Poverty Tells Many Stories

This short film was directed by Isabel Prahl for a European film school competition. Heads up, it’s captioned.

The film’s point could be that money isn’t needed for happiness, or that happiness is where you find it.

I take from the story a need to understand poverty in a real sense. For me, it dredged up a debate I had with a parent last week at my daughter’s school about raising our school’s T-shirt prices by $2, with the selling price of $10.  Sounds more than fair, right?

Except, I see families from our school every weekend at yard sales, always a mom and 2 to 4 kids, and an occasional father, pouring over clothing. The kids never turn toward toys for sale. I think they know it’s not allowed. The families are in search of clothing, nothing more, and rest assured, they are not dressed as fashionistas.

I’m at yard sales because I’m a frugal bastard, but these families are there because they are saving every penny. So I think, yes, even $2 matters — the equivalent of 4 to 8 shirts at a yard sale for a family in need — but I was alone in that thought. It’s easy to forget how other people live. We live in a society, after all, that has begun serving breakfast at school because parents cannot afford to provide this basic need to their children.


5 Responses to “Poverty Tells Many Stories”

  1. Amy says:

    Thank you for your sensitivity in this situation – we were discussing the suggested cost for our church’s Wednesday evening meal, whether we should cap it for larger families or not. I really think someone needs to stand up for those who can’t afford the costs, and don’t have a way to speak against it. Thank you again!

    September 4th, 2010 at 12:33 pm

  2. adrienne says:

    As the relative of a public school teacher, I have constant reminders that even very small sums of money may be quite significant for some families. A $2 field trip or art fee may be out of reach for some.

    I know a lot of teachers who quietly pay these fees every year. Every few years an awesome and aware parent with a comfortable income will offer to anonymously pay fees for families that cannot afford it or they just send in $20 instead of $2 and tell the teacher to use the surplus to cover other expenses. I shop at yard sales so I can do this when my kids are in school.

    September 5th, 2010 at 8:23 am

  3. gertie says:

    That movie gives me chills. Growing up my family was always just far enough from the poverty line that we didn’t worry about having a place to live, or enough food to eat, but close enough that any major expense (car repair being the most frequent) would make my mom cry. I wore thrift store clothes in a Nordstrom town, and I knew not to ask for things.

    I didn’t miss the things I couldn’t have–what made me sad was the fear that other kids would find out I was poor. These days I drag my kids to thrift stores, and I work diligently to stick to my mom’s cash envelope budget system, but it is because I want to be frugal, not because I have to in order to survive.

    As a teacher now in a very diverse school, I have kids who have to deal with poverty at a level much deeper than my childhood experiences. These kids have to deal with actual fear, not just shame. With the budget cuts in California and our district many of teachers are asking for more support and donations, and getting pretty upset whenever they don’t get it. It is hard to balance one’s own hardships (yes, two years of salary cuts, yes, we do spend money on our classrooms) against the unknown hardships of others. I think we all tend to suspect that other people are better off than we are, but we could do a world of good if we reversed that belief, and erred on the side of generosity.

    September 5th, 2010 at 5:17 pm

  4. observer says:

    This movie is such a reality check. i do not usually think about poverty as it is seen by a child. i can honestly say that everyone should see this film

    September 6th, 2010 at 3:31 pm

  5. AJ says:

    Addendum: Apparently someone reads the blog, because a parent corrected me yesterday that the parent group has tried selling shirts for a profit before. I was then given a detailed rationale for why this time the group will turn a profit instead of incur a loss, which, umm, underscores for me that they never understood my concerns to begin with. Sigh.

    September 9th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

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