As we have all seen and read, poverty across our great state is increasing. Families are becoming poorer and Middle America is disappearing. I am disappearing, my family is disappearing.
We live in a house that most would envy, located on the water and big enough for guests to come visit. We have it better than some and yet we are the poor neighbors next door. Once a valued commodity in my industry, I now lack enough work to provide for my family sufficiently. Each day I look at my family, and with desperation I get on the computer and see if any new jobs have been posted or if any responses have come in.
I am 34, and for the first time in my working life, I am without a job — and have been for many months. I, like many others, am suffering financially and deteriorating mentally as time goes on. I have a wife who takes care of our three children, the youngest 9 months and the oldest 7 years. We cannot give them all that we would like and are able to give them what they have only through the blessings of others.
I try each day to think of ways to raise my head and know that I am doing all I can for my family, and yet each day depression is a battle. We have learned many new ways of being creative and selling things online has become a means of survival. We sell what we have for the things we need most.
Poverty is in every neighborhood, on every street and in every town. It is the person you least expect, the one who complains the least and smiles the most. It's as if, in some way, when we smile it's to have others smile back. And for just a moment reality escapes and a sense of normalcy sets in. Like revisiting a past when times were better and you smiled as a result of the good instead of trying to hide the hardships of today.
We are not what the cover of our book shows, with the smiles and big house on the water. We are now lower America; we are poor and for many months have been desperate for something to change. We try our best to not let our hard times keep our kids from enjoying their childhood and the simple things that come with that. There have been many months that items have been sold to feed our family or to pay a bill.
Counting change is no longer a childhood pastime, but a real-time necessity. At first I would go to the grocery store and have one of my little ones carry a bag of change to pour into the Coinstar machine for counting. I would act as if they were cashing out their piggy bank to buy something for themselves. This was just another way to avoid others seeing me unable to make ends meet, and having to count change to buy food. But now the thought of what others think no longer weighs on my heavy heart. Now it's just being able to feed my family that I am thankful for.
I wrote this on my wife's birthday, a birthday that will have no cake, no presents, no dinner for two. It is filled with the everyday despair that we have been succumbing to for a while now. Still, we find ways to teach our children right and wrong, needs vs. wants, and to show them that there are still those who have less and how fortunate we still are.
Daniel Blevins lives in Hernando Beach.