featured Poverty

Kendall Worth: Would you be my Valentine, if only I could afford it?

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The same readers of the Nova Scotia Advocate who asked me to write Pretending New Year’s Eve isn’t even happening suggested I tackle how people living in poverty cope with Valentine’s Day.

In a way I could just write one of those “A single person’s guide to Valentine’s Day” stories you see a lot. After all, many if not most people living in poverty are single. In my story Love works miracles, but your relationship is none of Community Services’ business I wrote about some of the reasons why this is so. 

For people on low incomes Valentine’s Day often means being unfairly judged for not being married, and not having children. That’s so sad. Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about celebrating life and not being alone in this world.

In the community of people living in poverty, socializing happens differently. Let’s have a look at how Valentine’s Day is different for people on income assistance. To find out I simply asked some people, and here are the answers I received.

“In life we as poor people do feel somewhat stressed out and left out about exactly what this day is supposed to be about. It is all about the general meaning of what Valentine’s Day is. But the Valentine’ Days type of romance can be filled through so many different outlets.”

“However this has a different meaning within the community of people living in poverty.  Treating yourself and buying a gift, whether that gift is for yourself or that special someone is what some single people with money to spend tend to do on that day. People living in poverty doing this on Valentine’s, or on any occasion for that matter, is completely out of the question.”

“Yes Kendall, we totally understand that on Valentine’s Day, unlike other holidays, ordinary people still go to work and students still go to school on that day. It is because of what else people do on Valentine’s Day is why we as poor people feel left out on that day”     

“Also sometimes people with money to spend tend to send flowers to people such as nieces, nephews, other family members, and perhaps loved ones in general on Valentine’s Day. However sending flowers to people is again out of the question for poor people on low income. Many if not most people living in poverty are single and they cannot afford to buy gifts for that special someone.”

So at this point in the story the question becomes “How does a person living in poverty meet someone to be their Valentine?”

Well the answer for any human being in general is the fact that possibilities are endless.

From what I gather from talking to middle and upper class people who have money to throw away on social activities is that they met their intimate partners through things like  co-workers, some end up falling in love with people they went to high school with, some met their partners while attending college or university.  

Others who are middle and upper class have mentioned to me that they met their intimate partners through memberships to social groups they belong to which have expensive registration fees that people living in poverty cannot afford.

However people on income assistance or living in poverty lack these opportunities to meet someone they really like because those avenues are not an option to them.  

So for a person living in poverty to meet their Valentine or partner, It would most likely be through attending the soup kitchens, drop-ins, or perhaps at the library. In the event that a person who lives in poverty attends church, meeting someone that way is an example of another affordable possibility.

When you live in poverty, you got to think about what can you do socially that is affordable within your budget.  That is what me suggesting the library and church is all about. However there are more ways you can be creative if a person puts their minds to it.

Valentine Day cards at Dollar Stores are only a buck a card, of course if you can spare the buck. Now if a person living in poverty meets someone they really do like, and you have access to cardboard and art supplies, you can always make homemade cards for that person you consider wanting to be your valentine.  

Going for a nice long walk with your partner on Valentine’s Day is always free of charge. Of course because Valentine’s Day is in the middle of winter, the weather is not always so nice for walking. If the weather is not so nice outside, you can always get into a shopping mall with paying no admission fee for entry. Walking around the mall and dreaming what you buy if you could afford it is called window shopping.  

Walking is good as long as the weather is cooperating.  Skating on the Oval in Halifax is free of charge and they even skates you can rent for free of charge. Also there are places where you can go for cheap cups of coffee. So those are the affordable ideas for a poor persons Valentine’s Day date.     

So let’s all make the best of Valentine’s day!

Kendall Worth is a tireless anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.  

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