Shocked, I couldn’t believe that this seemingly professional, sane woman would hire me to watch her two darling boys – two and five years old – by myself!
I was still ordering off the kids menu at restaurants, for crying out loud, could I really be trusted with other people’s KIDS – THEIR VERY LIVES?
When she returned home that afternoon and the two boys didn’t appear to need major reconstructive surgery and still possessed their original eight limbs, I took my $6 and thought - “Huh…I guess we’re all still alive. This work stuff isn’t so bad.”
My parents were both teachers and although able to spend invaluable time with us, didn’t have piles of money lying around the house. They taught me that you can have almost anything in life – if you worked hard.
When I made the cheerleading squad, I worked to pay the annual fees. I believe the first payment was around $200. Looking back, I think the fees were high due to all the extra material needed for our skirts – we barely looked like cheerleaders in our Amish length, Christian school, so-called cheerleading skirts. We’d secretly roll them up at the waste during competitions to try to appear like we were from the twentieth century and accustomed to running water and electricity.
To pay for cheerleading, I got a job at Burger King for the current 1989 minimum wage of $3.35 an hour. Horrified at actual customers, I ran behind the French fry machine whenever someone I knew came in. Somehow the BK polo shirt and visor cap just wasn’t my best look. To make matters worse, after taxes I had to work about 75 hours to make that $200. Let me just say, $200 was a LOT of Welcome-to-Burger-King-how-may-I-help-you’s.
For college, I went to a local state school in our home town. I lived at home, worked part-time and paid for half of my tuition. I think my books that first year were around $200. Although shocked books didn’t “come with” the tuition – it was a painful but doable amount of money.
When we got married my parents gave us the money they had set aside for the wedding, and we paid for the rest. The best part of our reception was the five tiered cake – around $200. After a few bites, it didn’t seem like so much money.
Our sweet little Jensen came along and we didn’t bat an eye at spending $200 on her pink polka-dot Land of Nod bedding (I was overdosing on pink at the time and am still a recovering pink-aholic). We received many wonderful gifts and skimped on other things – but good bedding was a show-stopper for me. She still talks about her "pink bed in America." I didn’t even feel that $200.
Sometimes $200 is a whole lot of money…and sometimes it’s not.
Here in South Africa – the average income for a colored South African is about $200 a month. That might seem like a great wage living in some African jungle – but here in Cape Town the cost of living is similar to our home town in Nebraska. Groceries are about the same, housing is slightly less, and vehicles are twice as much.
Of course living in a township you can get by with a very little.
A government subsidized flat is $50 a month, you may have one nice meal a week (maybe on Sunday, if you are lucky) and in a good month you can pay for your publics school fees and diapers.
Public school is not free here and there are no “food stamps.” Single moms do get about $33 a month per child and public health care is at a very small fee (if you can bare the extremely long lines and chance of catching TB while you’re there).
The women I am working with in Ocean View want a chance. One woman told me last week she would like to start her own candy business.
She found a candy-wholesaler and wants to sell the “sweet treats” to people in Ocean View. Perhaps in time, with her own business, and hard work - she could get a Wendy house, diapers (the ones her ex-boyfriend has promised, as his sole contribution to fatherhood, but never seem to appear) and pay her children’s school fees. Size of the average micro-loan? $200 – the price of a Big Dream in a South African township.
Is that a lot or a little?