This week I met a high school principal who grew up in poverty. His daddy was a compulsive gambler and his mother was an alcoholic. There was no violence in the home—lots of love and food—just parents with their own issues. He said that when he was 10 years old, the homework assignment was to find out what your parents do for a living and come back and report to class. So he asked his mother what his father did, and she said, “He is a chemist. He turns money to s–t.”

When we try understanding poverty we see that it is so much like poverty to take a chronic problem and make it funny. What is often not understood in poverty is that situations that middle class would never see as humorous are often treated as humorous and sources of entertainment. Why? Because if you cry, you will never stop, and there is nothing that can be done about it. So it becomes a form of entertainment.

I am certain that I will get a blog response to this saying that compulsive gambling should never be a source of humor. Then I will know that person is middle class.

-Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D.