What is living in poverty if not constantly being creative?
BY ALISON STINE | APRIL 23, 2016 This post first appeared at TalkPoverty.org.
In the toy aisle, which is inconveniently next to the bread aisle, I tell my 5-year-old son we are not getting a truck today. I tell him we buy what we need, and not more. I tell him I have enough money for food, but nothing else. I tell him I don’t buy treats for myself.
“You buy art supplies,” my son says. And I’m stumped.
Because of course he’s right.
I live in Appalachia, in the poorest county in my state. I often make less in a month than some people spend on cable, though my son and I don’t have cable. We don’t always have trash collection. I drive a 15-year-old car with dents in the back and a scrape on the side that will never get fixed, and I’m behind on medical bills.
But I do buy art supplies.
One of my first memories is of drawing. I’m sitting below the table while my parents have dinner; I’m drawing their portraits. Outside, rural Indiana is flat and abandoned. Our road is gravel. Our neighbors have trailers. But in the warmth of the kitchen, I draw and dream.
I don’t remember being specifically encouraged in art as a child, but I was encouraged to be creative. I was encouraged to occupy myself. I was told, when I complained to my mother that I was bored, “Is your imagination broken?”
When I became a mother — and then, a solo mother — I found myself saying the same words to my son. I filled an old suitcase with art supplies, and put the suitcase in the living room. Mostly, I did it to distract him, to gain a few minutes so I could fold laundry, or start dinner.
But something happened: my child came to love art.
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Tammy Hampel (Isaacson)
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