I grew up as a normal kid in a low income family. Living in a cramped up apartment, where both parents were redoing university in Canada and trying to build a better life for our family. Many sacrifices were made, and my parents had to leave behind the life of luxury and from having things done for them, to now finding out how to survive in this foreign land called Canada. I called myself normal, because as a small child, I had my distant dreams of meeting Cinderella or flying on a red carpet. But I did not have the depth of understanding of what the real world was like and how much difficulties my parent’s really went through to achieve a life that we now have.
I had heard now from my mother as she recalls those first difficult years in a new life. How she and my father worked labor jobs well into the night all the while trying to obtain their master degrees and taking care of me. Living in a beaten down apartment, where everyone lived in a one small room, I was happy. I had my building blocks and that was it. As a child, I never knew my parents didn’t eat sometimes, I just had thought they weren’t hungry. We were still happy. Not because we didn’t let the lack of money affect us, but because of the people around us who were willing to help. A family friend gave us their car that they did not use anymore, and others donated clothing and shoes for my family as well. We understood that money could bring happiness much later in life, but during that time, I think those moments were the most joy filled moments of my life.
I think one of the greatest life lessons I learned was when I had so little. Life taught me to be humble, and take nothing for granted. I still remember a foggy day that is embed into the back of my memory. It was a few days before a birthday of mine and I believe I was five year old. Walking hand in hand with my mom and dad along the underground parking lot of Zellers, we came upon a man. This man wasn’t any different than me, I thought. He was an ordinary man. I could not differentiate between people, because judgement was not part of my visual process. The man that I now recall from my memory was obviously very worn down, and fragile. At that time, the man didn’t explicitly ask my father for money, but as I watched my dad walk ahead of me closer to the man, he gave him some coins. After that quick exchange, we began to close in on the opening doors of the store, and right in front of me, was the birthday gift, I would totally die for. A big cardboard box full of Hello Kitty umbrellas were beckoning me to take on home.
“Mommy, can I have one?” I looked up to her, as my mom and I approached the big box.
“Hmm you’ll have to ask your father,” she pursed her lips and gave me a slight smile.
As my father came closer to me, I had asked him, and I could tell there was hesitation. Feeling disappointed, I walked back to the big box of umbrellas and stood there, lightly touching the Hello Kitty figure attached to the handles. I could here my mother arguing with my father that it was my birthday, and all I wanted was an umbrella. I also heard that my dad thought the umbrellas were really expensive. As my mom began arguing with my father, she mentioned the fact how he gave money to strangers but was not willing to buy a birthday present for his own child.
Reflecting on many of these similar actions my dad did for many strangers, I began to realize the fact that during the times when we had so little we gave the most because we knew what it was like to be in the same place. Our family still gives time and money, and donates things, but we are more distant and understand less of what others go through.
It is now a decade later, and I have a little sister. Many things were bought for her, and the newer Hello Kitty umbrella also landed in my sister’s hands without much thought from both of my parents. As we became a middle income family, we still weren’t as rich as many of our friend counterparts, but we now had more food and some luxury items. Since my sister was born in a different income level than I was, she hasn’t learned the importance of giving yet. For me, even though I know if my family squeezed tight earnings, they would be able to buy me a new iPad that I needed for a school course. However, I took that upon myself to not waste money that I knew both my parents who were workaholics took a lot of time to earn. I entered many writing contests and contests where there were prizes that included scholarship money. Through many of the contests, I was able to secure spots that gave me money or even prizes like an iPad and Kobo. Even though we have money, I try not to waste my parent’s money. I make sure that everything I receive is earned through my own abilities. And this has taught me to be humble, and to have a compassionate heart. It has allowed me to feel what it’s like to actually earn things that you deserve instead of having them given to you. Furthermore, it has allowed me to develop an aching soul that loves to help others~