Change: Take it or Make it

Matty is a 14-year-old from Seekonk, MA, He is an avid runner, reader, and writer.  He enjoys hanging out with friends, is a die-hard RedSox fan, dreams of a job in journalism or finance, and wants to travel the world.

After a recent visit to the always pessimistic orthodontist (where I was informed my braces are in no way close to coming off), I had a very eye-opening experience at the Wendy’s restaurant next door.

            A part of our routine after every doctor’s appointment I attend, my Mom and I went to the diner for a pair of refreshing Frosties.  Having gone from an intense tennis lesson in the baking sun right to the consultation, I looked like, well, a sweaty teenager, to say the least.  In an attempt to eliminate clutter in the forever dirty Honda Pilot of ours, my mother gave me a handful of change from the ashtray to compensate for the delicious ice cream treats that awaited us.

After holding the door for an average looking woman previous to entering the fast-food chain, I made my way to the nearest table to count out the two dollars and fourteen cents I would need to pay for my desserts.  Minding my own business, I silently separated the coins in their proper amounts: pennies, nickels, etc.  After collecting one dollar and eighty-five cents, I heard a soft voice slightly in front of me.

“Son, do you need any money to pay for your meal?”

Now, I understand that I am a scrawny kid.  At five feet, seven inches tall and only weighing about 105 pounds, I look as though I could use a few free cheeseburgers. But I was from a high-middle class family in which I not only had a hot meal every night; I also had my own room and a large roof to sleep under.  Poverty in any sorts is virtually non-existent in Seekonk, Massachusetts, my hometown.  Or so I thought.

Following a dig through the 2010 census records, I learned that 10.3% of the citizens of Massachusetts live in poverty.  Until recently, I was unaware that my town had a program for financially-needy individuals.  The Seekonk Human Services says that its mission is to “ensure the well-being of Seekonk’s older population and residents of any age who are in need of social services due to economic hardship, health issues, family circumstances, or personal loss.”

In an article by Zahid Shahab Ahmed titled Poverty, Family Stress, and Parenting, Ahmed outlined the affects of poverty on parenting and children.  He wrote that poverty brings increased family dysfunction, emotional distress, feelings of homelessness, poorer school performance, and negative personality development.  The Family Stress Model recommends educating mothers about parenting.

Imagine neglecting your child so much that they have to accept change in order to afford one minuscule meal.  I feel that this is an example of extremely poor parenting.

Well, to finish my story, I briskly walked up to the counter where the generous lady was ordering her own food, and calmly said that it was gracious of her to give me money towards food, but I did not need it.  She grunted, question whether I was sure (to which I answered “of course”), and shuffled away as if nothing had ever happened.

Isn’t it amazing how extraordinary ordinary people can be?

*Photo: Flickr User Poonomo

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