It has now been slightly over a year since I started doing weekly interviews with Rochelle, and I’m feeling a little blogged out. I don’t “get” blogging, actually. People who go on and on about their routine lives seem pretty boring to me; reporting day to day activities just isn’t very interesting. I had to opt out of a friend’s blog for that exact reason. I have good friends; we discuss our lives when we get together, but we usually don’t discuss them on a weekly basis. The question, then, becomes what to do now? Rochelle is still only working part-time at the grocery store, and even should the job become full-time, poverty will remain what constantly causes Rochelle to live from crisis to crisis. I have interviewed her for about 60 hours. We have covered a lot of subjects. Those who have read all posts should understand how difficult day-to-day living is for Rochelle. So as the second year of interviews begins, I will be working at discovering new themes and new strategies for exploring Rochelle’s world and its implications.
Last week we had only a short interview. In thirty minutes I discovered her elder sister is now caring for a year and a half old child who is unwanted by a relative. This sister has five of her own children and got pregnant at 13. She has had a long and stable job, recently divorced her husband, but by no means has much money. This, of course, is what the culture of poverty is all about. Rochelle’s disabled mother moved back in with Rochelle full time to care for this baby while Shondelle, Rochelle’s sister, is at work. Rochelle is surrounded by the problems poverty brings. It is hard to be hopeful for Rochelle’s children; their role models are their aunts, their cousins, their grandmother, and their neighbors. All of them are all in the same boat of hand-to-mouth poverty.
During last week’s interview I gave Rochelle a globe. It was a gift from Jessie, my anthropologist sister, who is the reason for these interviews. Kalinda, Rochelle’s eldest daughter, had done poorly on a social studies test. The test required that she place continents on a map, among other things. Jessie thought a globe would be useful and sent it. Rochelle’s eyes just lit up when I gave it to her. “I’ve never had a globe,” she said. I showed her where some countries were and said it should help her kids learn about the world. I grew up with a family globe and know I was always looking at it. “You know I’ve never been out of the state,” Rochelle said. “Do you think some time, when I’ve saved up some money, you could take me and the kids on a trip somewhere?” It had already occurred to me to try to do that. I’m not yet sure how or when, however. “That would be a good idea,” I replied. Then I felt very sad; she had sounded so wistful when she asked me the question.
So the blog will keep blogging, because the world of poverty keeps on grinding its inhabitants. I am afraid that in this blog we are mostly preaching to the choir, something that is probably true of all blogs. But with luck some readers are becoming more aware of what a huge trap poverty can be for those who have never lived in any other circumstances. And perhaps gaining a better appreciation of the texture of lives stunted by poverty will inspire us all to do our part in the struggle against it.