How I Cope With Poverty
ARE you a widow? So am I. Perhaps like me, you were left with children to care for and with no immediate source of income. My husband died in 1973, leaving me with three sons, aged 20, 16 and 14. His death came as a jarring shock and a deep loss in my life. Then, shortly after his death, there was another blow—two of my sons, the oldest and the youngest, decided to leave home. Why? Let me explain.
My husband and I had been Hindus, and we had raised our children to worship as Hindus also. However, some 10 years prior to my husband’s death, Jehovah’s Witnesses had contacted me through their systematic preaching activity. Their Bible message of salvation by means of God’s Kingdom appealed to me. After some months of serious Bible discussions and study, I was convinced that Jehovah is the true God and that Jesus Christ is God’s appointed Savior of mankind. (Psalm 83:18; Acts 4:12) So, much against my family’s wishes and in the face of my husband’s open displeasure, I became a Christian witness of Jehovah and was baptized.
In the Hindu community, Christianity bears an unforgivable stigma, which my husband could not tolerate. He opposed my Christian worship up to the day he died. Both my oldest and youngest sons followed their father’s will and pursued the Hindu way of life. They took the death of their father as an opportunity to leave home and thus be rid of the stigma of having a Christian mother. However, I had been able to convince my second son, Jayasimman, of the truthfulness and reasonableness of the Bible and its lifesaving contents. Now I was left alone with Jayasimman. How would we cope with the poverty in which we found ourselves?
Being Practical and Economical
Recovering from the first stages of deep shock and realizing that my ricewinner was now gone, I had to sit down and take stock of my situation. There were no state grants or government provisions for social security available to me. I was left to fend for myself. In fact, until recently a widow in my community was considered the lowest rung on the social ladder. Her lot was so bad that sometimes a widow preferred to throw herself on her husband’s funeral pyre to die.
But we do have a modest three-room home of our own here in Madras, India. So at least we have a roof over our heads. I decided to rent out one of the rooms and soon had a small but regular monthly income of 60 rupees (about $7, U.S.). I also have a treadle sewing machine; hence, I set about making ladies’ garments, particularly petticoats that are worn by ladies underneath their saris. In time I acquired a few regular customers and increased my total monthly income to 144 rupees (about $16, U.S.).
Even so, we have to live simply. My home has electricity and running water, yet we have almost no furniture. But that poses no difficulty; millions of my fellow countryfolk live without furniture. We are accustomed to sleeping on a thin mattress stretched out on the floor. As long as the floor is clean, we find it comfortable to sit cross-legged on the floor to eat our meals. I use a kerosene-wick stove to cook with, and that is no problem either as it is more convenient than using wood on an open fire. What do we eat?
Jayasimman and I have fairly good meals. For breakfast one of our favorite food items is what we call idli. This is a small cake of rice flour blended with ground pulse, cooked in steam and served with chutney, which is a mixture of ground coconut, herbs and spices. Here in India, two or three idlis, a banana and a cup of coffee is considered a fairly substantial breakfast.
Our midday and evening meals consist of rice and curry, our staple diet. For the sake of economy I frequently prepare vegetable curries, creating variety by using different types of vegetables from day to day.
At one point, to cope with our financial difficulties, I converted one of the rooms of our home into a small eating house. Arising at 4 a.m. every morning, I prepared idlis, chutney and coffee, and provided breakfasts for regular customers. With a little home sewing and home cooking plus income from a room tenant, we were able to earn sufficient for our daily requirements. However, something in addition to being practical and economical has been a great aid to me in coping with poverty.
A Greater Source of Help
It is the help that I have received from God’s Word, the Bible. In what way has the Bible helped me to cope with poverty? Well, for one thing, there is the fine example of faithful men and women of Bible times, such as the patriarch Job who, for a time, endured a pauper’s life along with humiliations and harassment. Reflecting on such examples has helped to sustain me in my trials.—Job 1:13-19; 2:7-9; 21:7.
Then, too, the faith I have gained from the Bible has greatly encouraged me. Although I live near the poverty line, I am not resentful or bitter. Bible truth fills me with a positive outlook. I have learned that if I put God’s Kingdom interests first in my life and am willing to work and earn money in an honest way, Jehovah God will provide for me the necessities of life, even as Jesus Christ assured: “So never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33) How thankful I am that this has been my personal experience!
My faith in such Bible promises has helped me to be content with my lot in life, and I often reflect on the scripture at 1 Timothy 6:8, which says: “So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.”
Bible truth has helped me in other ways, too. When I was a Hindu living in a Hindu society, I was accustomed to a life with a great measure of protection and shelter by my husband. Thus I assumed a withdrawn and nervous attitude toward being around other people in public. Now, however, what I have learned from the Bible has motivated me to visit and meet people in their home and tell them about God’s purposes, including his promise to establish a righteous New Order in which poverty will be a thing of the past. (Psalm 72:12-14) I attribute this marvelous change in my disposition to the divine wisdom contained in the Bible. As Psalm 19:7 says: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back the soul. The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise.”
In appreciation, I have so adjusted my life that I am now a full-time evangelizer of God’s Kingdom message. It means that I no longer have time to operate my small eating house. But I am now renting out two of my rooms for a total monthly income of 120 rupees (about $13, U.S.), and I continue to do home sewing as time permits. Jayasimman also earns a little money every month from various small jobs, and he willingly contributes 75 percent of his earnings for living expenses. We accommodate our life’s needs and expenditures to our total monthly income. This permits me to spend time every day visiting people in their home, comforting those who mourn even as I have been comforted from God’s Word, the Bible.—Matthew 5:4; 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.
Oh, there have been times when I have met with financial difficulties—sudden and unexpected expenditures—and wondered just how I was going to manage. Yet I have sensed that Jehovah has somehow provided. There was always a timely occurrence that helped me to cope. Perhaps some money came in the mail from one of my other sons, who have not entirely forgotten me. Or I received an unexpected order for a lady’s garment. So, although over the years I have sometimes been in need, with my willingness to work hard and be resourceful in putting to use whatever few assets existed within my reach, I have never been left in the lurch.—Contributed.