'Poor in Kenya Is a Lot Different Than Poor in America, Isn't It?'


Every Saturday morning at PJ Lifestyle, join parenting writer Rhonda Robinson as she documents her strategies for getting her family's finances back into shape. Check out the previous installments in her ongoing series:

Week 1: 5 Rules for Lifting Your Family Out of Economic Hardship

Week 2: Where to Start When Your Financial Ship is Sinking

Week 3: Keeping Afloat With A Budget


This week was rough.

I had to remind myself of a conversation I had a couple years ago with a young man from Kenya.

He had a basketball scholarship at Vanderbilt University. His girlfriend was a good friend of my daughter. The couple came to our home to visit for the first time. He was extremely tall, a mild mannered guy with a huge smile. Teasingly I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

He explained he was getting his degree in social work. "Not a lot of money in that," I chuckled.

He just flashed a blindingly bright smile and looked down shaking his head. "That's ok," he said. "I'm not really in it for the money. I just really want to help people."

At that moment I realized something and asked, "Poor in Kenya is a lot different than poor in America, isn't it?"

He laughed, then said with a more somber tone, "Poor in Kenya means you have a dirt floor if you're lucky enough to have a house." He described the conditions that people in his home town live in.

It was then I realized that my idea of poor meant I don't get to have what I want when I want it. I have to wait, maybe even save for it. That's not really poor. I have a lot to be thankful for.

Even when we were our "poorest," we still owned a home. I've never looked into my children's eyes and saw hunger that I couldn't feed. During that time, we also owned and maintained a vehicle. My family had everything we needed, but not everything we wanted.

By most standards around the world, I'm rich. In fact, I'm so rich that I can drive my car into a separate room of my house. Clean water is at my fingertips, and fresh food grows in my yard.

For most of us, being poor in America is more a frame of mind than real poverty.