March’s stipend was the lowest we have received to date. $240.38. And the month of March has 5 weeks this year.
Ouch. This one’s going to be rough.
6 days in, I had $12.00 in my bank account.
March has financially been the most challenging month to date. I barely scraped by the month of February, with $0.38 left in by bank account on February 29th. I was so excited to deposit my March stipend and fatten my checking account but 6 days in to the month, after withdrawing my grocery money for the month, paying my gym membership, buying a tank of gas, getting brunch, a beer, and paying for a cheap $30 student led massage (my own personal reward for making it through the stresses of February) I was already back in the red line territory of my bank account. How did I end up here again?
I have an alarm set up on my bank account that alert’s me when I drop below any given amount. I have mine set to $25. Just about two weeks into the month, every month, I get this email reminder after every purchase I make with my debit card. Talk about a constant stress. I was way more frugal with my money this month than past months, trying to make money or add back to my bank account whenever I could, including dog sitting, and returning items I bought recently and really didn’t need (that really sucked). But every time it gets this rough, I can remind myself, “only 4.5 more months of this.. then you can get a real job and not buy something without feeling incredibly guilty.” Lucky for me, I know I have an end date to my current situation, and have the resources and connections to pull myself out. But how many people who live under these circumstances by force, not choice, have a ticket out like I do?
Last Friday, instead of our normal reflection, we met up with one of my roommates work sites, Asheville Poverty Initiative, to partake in a Poverty Walk. For about 2 hours, we were led by API’s Director and a Poverty Scholar through the main parts of downtown where those without have access to various resources such as food and housing. Not to be mistaken as a “tour,” we learned about what homelessness in Asheville is like from those who have and are experiencing it first hand, like our Poverty Scholar. All to often, the voices of those accessing these resources are never heard, yet they are the largest fountain of knowledge and wisdom we have. Tapping into their experiences, we were able to hear how organizations in Asheville aiming at providing housing, food, and jobs actually work and if there services are useful or welcoming. The Poverty Scholar that joined us that day wore a shirt that said, “I’m not homeless, I live on the Earth.” Even though he had stayed in shelters at different points in time, their requirements for staying at the shelter (either a hefty fee or religious obligation) are so off putting that he, like many others choose to live outside, prone to the elements. I was incredibly grateful for the chance to talk with our Poverty Scholar and others that we passed by on the street for their stories. This experience helped me destigmatize the notions of homelessness and poverty that I had in my head that revolve around the differentiation between “us” from “them.”
Our Poverty Scholar’s words stuck with me as we left reflection that day: Aren’t we all just human beings on planet Earth? One home and one planet that we need for our survival? Getting caught up in assumptions and stigmas can only do harm to the dignity of those individuals not in the center. If we all made the time to stop and talk to our neighbors, or those we passed by on the street, then we would learn how connected we all are and how as humans we rely on community to thrive as a species.
Happy reading y’all!