What Poverty Taught Me About Being ‘Too Generous’

Pierre Van ZylLearn, Personal Growth + Development

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“I’m a Little Too Fat, a Little Too Giving. I Think I Know Why.�

35-year-old Kristine Levine, a member on the Medium website, shares an emotional true-life story of poverty and generosity on her feature story page.

Kristine was only five when her divorced mother took her to a town in Rockaway Beach, Oregon, at the end of summer that year. Her mother had an alcohol problem, and that made life very difficult for them. She didn’t have a job or any money saved away.

She got up one day, and taking only the most necessary things, she took Kristine off to the beach town for a fresh start. Her mother loved the ocean dearly. It was the only place she found peace and solace.

“To my mother, the ocean is God,� Kristin wrote. “She would say to me, ‘Don’t you ever take it for granted, Krissy. When you look at that ocean, remember there’s always something bigger than you. Respect her.’�

“If I were a thief, I would go over there and steal those rotten cabbages for you. But I am not a thief.�

It wasn’t easy for Kristine and her mother in Rockaway. They moved into a small cottage, but it was never really home for them. They just called it “Number six“. Her mother enrolled her in Kindergarten, and all Kristine ever ate before and after school was potatoes and ketchup.

Her mother had no money, no job, and her father wasn’t forthcoming with his $75-dollar child support paycheck. She couldn’t take up a job at the local bar because she desperately wanted to stop drinking.

Kristine recalls how, two weeks later, she tried to be cute about reminding her mother that it was dinnertime. She was trying to pass off a joke Walter Cronkite made on T.V, but her mother’s heart broke at the hunger her daughter was going through. That was the night their lives changed forever.

“Cronkite had said, ‘Here is the news at this dinnertime.’ My mother was staring out the window with her back to me,â€� Kristine explained. “I said to her, ‘Well? He’s right. It is dinnertime. Right, Mom?’ I thought I was being clever in catching Cronkite’s sincerity. She let out a sigh. Without turning around she said, ‘Do you see that out there? Those people have let their garden grow over. The cabbages have gone to seed now. They’d never know or care if I just snuck over and took one for you. If I were a thief, I would go over there and steal those rotten cabbages for you. But I am not a thief.’â€�

Anita and Van: “They saved my mother and me.�

Kristine writes about the kind elderly couple that saved their lives. Her mother left the house that night, with Kristine following. She went to cottage Number one, where Anita Vanover and her husband, Van, lived. Kristine recalls being mesmerized by the divine smells wafting from their kitchen. Her mother had asked for food to feed her hungry child.

“The old lady opened the door, and I wove around my mother so I could see inside. ‘This is my daughter, Kristine,’ my mother stated. ‘We have no food. She’s had nothing to eat but potatoes for a month, and now we don’t even have any of those left. I don’t care about myself, but could you please give her something to eat?’ I don’t remember Anita saying anything to my mother or even asking her husband first if she could give us something, but I remember her packing up her table: the pot roast, the carrots, the gravy, the potatoes. She handed it all to my mother,� Kristine wrote.

The woman didn’t see herself as a charity worker. All she knew was that she was giving food to a poor woman and her child.

Anita and Van were friends with the owner of a restaurant Kristine’s mom had applied to, and they helped her get a job there. They watched Kristine after school when her mother had to work. They were the reason Kristine’s life turned out all right.

“When you give the best you have to someone in need, it translates into something much deeper to the receiver. It means that they are worthy,�

30 years later, Kristine had an eye-opening incident with one of her kids. She felt like she hadn’t used her experience with poverty to groom her kids on how to be truly generous.

Her ten-year-old daughter loves to give and serve. The little girl wants to work in law enforcement, or as an astronaut to protect the earth. Kristine recalled how she selected the food she’d donate to the charity her school was organizing.

“She went to our pantry and started bagging up the canned and dry goods. All the while, she talked. ‘Oh, I’ll put in the green beans, I don’t like those… I’ll save the Kraft macaroni and cheese. We can give them some no-name brand.’ And I realized that my daughter—as generous and good as she already was—knew nothing about giving. I felt like I had taught her nothing.� Kristine’s heart sank.

The little girl hadn’t known about her mom’s life in Oregon. Kristine then bared it all to her child. That her kindergarten teacher had once thought her to be “retarded,� but it was hunger that had dulled her brain.

She told the little girl that Anita Vanover could have just made her a peanut butter sandwich, but she didn’t. She gave the best she had and even more.

Kristine ended her story with a word of advice.

“If it’s not good enough for you, it’s not good enough for those in need either. Giving the best you have does more than feed an empty belly—it feeds the soul.�

 

  1. Kristine Levine. 2019, January 17. I’m a Little Too Fat, a Little Too Giving. I Think I Know Why. Retrieved from https://medium.com/s/story/i-am-a-little-too-fat-im-a-little-too-generous-i-think-i-know-why-e97cd25b7eeb
  2. Kristine Levine. Official page. https://medium.com/@kristinelevine

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