Discover and share stories

of adventure, connection, and change making.

32 people think this is good


  1. {{}}
  1. {{fields.video_link.url}}

Ready to post! You’ve uploaded the maximum number of images.

Your video is ready to post!

Oops! Nice pic, but it’s just not our (file) type. Please try uploading a .jpg or .png image.

Well, this is embarrassing. Something went wrong when posting your comment. Care to try again?

That image is too large. Maximum size is 6MB.

Please enter a valid URL from YouTube or Vimeo.

Embedding has been disabled for this video.


Posting comment...

  • jamesccostello

    What those 'exercises' could never capture is the dreadful fear of not being able to pay the bills, or the fear of getting sick and not having sick pay, or losing your job, or being fined for paying a bill two days late. Living below the poverty line is living with constant fear of being drowned by a single financial misstep.

    Sure, like the article says, wealthier people have nice homes to return to, poorer people don't, but the change in furniture is nothing compared with the fear that anything and everything will go wrong at any given moment, and you'll be ruined.

    I say this as someone who brought home $9,500 in 2010 and 15k in 2011. My financial conditions have changed favorably since then. I'll forget about the living conditions of poverty soon enough, but I will never forget the constant fear of it.

    If I were to do one of these exercises next week, it would be nothing in comparison. I'd spend the month worrying about where to find cheap food, and not on all of the fears of what can go wrong.

    TLDR; This "Live Below the Line" challenge is absurd.

  • terre

    I agree that a more meaningful experiment would be to drop someone into a script and let them deal with the daily tribulations, such as scrambling to pay the light bill before it's turned off-getting the money order to pay it at the gas station. Counting out food stamps then figuring out what to put back while people roll their eyes behind you....of course you don't have the years of adapting, so it really wouldn't be fair.....

    • LiLi Anne

      yes, I think "immersion" would get you a little closer, but knowing it's someone else's life situation, and that you will eventually leave and go back to your comfortable life is what makes it almost impossible to really "get it." As someone who has lived in abject poverty, it was always difficult navigating around others because I could not share with them my struggles as a working poor in America, if you are out of work and without resources, you will find yourself homeless very quickly if you do not have the safety net of family to catch you.

    • jamesccostello

      I can tell you, as someone who lived below the poverty line for more than a year with no savings to speak of, there is no experiment that can portray the reality of poverty.

      The worst part of it is that your mind plays tricks on you. When you are poor, fears about getting sick and having to take an unpaid day off, or fears about missing a bill and having a late fee that you can't pay consume your thoughts every minute of every day. Every time you get sick, you fear that it is some terminal disease for which you can't afford treatment.

      In poverty, there is no opportunity for mistakes or accidents. In your experiment, the pressure isn't real, because it doesn't wear away at you for months, and even if a participant fails, they just go back to their regular life afterwards.

      • terre

        I'm sorry. What I should have said instead was that there are a hundred ways of feeling terrified and humiliated that noone who has not lived it can ever pretend to experience.poverty and insecurity. I truly applaud those who are the heroes in my opinion, that can see past the injustice they have experienced at thye hands of others to forgiveness, and in doing so be an inspiration to their children who are watching .It's not that it's easier to be rich or poor, because neither is. I've been both, and the anxiety and fear is different when you're poor, but when one has money, it eliminates physical hunger but not emotional. The most isolation I've ever felt was when my mother died and in my neighborhood of BMWs and SUVs , there was only one person I knew I could ask for a ride to the airport (An artist with a junky pickup truck)