Poverty, long considered an undesirable state of being, has benefits people don’t often consider. What we so often see are the faces on the “Save the Children” network ads, the stories politicians regale us with during election season and those of difficult circumstances on the network crime dramas, but while there is much we dislike about poverty, there are a few things we should not dismiss with this bathwater.
There are many love stories across time and culture that speak about the glories of wealth and power. What most of those stories ignore is how wealth and power are prisons of their own kind — people with money cannot easily live without it, people with power cannot easily choose their lives for themselves.
The president of the United States is a man who loses every semblance of freedom when he takes that oath. He must always have bodyguards, must always plan where he’s going beyond his retirement community, must always be watched. As president, he’s practically a slave, not to mention insulated from anyone but his advisors and handlers. You cease being “Tom Dahlson” and are now, in perpetuity, “President Dahlson.”
That might sound nice, until you realize what you gave up to get there.
There are stories of rich people wishing they could be poor, wishing to be free of expectation, responsibility and everyone else’s control over your life and destiny. Wealth can easily become a poison to the man, woman and family who possess it. It changes how people think, isolates them from other groups of people, corners them into a small community that spend more time comparing how they spend money against how other people of equal economic caliber spend money.
Does this make wealth evil? Absolutely not. Is possession of wealth a guarantee of becoming spoiled to its power? No. But if you’re not prepared to manage how wealth affects the world around you in more ways than the ability to buy stuff, it will warp your sense of reality.
It’s one reason so many celebrities assume some of the most asinine, ill-conceived politics. It’s because no matter how much they claim to remember their roots, they assume their wealth gives them credence to contribute to how other people should live their own lives.
Some live in poverty by not buying stuff, not anchoring themselves in mires of responsibility or power, by avoiding the troubles of wealth, even if they have copious amounts of capital. Some live in poverty without choice.
But back to my original point: In poverty come several benefits that people don’t like to consider.
First: From poverty can come freedom.
Many in poverty are there by debt, so I won’t say they necessarily come free. But not all who are poor are in debt, and the term poverty should not apply solely to an economic description, but also by mere method of lifestyle. Whatever lifestyle is chosen, living without worldly wealth can free people from the obsessions of wealth. Like a drug best left untouched, or a dessert held in the highest of moderation, living outside the lines of wealth allows people to move at will, disentangle themselves from unhealthy relationships and unhealthy people. It frees you from worrying about the loss of wealth or what you have bought with it.
If you don’t want to eat the whole box of Oreos, don’t eat the first one.
Secondly, in poverty comes clarity.
There are few barriers between you and the reality of existence when you live without wealth. Wealth can sometimes be an opaque glass with a smooth, flat surface. You get used to walking on smooth, flat ground that never rises against you or falls away, that seems shiny and clean, until it shatters beneath you and you have forgotten how to walk over the textured surface of reality.
Those within the insulating veneer of wealth are never far from the realities of life. For the most part.
There is the purveying problem of those who deceive the poor to believe their disadvantage is insurmountable without the government-sponsored theft of other people’s incomes. This is poppycock, as the first vestiges of modern wealth were not generated by stealing, but by finding ways of increasing production. That’s where wealth comes from — increased production, broader and happier customer base. There was not the wealth back then than there is today, which means it had to be MADE. While we can credit Keynesian economics for our fiat currency (paper money valued because the government says it has value versus a rooted gold standard), the foundational wealth from which that fiat currency could be made (like watering down whiskey) is the free market that generated the highest climb of quality of life for the average man in the history of the world.
Choose to pull away the absolute security of wealth, reaffirming yourself in the simple truth that wealth, like life, can be pulled away from us in an instant, and is no real security against the forces of nature — human or otherwise.
Know that poverty has its own benefits, as does wealth, and the greatest lesson between the two is always find contentment where you are. It does not mean pursue higher, grow more, build what security you can for yourself and your family, but know that it’s never more than a breath away from being lost. Find contentment, even with ambition and growth, and you’ll always learn to remember the best of life as you live it.