"Stuff" fuels poverty

"These people mirror me." That thought wove like a thread through my mind continually as I read the March 11 cover story on the working poor in Charlottesville ["Nickel + Dimed: Ehrenreich talks about our working poor"].

I am a blessed individual. Through the grace and generosity of others, I live what I believe to be an exceptional life. My home is paid for since I fulfilled a hand-written contract with a local farmer. (No banks involved and no interest.)

However, I have lived with an outhouse for eight years and a primitive water system prone to freezing in the winter if not meticulously maintained, a chore sometimes difficult with two children and hours spent working away from home.

But it is my home. Family, friends, and even strangers have made the difference in my life. Home improvements have been made through generosity and barter. Plumbing is next on the list!

The key that has thrown the door open to the help I have received is that those who have given their time, talents, and money see me as being no different from them. The other side of this philosophy I see clearly in my job. Working in fine dining, I reach across a wide chasm to put a plate of food in front of people. Believe me when I say that the class system is alive and well in Charlottesville.

Some middle-class and wealthy people see me and others like me as being vastly different from themselves. In order for poverty to be transformed, it is crucial that we acknowledge that next-door neighbors or the family down the street are the same as ourselves. And this acknowledgment must go both ways.

Poor, middle class, and wealthy people all want the same things: access to health care, warmth on a cold winter night, and the ability to provide for our families. The differences in how these are achieved in our lives are fundamental differences. But that we all have these and other basic needs (love, community, food, etc.) is at the core of being human.

It should be simple to give up some of the material possessions that have created a mirage of security in some people's lives. But we live in a culture that feeds an insatiable appetite of needing more "stuff" in order to achieve happiness. It is this false notion that fuels poverty. Our community contains within it the means to abolish the poverty we see our neighbors and even ourselves living in.

Is this an idealistic thought? Absolutely. But what we have to lose and what is being lost in our society is priceless compared to the big screen TV in the family room.

Paige Hartsell
Nelson County