Buying a Trampoline
When I was finishing elementary school, my parents said if I saved up 1/3 of the money for a trampoline, they and some of my relatives would chip in the other 2/3 of the money and get it for me for Christmas. A trampoline cost $300 and it was one of the largest ticket items I could think of. Over the course of the year, I saved an amazing $87, mostly by constantly begging my parents to give me chores to do for money. I got the trampoline even though I was shy of the 1/3 mark.
Around the same time, while riding my bike around the neighborhood, I met four cousins who already had a trampoline set up outside the trailer where two of them lived with their grandma. I visited them all the time for a while, and we would all play on the trampoline for hours. I tried to always be polite and never mention it (as if there would ever be a reason to mention it?), but I could tell they were poor. They wore the same clothes a lot and after all, they lived in a trailer. Keenly aware of how much a trampoline cost, I constantly wondered why their grandma or parents didn’t save the fortune they paid for the trampoline and put it towards living in a real house.
I was prompted to remember this story when I read this Sociological Images’ post a while ago. When I was older, I realized $300 would hardly make a dent in a house payment, let alone a whole house. The trampoline provided hours of entertainment and exercise for all of the cousins and might have kept them from being upset about not always getting new clothes, the latest game system, or other presents they wanted.
I still sometimes momentarily adopt a “stop buying sneakers and start investing in your future” attitude, but I know now how inhumane this attitude is. It is a really horrific idea to think you or I can pass judgement on what other individuals and families are or are not spending their money on. What we can do is pass judgement about what we as a country are doing to help people who might have to choose between having nice sneakers and paying their rent. Then, we can act. (Ideas for action? Comment!)