Dreams in Poverty

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with the golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams…

– William Butler Yeats

I start with a poem that made me think about my upbringing. I don’t usually reference poetry, it’s not my forte, but this piece has grown on me over the years. I first heard the poem in a movie (Equilibrium) and ever since it hasn’t left my mind. I had mentioned to a group of people, behind tapping feet and shaking hands, the shame of growing up poor. It shouldn’t be shameful. I had a lot of support in those days even though the support came from people who hadn’t graduated from college, even high school. That I became the first in my family to graduate college wasn’t a coincidence, I am sure of that. I know now that I had full support of my parents, teachers, friends and more to go to college (even with its costs) and graduate.

I had this notion that if you are poor, you can get out of it through education. I still think that’s the truth, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. There are so many hurdles when you’re poor. And I’m not just talking about food stamps, it’s true hunger, it’s no power, it’s no home. There’s no support because it’s always a struggle for basic survival. If you’re hungry, cold, sick, there are needs to be met. I never went hungry and we always had a home. Granted, I was ashamed of our home (it has been since torn down and the homes around it to put up condos), my clothes were a mix of hand-me-downs, and the support that I had was great – but it wasn’t a substitute for experience. I’m blessed, and I have to understand that not everyone will have such a situation. I just hope that I can show some empathy with my future students who’s home may be in a state of disarray, whose family may be constantly in transition, who may not know where they will sleep that night, or had none the night before. It will be a struggle, but understanding is a start.

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2 thoughts on “Dreams in Poverty

  1. janevangalen says:

    It’s the lack of power in poverty that I find so often overlooked in these conversations about poverty. On the one hand, we want to encourage children to dream of being whatever they choose to be; on the other hand, perhaps we can also be looking at what else we who do have more power can be doing to enable kids to realize their dreams.

    Thanks very much for sharing this poem, and the story.

  2. I loved the poem! Very powerful. I agree that lack of power is something overlooked. I know I overlooked it until our class discussions. I feel like now I have a better understanding of why so many people stay in poverty, it is not always a choice. Yes we will be working with students/kids that live in poverty but it is our job to show them how it could be different, and help them take the steps and educate themselves so they can make the choice for themselves how they will deal with the cards they were dealt. It is such a sad/tragic topic, I found it the most difficult topic we have covered so far. Thanks for sharing, again, loved the poem!

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