I was raised by my mom in a small rural New Jersey town. At age 11, my dad took off with another woman and my mother and I were forced to live in a tiny apartment from that moment on. She was from England and had to wait a year to become a naturalized citizen. During that time, I delivered newspapers and she babysat just to pay the rent. We had no phone, and no electricity for the first six months. I did my homework by candlelight at night and my only entertainment was reading or listening to a battery-powered transistor radio. So we had a meager income and were considered poor by almost any standard.
There are many things I remember about that period. Little things, like always using the express line in the grocery story because we were never able to buy more than a few things at a time. Or getting hand-me-down clothing from a cousin because I couldn’t afford new. Or the day we actually got a our electricity turned on and I got to watch a TV show again. Or call someone on the phone when we could eventually afford the deposit. Talk about appreciating the little things in life. Those are the incidents that are etched in my mind.
So, was I resentful that my school buddies had much more than I had? Not really. I could admire their nice homes, bicycles, and cool clothing that they would take for granted. But I figured that I just needed to get through the day with what I had. Yet I held out hope that life would get better. I got another, better paying, job at age 13. My mom was now a postal employee making good money. By the time I graduated high school, we were still in the apartment, but coping pretty well. I got a slew of scholarships to college and student loans to pay for room and board.
The rest, as they say, is history. The only sad time occurred during the year I graduated college when my mom died from cancer. But I moved on and promised to honor her memory by striving hard to be a good person and make her proud. Today I am fairly successful and semi-retired after a long career as a marketing consultant and have a daughter in college. Along with my wife, I run a home-based web business, thenurseschoice.com that provides health information and doctor referrals. I have done well with investing and planning. My wife and I travel the world and life is good. But it was all made possible by my earliest memories. From those dark days, I learned some valuable lessons, I would love to share:
(1) You can rise above your status in life, no matter how low you start
(2) There is always hope and faith to get you through
(3) Appreciate the simplest acts, like reading a good book
(4) Enjoy the moment because you never know what’s in store
(5) Think to the future and what you would like to accomplish
(6) Being poor isn’t anything to be ashamed about, pitying yourself is
(7) Be the best you can at whatever you attempt
(8) Wake up every morning with a sense of optimism
(9) Never forget where you came from
(10) When you become successful, pledge to help those in need.
I did. I still recall the tough days and what it took to be upbeat and positive. I didn’t say it was easy, but it made me a stronger person. One that could overcome adversity and realized that I needed to grasp every opportunity as it approached me. I had to be resourceful and realistic. I also tend to watch my usage of material objects. Therefore, I recycle and don’t waste things. I once had to make food and personal possessions last a long time. I still feel the same way forty years later.
They say that people who lived through the great depression are of the same ilk. They waste nothing. I can relate, to some extent. To those of you who can’t begin to understand what poverty is all about, I simultaneously envy and feel sorry for you. Unless you have experienced a harsher, more challenging lifetime, you can’t taste the sweetness that a richer, fuller life holds. That’s what being raised poor did for me. It took years to realize God’s larger plan for me; suffer a bit in my youth to truly enjoy the fruits of my labor in later life. Now, is that such a poor outcome?
Jeffrey Hauser’s latest book is, “Inside the Yellow Pages, ” which can be viewed at http://www.poweradbook.com
He was a sales consultant for the Bell System Yellow Pages for nearly 25 years. He graduated from Pratt Institute with a BFA in Advertising and has a Master's Degree in teaching. He had his own advertising agency in Scottsdale, Arizona and ran a consulting and design firm, ABC Advertising. Currently, he is the Marketing Director for thenurseschoice.com, a Health Information and Doctor Referral site.