The Lessons of Poverty

Holly Case
7 min readFeb 27, 2022
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

I’ve written elsewhere about how my husband and I had a very happy marriage and we did. But we had our fair share of tense moments and they were almost all caused by poverty. There were things that we learned from the experience, though, and they had a lasting impact on how we lived when we had more money.

The maple syrup incident

During the many years when we lived in poverty, I kept myself to a very tight grocery budget. I tried to feed myself, my husband, and our three kids on a budget of $125 dollars a week, and most weeks I succeeded. Every dollar was accounted for and planned. I was very proud of my finely-honed shopping skills and the fact that we got to eat home-cooked, healthy meals every night.

My husband had quit a job that made him miserable and took a job with a substantial pay cut just to get out of there. It ended up being a total disaster and he got fired after 3 months — the only time he was ever fired from a job in our 28 years together. It turned out that he had been hired on false pretenses to cover his boss’ maternity leave.

It was a desperate and terrifying time. We fell behind on our mortgage. He looked for a job, any possible job, and there was just no place hiring. It wasn’t uncommon to look in the job listings and see fewer than 10 jobs total in the entire area.

I recently came across a post in my Facebook memories from that time and of the seven available new jobs, three were part-time jobs at fast food places, one for a nurse in Florida (we were in Michigan), and three jobs that required very specific and advanced experience that he didn’t have.

If you’re wondering why he didn’t at least apply for the fast-food jobs, it’s because they generally don’t want to hire someone with 15 years of more responsible unrelated experience, because they (rightfully) know you’ll quit as soon as you find something better. People don’t understand the kind of job markets where even fast-food jobs are competitive.

He was out of work for nearly a year and the first place that would hire him was a seasonal job at Target. After that, he got a job for a repo company that paid $8.50 an hour, with no health insurance. It just looked so hopeless.

Holly Case

Therapy-informed writer/mom. Widowed young from a great man. Always learning. Healing from generational trauma. 5X Top Writer Parenting/Feminism