KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – My birthday is actually coming up a few days after I submitted this article to my editor. (Editor’s note, it’s today, Happy Birthday, Kendall!).
This made me think how maybe it would be of some interest to report how people living in poverty and social isolation celebrate their birthdays. After all, fancy and expensive restaurants are out of our range, and so is getting together with friends for drinks. Many of us do not have good relationships with our families, so spending birthdays that way is often not an option either.
Through my research and experience of being a poverty advocate I find that most people living in poverty have social contacts and friends who are equally poor.
Most birthdays of people living in poverty are not happy birthdays for them, or at least aren’t happy birthday in terms of what a middle or upper class person would consider happy.
Middle and upper class people who have the money take celebrating their birthdays for granted. They gather with a bunch of their friends or family members at an expensive/ restaurant, they go to a movie with a friend, or maybe have people over to their homes to celebrate and in the summer time a BBQ, those are things that people living in poverty can only dream of.
Three articles I wrote for the Nova Scotia Advocate talk about the relationship between social isolation and poverty.
- In All alone, the roots of isolation I talk about the general day to life of poor people and make the point that when the drop-ins and soup kitchens are closed these people have no choice but to keep themselves socially isolated in their apartments.
- Then in Social isolation needs our attention 24/7 I talk about my idea how to address it through a 24/7 centre.
- And in For people living in poverty there is almost nothing I make the point how much different social activities cost, and how they are not affordable for people living in poverty.
Anyway, I recently talked to four people in my community who I know live in poverty and who are socially isolated to get input from them about how they spend their birthdays.
All four of them pretty much gave me the same answer. They said to me, “Kendall as much as we would love to celebrate our birthdays the same way ordinary people do, we can’t. Life is just not normal for us because of our income level we live on.”
Then one of these people went on to say “my birthday is one day per year that my level of anxiety increases because of the frustration of my income level.”
Keep in mind that a lot of people living in poverty tell me that they do not have good relationships with their families and old friendships often are lost when people go on welfare.
On my birthday I will be thinking of those who are worse off than I am, even though my own situation is not all that much better. Unlike most that actually live in poverty, at least I am lucky to have family I get along with, plus a few friends to do some social stuff with as well.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all drop-ins and soup kitchens had a way to celebrate the birthdays of the poor that access them?
Something to think about!
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