Trying to out poor a Poor Boy

  • Monday, May 5, 2014


I’ve talked about this before. A couple of guys will try to out poor one another. They’ll brag about all the worldly goods they have now. They’ll describe all the obstacles they faced trying to get wealthy. Helping put 13 brothers and sisters through college, caring for aging parents and not sleeping for eight years while studying for their medical school final exam. You have heard all these things.

There is certain etiquette to adhere to while you are telling your rags to riches story. You never actually mention money. You can quote your 50 cents per day starting salary. You can’t say that you saved a million dollars in cash.

You can pay for the family farm twice but you can’t mention that your stepfather lost the place by gambling all the time. You can’t mention your salary now. You can say that you bought some stock but you can’t say how many shares.

If you mention the actual money, people will hate you. Your struggle has to be noble and good. Nobody really wants to hear about the end result. They only want to hear about the hard start and your hints at the wonderful life you now live.

Mentioning the good life is forbidden. Wrestlers bring out hatred from the fans by actually saying how much better they are doing as compared to the fans. “My shoes cost more than your house!” That statement will get you ticked off. “That’s why this coat costs $800 and that one costs $2,000. I don’t know what that one costs, I’d be ashamed to wear it.”

Being poor is much easier to talk about. Most of the good stories mention not wearing shoes to school. You couldn’t wear a coat until December 1, or the first snowfall. Once you started wearing secondhand shoes to school, you could cut the toes out to make them last one year longer. This is acceptable.

I met a guy the other day that was telling his poor schoolboy story. He was hinting at all the money he made in the stock market. He was a pro at telling these rag to riches stories. He had saved money from all sorts of odd jobs and invested in the stock market. He worked overtime and worked his way up from less than nothing to the pillar of the community that he is now.

Luckily, I did not have to hear too much of his poor tales. He started out as a poor boy that went to school barefooted. He never mentioned helping all his siblings or having to milk 100 cows in the snow before going to school. Amazingly, he started his working at 12 years old. Most of the really good stories start much earlier.

He did have an interesting twist to being a poor boy. He wasn’t the poorest person in school. This came as a surprise to me. Most people start out as the poorest before they become richer than everyone in town.

He claimed that he was so poor growing up that he went to school barefooted. He gave the regular time line of a date on the calendar or snowfall. There were lots of other poor children in school with him. He had the same thing for lunch his first five years in school.

He was so poor that he had a collard sandwich everyday for lunch. That’s collards between two pieces of bread.

One day another poor boy came to school barefooted and carrying a paper sack. He could tell by the way the sack looked that there might be something special in the bag.

The bag was narrow at the top and wide at the bottom. It looked just like there could be a Pepsi Cola in the bag. Wow, a Pepsi would be the greatest. He went up to the boy and asked if he wanted to trade lunches?

The boy seemed eager to trade. This might be the greatest trade ever. A collard sandwich for a Pepsi would be heaven.

They traded bags. The boy began eating the collard sandwich. With great anticipation, my storyteller ran behind the school building so that no one would ask for a sip of the Pepsi he was about to enjoy. He opened the bag only to find out that there were people much poorer than he was. In the bag was a hammer and one hickory nut.

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