerfully.

When I went off to college (with loans and a grant) I immediately got a part time job working midnights at a gas station. Even though i was living in another city, I used to give my parents money for groceries.

I dropped out of college in the first year. I was studying Journalism, and being very principled, did not appreciate that all I was being taught was how to lie, how to make any quote say what I wanted it to say by taking it out of context. My grant became a loan. I paid it all back, with interest.

I fell in love and got married by twenty. My parents by this time had moved (chasing larger opportunities) 1700 miles away. With no education and no experience, I worked a series of dead end menial minimum wage jobs. But I worked hard, and caught a few lucky breaks. Even though I am not educated, i now have a career which I am very good at and proud of.

But I know what it’s like to eat cornflakes without milk (the trick is to pour water on them, then drain it off…that way the sugar still dissolves!).

I know what it’s like to eat a ketchup sandwich and pretend it is pizza.

I still remember the first steak I ever ate, because I was an adult.

This is why I asked for my $10 back.

I know how important a lucky break can be. Linda Tirado got her lucky break when her original goal was reached. Had she looked at some of the other pages on Gofund me, she would have seen people in the most dire of situations literally reduced to tears as they begged for gas money to be able to get a life saving operation. She would have seen people fighting cancer who desperately need a break. She would have seen people who just need help, NOW!

She might have also seen the couple who are getting married and would like complete strangers to give them $25,000 for the wedding and the honeymoon. Isn’t that audacious?

Sadly, when Linda Tirado raised her goal to $100,000 and changed the entire purpose of why she wanted this money, in my mind, she went into the same category as the couple who want me to pay for their honeymoon. Incidentally, my own honeymoon was a day trip to an amusement park and we had an AWESOME time!

I sincerely hope that she does write the book. I will probably even buy a copy if it does appear in print.

But she should have realized that when you become entranced by the thoughts of more money, and bigger goals, it changes the very nature of what made your story so compelling in the first place.