Building a Life on $25 and a Gym Bag
Alone on a dark gritty street, Adam Shepard searched for a homeless shelter. He had a gym bag, $25, and little else. A former college athlete with a bachelor's degree, Mr. Shepard had left a comfortable life with supportive parents in Raleigh, N.C. Now he was an outsider on the wrong side of the tracks in Charles¬ton, S.C.
But Shepard's descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents' home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year.
To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts or mention his education.
During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company.
Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.
The effort, he says, was inspired after reading "Nickel and Dimed," in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty.
He tells his story in "Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream." The book, he says, is a testament to what ordinary Americans can achieve. On a recent trip to the Boston, he spoke about his experience.
You know, nowadays, it's common for people to say that the deck is stacked against them. It's that feeling that fuels the cancerous form of populism that we saw from Edwards and others. The fundamental idea that the world is somehow conspiring against you and trying to keep you down. It's comforting sometimes to get a reality check like this. The fact remains, that this country allows many people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, an oppertunity that is often lacking elsewhere.
Frankly, this story also reminds me of an article I read on Snopes lately.' It's about a wankstain in New Orleans who bitches and whines that she's getting hosed by the government who provides her with free housing. She calls the accomodations a 'slum' and rants that she's been treated 'like a slave'. Take a look at the actual picture of the apartment she lives in. WTF?
Frankly, I can't help but feel it's a point of shame to take money from the government. God knows I feel crappy about it and it dosen't exactly help my sense of self-worth. To take so extravagantly and then bitch that it's not enough is just incredible gall. Maybe all of us leeches should just be put out of our misery.