I’m listening to talk radio on CBC, and they’re discussing child poverty. Following the intro, the host asked the first pundit, “Have you ever been poor?” He answered yes, but that he had the gifts to work himself out of it.

Hmmm. I’m thinking no, he hasn’t been poor… and he doesn’t understand what poor really is. First off, I want to say that “poor student” doesn’t count. Sorry, you don’t get any points for that. Nada. If you were poor, you wouldn’t be able to afford to be a student. You don’t get it. Besides, the tight financial circumstances in which a student finds themselves is almost more a kind of right of passage, something that most of us experience. It’s also something that when we’re in the midst of it, we still know it’s going to end. That’s not poor, that’s temporarily cash-strapped. Oh, it helps us understand to some degree, but it’s fundamentally not the same thing.

Years later, we look back on our “starving student” years often with a kind of fondness, and say that we know how it feels to be poor, to not have any money. We don’t. What struck me about the pundit’s answer was this… the reply that welled up inside me to say, “Yeah, you don’t know anything. To tell me you look back on your student years as having been poor is a farce. Being a poor single student is nothing. Tell my you’ve been poor while trying to provide for a family, and then I’ll give you some credit for it.”

What do you think? Am I being unduly harsh, or is there something here? Have you ever been poor, and by what definition?

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