meemee, I didn't mean to sound like I thought it was inappropriate for her to talk about her European vacation. I actually didn't hear too much about it. It took us a moment to park and we were a few minutes late coming in. Since it was our first time there, I asked if we were in the right meeting, and someone -- I think it was her -- jokingly (although I didn't realize it was a joke at first) said that it was the European vacation planning meeting, and she or someone else quickly clarified that it was just her trip they were talking about. They'd been kind of waiting for everyone to get a chance to get there, so they hadn't officially started the meeting yet. And her story about the chickens was kind of at the end. It was really a very casual meeting.
It honestly wasn't something I thought about at the moment; it came back to me, though, when I said we needed to wait till February to join and she said something along the lines of "That's what credit cards are for" -- at her house, at least. She may not even have been implying that we should just use a credit card in order to be able to join by next week; it may have even been her way of expressing empathy by letting me know that she doesn't always have the cash on hand to do everything she wants to do exactly when she wants to do it.
About poverty being a world of its own -- that is another layer that we are dealing with right now with dd. She is starting to become a lot more aware of differences between families and to say things like "We're the charity case." A couple of years ago, we joined a liberal church that we're very happy with overall. One difficulty (but also blessing, of course) is that there are a lot of wealthy people in this church who are always looking for ways to help those who are struggling, and we currently seem to be the family in this church that is struggling the most. One of my good friends is on the social committee, and anytime they have some new funds come in, she and her helpers like to buy us a lot of groceries. These groceries often seem to come just at the moment when we're out of food stamps and money, and won't have my next paycheck for a few days or a week, so we always accept gratefully.
I've never asked for this help, but early on, the children's director chatted with me and asked me about what dh and I did for a living, and she learned that dh hasn't been able to work for a while due to health issues but also hasn't been able to get approved for disability, and that I work from home giving telephone English lessons. And it seems like we're the first family she thinks of when someone comes to her wanting to (usually anonymously) provide something to help out a family in need, such as non-perishable food, a gift card to buy clothes for the girls, or, most recently, adopting our family for Christmas.
When I was approached about being adopted for Christmas, I initially felt kind of hesitant because it seemed like such a big thing, and I explained that we do always manage to provide gifts for our girls, and I wouldn't want to take this help away from a family that needed it. And my friend who acted as a go-between explained that these are people who grew up very poor, and now that they are doing well financially, they've started a Christmas tradition of adopting one family within the church and giving them a really lavish Christmas. Since they specifically wanted to focus on a family within the church, and my friend said she honestly couldn't think of anyone in the church who was struggling like we were, I went ahead and gratefully accepted, not feeling like I had the right to refuse anything that was likely to bring so much pleasure to my girls.
Both girls were really excited about this and really enjoyed all the lavish and really useful gifts. It took us all about two hours to open all the wonderful gifts we were given, whereas a normal Christmas for the girls is getting about two or three gifts a piece. Which I also don't see as any hardship.
Dd1 is now in the place of still enjoying the generosity of others -- but not liking to feel like the charity case or the poorest kid in her circle. I've talked about how we're receiving a lot of help right now, and I look forward to the day when we'll be in a position to pass that on to others who need it -- such as by adopting a family for Christmas ourselves. Dd tends to feel like this will never happen for us. I think she's largely influenced by dh's current feelings of extreme negativity. He feels really bad right now about our situation and keeps saying that he's not contributing anything to the family, even though I keep pointing out all the ways that he really is contributing.
All this seems rather off-topic, since it's not about ethical eating -- but it is part of what we are dealing with in our relationships with others at this time. About dealing with others' sometimes not very aware comments, we did have a situation a few months back where dd learned to get past a comment made by one of her church friends. He was telling her about the recent discovery that the plastic coating in the packaging for frozen vegetables, and also in the lining of cans, is actually getting into the vegetables and can be harmful. And he unthinkingly made the remark, "Of course, your family probably can't even afford fresh produce." Upon seeing the look on her face, he immediately felt horrible about it and kept apologizing, and I felt bad for him, too, and tried to explain to dd that sometimes we say things we don't mean to say. After about a week or so, dd did let her anger go and start being friendly towards him again.
I felt bad for dd, too. On the one hand, I feel like it's just horrible for her to have to go through these feelings. She probably would never feel this way if we just associated with the people we know who are struggling a lot more, such as the family of one of dd's good friends whom we met at our neighborhood park, and who has actually lived in a homeless shelter for a while; her family has never had their own home, at least during the few years that we have known them, but have always been living with friends or family members. Yet my main reason for getting out there and joining church and various activities was to address the strong need dd1 was expressing for a more interesting life with more different things to do, and a wider social circle. It seems impossible to really get out there without meeting some folks who are doing a lot better than we are, so maybe it's a positive thing that she is learning at such an early age to come to grips with it.