What it’s like to be poor in America

  In my last year of law school, I participated in the school’s legal aid program, helping the poor to file for bankruptcy for free. The professor who instructed me was a kind-hearted, red-haired grandmother named Jane. She is a graduate of our Harvard Law School in 1970 and has been advocating for consumer rights in Boston with students for 50 years.
  My client’s name is Joanna, an old lady in her 70s. She worked as an assistant in the city government before retiring. She has worked steadily all her life, but when she grows old, she needs to live on pensions-she receives pensions and pensions every year. The subsidies add up to a total of 24,000 yuan (before tax), which is less than half of Boston’s median annual personal income. She had to file for bankruptcy because she could not repay the credit card loan of 3,685.56 yuan.
  Jane and I went to Joanna’s house for the first time on a rainy day in March. The car swerved into Joanna’s community. It was a cluster of identical brown-yellow three-storey apartments, with a total of 14 buildings. , arranged in a square row after row, is a low-rent housing built by the government. Jane grabbed the phone and asked Joanna for the location. Joanna on the other end of the phone became impatient, and her rough voice urged: Haven’t found it yet? She also has to do laundry in the afternoon.
  Laundry is Joanna’s top priority every week. She shares a coin-operated washing machine with 85 households in the community. The machine is so small that it can barely fit a sheet. The poor often save up a lot of dirty clothes, stuff the machine tightly, and wash them in batches for several rounds, because they begrudge the laundry fee of 1.25 cents a time.
  We finally found Joanna’s place. We slammed the car door tightly and rushed to the corridor, only to see Joanna greeted by the eaves. She wore a white, fluffy bob, a pale pink knitted sweater, and camel velvet pants. She was much kinder in person than on the phone.
  Joanna’s house is bright and clean, with a few simple pieces of furniture. Under Massachusetts law, the bankrupt can leave a certain amount of personal property to ensure daily life, and the excess will be taken away for auction. In the hundreds of pages of documents we handed over to the court, there is a breakdown of Joanna’s personal assets: she has a bed that she bought 25 years ago, a desk, chair and sofa 20 years ago, which have become almost worthless, and There is a TV that I bought for 140 yuan three years ago. All of her clothes were bought at a discount from Wal-Mart, and some were even priced at less than ten yuan each, but they all added up to no more than three hundred yuan.
  The biggest part of her daily expenses is rent and meals. Although the government subsidizes 2/3, she still needs to pay 517 yuan to the landlord every month.
  Joanna suffers from brain cancer. She has to go to the Massachusetts General Hospital in the city for radiotherapy every three weeks and five times. She took a bus when she went there. On the return journey, she was too weak to walk due to side effects. She needed to take a special car from the hospital to go home. Such sums of money pile up like snowflakes and freeze into rows of numbers on a credit card statement. The bank had already sold her debts to several debt collection agencies, and they sent vicious collection specialists who bombarded her with calls and letters every day.
  At the beginning of the year, the doctor informed her that because the medical insurance no longer covered one of her anti-cancer adjuvant drugs, she had to pay several hundred yuan for a bottle at her own expense, so she had to stop the drug.
  Joanna talked about her childhood. She grew up in North Point, Boston, a low-level neighborhood populated by Italian immigrants. The streets were cramped and dilapidated, and people shouted in English mixed with Italian. Joanna’s parents boarded the ship leaving their hometown with the American dream in their hands, squeezed into the gap of the third class cabin, floated and vomited in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, landed from Ellis Island in New York, and then came to Boston, ready to open up. New life, only to find out that he is a lowly alien. They were bullied on the railway, in the mines and in the chocolate factory, their teeth were broken, their houses were burnt down, their hearts were chiseled into hard walnuts, and they learned violence and resistance in anger.
  Joanna is the eighth in the family, and there are five younger siblings below. Joanna’s father was a taciturn man who had changed countless jobs, each of which didn’t last long. He often kicked the door drunkenly in the middle of the night, and his sons and daughters shied away from opening the door—the one who was forced to open the door was always kicked into the filth of the corridor by his father, biting his fist in the dark and crying. The sons and daughters were more like property to her father, they would fight if they didn’t like it, and never expressed their love. She even wondered if her father could name them.
  When she was seventeen or eighteen, she was about to get married and run away from her family. Her father complained that she was not interested in an Italian and did not allow her mother to attend her wedding. But Joanna couldn’t go on happily with her husband. He drank, beat her, and became exactly like her father. She divorced when she was in her thirties, raised her son alone, and provided him with community college. Now my son lives in a nearby block and drives a rental car for a living. Sometimes he stops by to see her on weekends and downloads her favorite movies. Joanna talked about her son with a gentle and proud tone. Only with her son’s financial resources, she was unable or unwilling to pay her debts.
  Jane and I submitted Joanna’s bankruptcy petition to court, but the day of the court session was just in time for my graduation, so Jane took Joanna to court. Listening to Jane, Joanna was so worried that day that she could barely sit on the bench outside the courtroom. But the trial only took ten minutes in total, and the judge looked down at Joanna’s poor and sick file and approved her bankruptcy application. Joanna is finally debt free.
  After graduating from law school, I did many pro bono legal aid cases. One of my clients is a 16-year-old boy who traveled from El Salvador to the United States on foot for two weeks. His brother was hunted and killed by gangsters in his home country. He became the next target. He was followed on the way to and from school. Mother and sister, smuggled to the United States. Another client of mine is an old grandmother with a stroke. Half of her body can’t move. She can only lie in bed and live in her children’s house. She lives by receiving a few hundred yuan disability allowance. The government gave a small sum of money by mistake many years ago. After more than ten years, she suddenly wanted to recover it, but where could she afford it, she had to file for bankruptcy.
  ”The poor are miserable, but the rich have to live.” My lawyer friend said, “The money of the rich is not blown by the wind. If the investment does not return, who will carry out business activities? What will society do? How about the operation? And, because these poor people have moved away, you can see how safe the city center is now.” I flipped through my legal aid files, and I knew that they all had the touch of some village wishes, yes The spiritual opium of “I finally did something for the society” – Joanna went bankrupt successfully, but she still has to eat, see a doctor in the future, and ask a driver to take her home after radiotherapy, she still can’t afford high She still can’t be reimbursed for the monthly medical insurance fee, and she needs money for every item. And a person can only go bankrupt once in seven years, after which she accumulates debts, what should she do?
  ”Maybe I’ll be dead soon!” Joanna once told me, she just couldn’t let go of her cat. She said her favorite place was the cancer ward at Massachusetts General Hospital, where the windows were bright, the sunlight was warm, the sofas were soft, and the chairs had warm cushions. The nurses there were soft-spoken and never yelled at her like the others. From time to time, they would take a small tray and go around, giving patients desserts and juices–“It’s better than my parents treated me, it’s like turning back into a child.” Joanna said, “Others only need a When they heard that I had cancer, they immediately became kind to me.”
  When Joanna told me this on the phone, I was in a taxi leaving campus, heading to the airport, and flying to the city where I would work.
  When the car drove down the undersea tunnel, the street light was broken, and it was so dark that it was almost impossible to see the road. The car next to it rubbed away suddenly, and the driver snorted. The driver scolded: “Why don’t they turn on the lights? It’s too dark here.”

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