Whenever my extended family gets together, we reminisce about past events and how they shaped our lives. Whether good, bad, or horrifically disturbing, we recount the good old days, and we laugh. Oh, we laugh.
Over Thanksgiving, I was reminded of an incident that happened almost 20 years ago. It involved one of my aunts and her youngest son. She doesn’t know this, but her reaction to my cousin’s mistake impacted me more than she could ever imagine.
Growing up, I was fortunate to live in close proximity to my first cousins. Since we were around the same age, we often played together. One evening, as was commonplace at the time, my mom and I dropped by my aunt’s house after school.
We weren’t there long before my little cousin walked through the door. He was probably 10 or 11 years old at the time. My aunt took one look at him and, well, she lost it.
So, how did my cousin cause his mother to momentarily lose her mind? He wore dirty sneakers that’s how.
Judging from my aunt’s behavior, you’d think my cousin had knocked over a liquor store. She was incensed that her boy would dare leave the house looking like a *gasp* poor person. The crazy thing is, they were poor.
My aunt raised four kids as a single, working mother. And as far as I know, she never received a dime of governmental assistance.
After my aunt filled the living room with so many obscenities that some of them got stuck in the air vents, she concluded her verbal assault with a familiar, disciplinary tool used by many southern, black women from her generation – a belt.
She beat the hell out of my cousin. (Which was perfectly legal at the time, I might add.)
Throughout the entire ordeal, I remember one line my aunt repeated over and over and over again.
I’ll never forget it.
We’re poor, but we ain’t pitiful.
Although I felt sorry for my cousin, I understood where my aunt was coming from.
As convenient as it is to look to money to solve your problems, clean shoes don’t involve much more than a damp wash cloth and a dab of elbow grease.
It’s not okay to dress like a hobo just because money is tight. Regardless of where you come from or how little you have, be proud. Be grateful. Take care of your possessions.
There were times I didn’t adhere to these rules.
A few years ago, my now ex-boyfriend told me my hair looked like a rat’s nest. It cracks me up whenever I think about it now, but, back then, my feelings were hurt by his insensitive comment.
First, because he wasn’t joking. And second, because it was true. My hair actually looked like it’d been picked over by a flock of angry birds.
Although my friends encouraged me to see a hair stylist, I was using my free cash to pay off debt. I alone had to figure out how to NOT look like a crackhead. Surprisingly, everything I needed could be found in a bottle of $4 hair gel and a couple YouTube videos. Combine that with a few hours of my time, and I was gorgeous again.
What valuables are you neglecting?
Do you live in a small house located in a “bad” neighborhood? That’s no reason for your place to look like it’s overrun by filthy animals.
Are you driving an ugly, 15-year old beater you desperately want to replace? Until you scrounge up the cash for an upgrade, thank your current vehicle with regular maintenance. Keep the dashboard wiped down with Armor All – the carpets and seats vacuumed. Hang a pine scented air freshener on the rear view mirror.
You may not have the finest clothes, but they’ll look better ironed instead of like they’ve been crumpled up in a laundry basket for the last two weeks.
Just because you can’t get everything you want, doesn’t mean you’re free to let what you have fall apart.
I hurt my left foot while running over a year ago and haven’t been able to do a proper lunge since. (Shut up. I know I should get the foot checked out.) But a minor injury doesn’t stop me from working out. I won’t let the guy with one leg or the woman undergoing chemotherapy upstage me at the gym. I thank God for the rest of my functioning body and do what I can.
One of my favorite lines of poetry came from T.I. and Rihanna’s song, Live Your Life. I think it’s fitting.
Stop looking at what you ain’t got and start being thankful for what you do got.
Take inventory of what you “do got,” and appreciate it.