Poverty is powerful
I’ve recently made a significant transition out of the largely non-profit/environmental track I had been on for most of 18 years. Moving over to a organization (who paid to remain unnamed) with a focus on children was a big shift. Granted I’ve been a foster parent twice (overall grade B-) and part of many non-profits as a volunteer and working on social causes unrelated to environmental causes. But I’ve always loved science, environments, critters and their respective causes and was a little proud to have continued to use my B.S. in Biology (grade point average suppressed) through most of my career including some time teaching middle school science (unreal, right?) and multiple stints as a tour guide and even director for a small non-profit where my communication skills trumped my scientific rigor by leaps and bounds. But here I am and I’m really quite stoked with where I am. Life is on a solidly upward trajectory and I’m appreciative. Enough about me, thank you Mom!
Connecting with this job wasn’t at first easy. Kids have never been a full-time gig. I’ve dabbled: been the teacher, part-time coach, and Big Brother (not the NSA kind). There were/are ulterior motives behind those community-minded efforts. A deep-rooted recognition of where I’d come from and the fortune I’d inherited by birth. At five I was a welfare child, my sister 3 1/2, brother 2 and Mother, only 27 years young. We were poor, destitute and reliant on “The Welfare System”. Government cheese, eggs, and no frills foods. Subsidized housing and thrift store clothes.
Fortune? You say?
Yes. Fortune. A trinity of fortunes. I was born white, male and American. Risky words right? At this time in place you couldn’t ask for a better start even if it started with poverty – because poverty in the United States is WAY better than poverty almost anywhere else – believe it. Being born white and male is also amazing lucky. I don’t mean that as racist or misogynist (or both). Granted being born to a ridiculously wealthy family would have been the quaternary (?) of fortune, but whatever. Unlike the youth we see on a daily basis at my work I had family and fortune on my side. Thought my parents had split my father remained involved, my grandparents a steady source of love, stability and guidance; family members helping us through rough stretches that I probably only know the half of.
Through it all my Mom persevered. A Pell Grant sent my Mother to college for a degree in nursing and we were lifted out of poverty. No longer “takers” (a hate-filled, fear-filled word) to makers now paying our fair share of taxes. Three well-rounded grown kids, raising kids of their own. It was never perfect, except that is couldn’t have been otherwise – so perfection by default.
I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to support the amazing staff we have who are so driven, caring and for kids who need it most. Not every kids that walks in our doors has to be a lawyer, doctor or accountant to call it a success. Transformations can be subtle and can take generations but can also be amazingly fast. One of our most powerful events will happen in March. Teens will share stories of triumph in the face of tragedy. I will cry at work that day (as well almost everyone present) and I look forward to it.
Editor’s Note: Exposing your vulnerability is a relief. To this day I don’t like to wear dirty clothes, and splurge on things I can’t afford in an attempt to show I’ve transcended. I’ve come a long ways and have a long way to go but I’m on a good path because of compassion. One of the most compelling Podcasts I’ve ever listened to touches on vulnerability, compassion and altruism. LISTEN HERE.
Anthony Poponi is a comic, improv artist, brain chemistry nerd and community-minded advocate and owner of Humore.us. He’s brings his love of connection and laughter to audiences as keynote, emcee, workshop host or moderator and his mission is to increase laughter and connectivity to combat the human health crises of isolation and disconnection.
Check out more from my blog Musings and A-musings!