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Apparently we’re poor

Kelly Higgins | Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I knew coming to college that many of the other students would be wealthy. I, being from a middle-class family, had no problem with this. I understood that there were people better off than my family, but I also knew that there were many people who could not afford to live as comfortable as I had. I have never felt like I was deprived as a result of my middle-class upbringing, as I have never had to go without shelter, clothing or food. However, my idea of middle class normalcy was squashed after my arrival at Saint Mary’s.

Did you know that people wear Tiffany’s on a daily basis? I certainly did not. Aside from the designer label and luxury car shock, which was expected, I was astonished to come to realize that the town that I grew up in was poor, and as a result, I come from a totally different culture. I am from Portage, Indiana. Anyone from the region can tell you that Portage is not a great place, but it is certainly not the worst place around by any stretch of the imagination.

You may be wondering how I came to realize that I come from a poor place. When it came time to run to the store for the first time to re-stock on essentials such as deodorant and shampoo, I decided to make a shopping trip at the local Dollar General just as I would at home. In my mind, there is no reason to pay more money for something than you have to. After all, shampoo is shampoo, right?

Apparently, there are people who never buy generic anything and, more importantly, never venture to the dollar store. I actually took my friend on her maiden voyage to Dollar General. She was amazed that items purchased at a discount store actually work the same as brand name items. As I was pulling up to the Dollar General, I was posed with yet another question that widened our cultural gap. What is a Rent-A-Center? I was amazed. Doesn’t every town have one? For those of you that may not know, Rent-A-Center is a place where people who cannot afford furniture or major appliances can go to rent them, because, after all, you have to have a refrigerator.

This is when it hit me; our strip mall in town looks something like this: Big Lots, Discount Tobacco Shop, Kidney Dialysis Center, Liquor Store, Check into Cash. Wow, my town is poor. This was even more engrained into my psyche after I realized that some people have never seen a trailer park. I can name seven local trailer parks by name. I can even tell you which are nicest.

I am not complaining by any stretch. I am grateful for the privileges that I have had in my life. I just hope others can realize how fortunate they are. I think it is important to understand that it is fine to shop at the dollar store, there is nothing wrong with living in a trailer park, Rent-A-Centers and Check into Cash establishments take advantage of other people’s misfortune, not everyone takes a vacation on breaks (some of us have to work), and most importantly the neighborhood that you drive through on the way to the airport is not a ghetto. It may not be nice, but it can be and is much worse in other places. For all of the other middle and lower class students, you are not alone, see you at Big Lots.