Column: Hoping for better opportunities

‘Being poor is not a privilege.’


Anna Velazquez

“It does not mean we are less worthy. I know everything we have, has been worked for.”

It didn’t happen all at once. It all happened slowly, so slow I hadn’t really realized what was occurring. Or maybe I was just too young and naive to care, but it took a bit of time for me to notice the little things missing in my home.

It wasn’t like someone was stealing from us. No, it was much worse. We were running low on money.

I began to notice the subtle things; the lack of food in the pantry and fridge, the bills piling up, the holes in my shoes that were never replaced. As the weeks went by, my mother’s dinner plate seemed to get smaller and smaller. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, waving it off as a loss of appetite.

In reality, my mother was starving. But she didn’t have the heart to tell her kids there was not enough food for all of us. She tricked us into thinking everything was fine even though she was struggling to make the money last each month.

From a young age I learned to appreciate what I had, to wear or use everything until it was no longer usable, to eat everything on my plate because another meal was never promised.

It wasn’t about materialistic things either; my relationship with my mother was diminishing and my brother’s childhood was taken away before he even got the chance to truly enjoy it, but this wasn’t their fault. My single mother was working day and night to provide my family with the necessities. My brother gave up his social life at the age 16 so he could help with the bills.

He woke up every morning for school, attended all his classes and once the bell rang at the end of the school day, he ran out the door to go to his first job of the evening.

Since my mom was away working during the majority of the day, I rarely got to see her. When I did, it was a short passing acknowledgement. Every night she came home from work with bags under her eyes and extreme fatigue, but I went into her room and laid down in her arms, cherishing her embrace because I wouldn’t be able to feel that comfort again until the next night. 

Although my relationship with my mom and brother was strained, I admired them both for giving up so much to provide for the rest of the family.

Despite what others think, being from a low-income family does not come with benefits.

My free and reduced lunch is not a privilege. A smaller price for AP exams and SAT tests is not a privilege. Living off food stamps is not a privilege.

Being poor is not a privilege.

People have this negative idea that all poor people are unemployed and simply feed off of other’s money. The reality is, people from low-income families work multiple jobs, hours on end. Even with that, they continue to struggle to pay the bills. Yes, we receive government help, but it’s a necessity. Without it, I would not be able to eat lunch at school every day. I would not be able to take AP exams. My education would be limited.

Coming from a low-income family has not been all sunshine and rainbows, but it has taught me to appreciate every single opportunity. It does not mean we are less worthy. I know everything we have, has been worked for.