Winter is coming. And as the chilly season approaches, my high school will soon be invaded by smoothing…abominable. Lovesick teenagers armed with cheesy posters and grocery store flowers. Because at my school, winter is the harbinger of the Winter Formal Dance.
But as girls secretly gossip as to who they wish to ask them and guys muster up the courage to do so, I spend another year resigning myself to not going. Whenever someone finds out that I’m skipping it, they never assume that it’s because I can’t afford to. Which is why I am always asked this same question:
“Why not? What are you too poor? Hahaha!”
The only way I can respond is to laugh it off and to make up an excuse. At times like these, however, living in a homogenously wealthy community can get disheartening because of how indelicate the kids here can be. But they aren’t simply mean for the sake of being petty, they just don’t realize how tactless they are being. Especially since the few less fortunate members of my community hide their situation for fear of being labelled as different. And though hiding the fact that we are poor may seem to work, we’re really just avoiding the problem. The problem being that we shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of being poor. And the only way to fix this problem is to better inform our community about our struggles. If we want change, it has to start with us. We have to stop hiding the fact that we are poor because it isn’t something to be ashamed of. And by learning our stories and our situations, my community will strive for better understanding and work to be more considerate towards those less fortunate than they are. How do I know this? Because it’s already begun.
There has been effort by the less fortunate members of my community to share their stories in person and on social media. I was inspired by this movement and confessed to my own friends about why I never got to the dance. And through this process, I found out how wonderful my community is. Because my friends are all so well-off, they’ve never seen money to be important. Something that I myself am guilty of. Since I never had enough, I’d always viewed money as something sacred. Which is why I never learned to be generous. But my friends, after I told them my reason, offered my $60 each so that I could go. As one of my friends put it:
“I’d rather spend money on letting you have a good time rather than spending it on myself.”
Despite my intention to teach my community, it was I who was humbled. I had never realized how stingy I had been until I was shown generosity. I hope to never again be as unaware as I had thought my community to be. I must be better, because I too am part of my community.