City Poor Vs. Rural Poor
I see a sadness in city poor people that I never saw in rural poor people. There’s a desperation, a lack of community, and a loneliness - Hound-faced old men in wheelchairs waiting at the bus stops, their arms hanging heavily by their sides, knuckles almost touching the ground, their eyes tilted down, staring into nothing. Emaciated hollow-eyed women wearing shorts and tank-tops in the winter, twisting their heads from side to side in a choreography of drug-fueled paranoia, smacking their lips together, talking to the air.
I never saw these people until I moved to the city.
In the rural areas, the poor still have opportunities. They still have a chance to be “good people,” to be “poor but honest.” They can have good standing in the community and many are church leaders, deacons and preachers, or hard working widowed matriarchs. They work hard, then come home and work harder, because they have pride in their homes and themselves. That's not to say that people don't go hungry out in the country, that people aren't desperately poor. I went to elementary school with kids who didn't have running water. That's right - in America - I knew people who used out-houses and well water - but they were still good people. In the drop of a hat, they would be at your door if you needed some help, whether it be for a quick roof repair after a tornado or some hugging over casserole after the death of a loved one. And yes, there was drugs and mental issues and all the same challenges faced by people in the city - but there was no anonymity. Perhaps the key is the difference in what the city and the country represent. The country represents a place where people live. They own homes (no matter how modest) and engage in a community that involves churches and grocery stores and Dairy Queens. People live in the country because that’s where their life is, their people and friends and livelihood. Those variables change and evolve, but the idea stays relatively the same.
The city, on the other hand, represents a place not so much to live but a place to fulfill dreams. When those dreams aren’t met, what is left? People live in the city, or rather move to the city, in an attempt to achieve greatness. They want to be an artist or dancer or actor or businessman. They want to meet a rich man or hang with the cool kids. For whatever reason, the city represents a goal or dream. The unfortunate reality is that our system can only sustain so many success stories. For every kid who hops off the bus and becomes the next big rock star, there are hundreds left cold and penniless on the streets, their dreams destroyed, their hopes smashed into the cracks of the sidewalk. I want to reach out to each and every one of them and tell them to leave this place, to leave the city and find happiness in the tranquility and community of the country, but the truth is, it’s probably too late for them. The city destroyed their soul long before it destroyed their bodies.