Jump directly to the content
How Poor Could They Be? michieldijcks / Flickr

How Poor Could They Be?

Jul 18 2014
On going broke and getting judged.

After I confessed some of the stupid decisions we've made during our financial dry spell, a woman told me her family, in similar straits, went to Disney World: "We'd paid for the trip before my husband got laid off. We couldn't get a refund. To cancel seemed foolish."

I nodded, understanding. "But because we went," she said, "people wonder now—even after two years of unemployment—how broke could we really be?"

Once upon a time, I'd have wondered the same thing. I'd have judged and murmured, curious how an unemployed, broke person manages Disney World.

Just like how I'd have joined the ranks mocking Hillary Clinton and her "dead broke"-ness upon leaving the White House. I don't care how many millions of dollars in legal debt you accrued!How broke can you be with a presidential pension?

But this attitude changes fast when the questions make an about-face. Since I've gone public with my own family's story of going broke, I've faced down the same ones:

You live in a cushy suburb. How broke can you be?

You never sold your diamond engagement ring. How broke can you be?

You guys went camping. How broke can you be?

You color your grays. How broke can you be?

Didn't I see you in the McDonald's drive-thru? How broke can you be?

And my all-time favorite:

You got a book deal. How broke can you be?

Aside from the book-deal one (ummmm, see: Edgar Allen Poe, Oscar Wilde, Herman Melville, et al. Not saying I'm in their league. But if they died broke…), I've struggled to answer these questions myself, hemming and hawing, trying to explain, to justify.

Until handily, just last week, my fellow blonde-and-broke compatriot Darlena Cunha gave me the answer I'd been looking for for years. In "This Is What Happened When I Drove My Mercedes to Get Food Stamps," Cunha writes:

The reality of poverty can spring quickly while the psychological effects take longer to surface. When you lose a job, your first thought isn't, "Oh…I'm poor. I'd better sell all my nice stuff!" It's "I need another job. Now." When you're scrambling, you hang on to the things that work, that bring you some comfort. That Mercedes was the one reliable, trustworthy thing in our lives.

And while reading this may cause some bodies to squirm or some minds to smack down reasoning (certainly the Internet comment brigade tried giving her the what-for), Cunha's right. And Christians would do well to pay attention to her words. If we want to be compassionate. If we want to help. If we want to be more like Jesus.

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

More from Her.menutics
Thanking Our Immigrant Parents

Thanking Our Immigrant Parents

How Master of None points to the joy, not the guilt, of “Honor your father and mother.”
College Can Kill Our Colorblindness (If We Let It)

College Can Kill Our Colorblindness (If We Let It)

I used to be the white girl who didn't get it.
True Love Consents: Why Teach Christian Youth about Boundaries

True Love Consents: Why Teach Christian Youth about Boundaries

“No means no” matters at every stage.
Why It’s So Hard to Resist Grieving on Social Media

Why It’s So Hard to Resist Grieving on Social Media

We’d rather care imperfectly than appear like we don’t care at all.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

Your Husband’s Infidelity Is Not Your Fault

Adultery comes from a greedy heart, not an insufficient wife.


  • RT @michaboyett: Good words for Thanksgiving: https://t.co/dEOd3vtfJM
  • RT @d_l_mayfield: by far my fav episode of Master of None was "Parents." Here is a great take on that theme by @JenShamean : https://t.co/R2026
  • RT @SHoddeMiller: "Being 'you' isn't more important than being like Christ." On the hollowing out of "authenticity." https://t.co/cAoXut8bh2026
  • "I remember dark times of my life from which I struggled to praise him, when I couldn2019t force thankfulness..." https://t.co/6Qn0K928eG
  • RT @dorcas_ct: The parents who speak most openly and comfortably about sex tend to have children who delay having sex as a result. https://2026

What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
How Poor Could They Be?