Making a local living

There are these observations Iíd like to share, perspectives really. They arenít meant to direct you to some conclusion the author has intended. Theyíre just some of the things Iíve seen living in our hometown that cause me to really think about the different levels of life found in our neighborhoods. At each extreme end of poor and wealthy, Iíd imagine finding a great deal of detachment from both perspectives.

Iím not an expert on the pains of being a business, home or land owner. I have nothing but third hand information really, never having the opportunity to afford my own house or any of those things. So please donít think I donít sympathize with your woes, I just havenít reached that point in life yet I guess.

On the other end of the spectrum, Iíve had more first hand knowledge. In past years Iíd have to admit collecting cans and bottles to make ends meet and going without food for more than a day at a time on a few occasions because we couldnít. Sometimes it was because we (roommates) were bad with our money and ignorant of our responsibilities, we are young after all.

A lot of the times though you feel the cycle of poverty coming and know the hard times of the month. You hope the car doesnít suddenly break down or you get sick when the rent comes due because if it does, your whole life as you know it could collapse. In the days of minimum wage and just above, no health care, no support structure, no sick time and no savings. Days many in our hometown still live regularly, some while supporting families Ė thatís something Iíve never had to do.

Thanks to the role I now work at The Evening Sun I get the opportunity to travel, not just to all the parts of Chenango County, but between all the different levels of income and personalities. This exposure has really helped me develop a broader perspective of things.

Another advantage is I grew up in Oxford and there are a number of friends who moved on to bigger and better things, thank God. Coming from a local high school and staying in the area, I also get to see how some of the less fortunate have turned out. High school is like taking a social sample across all types of lifestyles and as the years move on Ė you see how the different lives develop. Overall Iíd have to honestly say I know more sad tales than good when it comes to a lot of those who stuck around.

I rub shoulders with single mothers and their children who have no place of their own to stay. I have friends who have fallen into my professional life and appear in Chenango County Court before being sent to prison for charges of drugs and theft. I wonder what happened to them. I have others in the area who work like slaves in multiple jobs that still canít add up to one solid income. Some canít find work at all or not enough. Thereís nothing like having a Christmas that never was for your kids Ė they do their best but life is hard and even when people find temporary success, the stress still takes a toll on the parents.

The level of growth in some areas reaches a limit. I wonder to what level these constraints of opportunity exist in Chenango County and how they play a role. From what Iíve seen and hear, they seem rampant and severe for some but there are cases where people complain simply because theyíre looking for something to blame other than themselves. Itís easy to lean back and say ďhey itís the economyĒ or to blame your economic woes on the area you live. Iím sure many things play a part, but I doubt many millionaires get made in our hometown, at least before the gas well lottery hit. Those financial developments are just random economic fortunes and have little to do with motivation or opportunity and those benefiting from them the most are those having the most land, who in turn tend to be the more established and wealthy. Maybe someday theyíll help the rest of us, but just like the so called ďrecovering economy,Ē Iíll believe it when I feel it.

I know I get sick of it Ė the constant struggle of balanced spending, the lesser of two evil priorities and the increasing occasion of accepting loss. Itís a never-ending battle that demoralizes you and in the last year that war seems to becoming more costly than ever, and Iím one of the lucky ones.

Where does the proud working class turn in hard times? Although meager for many, we are the ones considered to be making a living. So donít expect much help from the government unless you fall into one of their more desperate categories. Honestly, even if the collection of struggling young working people I know were eligible, I doubt any of them would accept it. The ones with kids do, but thatís a different story.

They say freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. Growing up locally, Iíve learned that in a capitalist society the only thing that really gives you freedom is money. Call it financial independence or an economically stable lifestyle, whatever. Money may not offer you happiness directly, but it certainly makes it easier to find the things that do.

This is a confession that I just donít know how to accept life and the casting of the cold dice in the lives of the people around me. Like me, they donít want a handout they just want opportunity. Is the only answer to find it outside Chenango?

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