2/11/2013 6:49:47 AM
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This is a speech I gave as part of my Toastmasters (Public Speaking) training. I took a serious issue, a very personal issue, and made it somewhat humorous so my audience could experience the topic from a different point of view. I share it with you because it addresses my background and an issue that all of us must address - Poverty!

David Martinez & "Growing Up Poor" - Toastmasters Speech

There aren't many things I remember from my early childhood years, but falling through the floor of our house is something I remember as if it'd happened yesterday. You heard right, I literally fell through the floor while running after one of my younger brothers.

 To understand how this scenario would even be possible, you have to picture the house where I grew up. We lived in the mountainside (el campo) of a tropical island in a wood shack that sat about 4 feet off the ground, it's on stilts. We even had a functioning latrine that served as our primary bathroom! Not many people I know grew up using a latrine. The wood shack is in need of repairs, especially that rotting part of the floor between the living room and the bedroom. My mom had placed a small rug over the rotting 2x4's thinking that would make the problem go away. Well, it didn't.

 One day, as I'm chasing one of my younger brothers, I stepped on the rug and fell through the floor. Thankfully, my disproportionally large head prevented me from falling all the way through to the ground. So there I am, 4 years old, dangling from my neck from our rotted floor. This was the first time I realized what it was really like to "Grow Up Poor."

 At the end of the 1980's and early 1990's, stand up comedy was at an all-time high and all of those great one-liners regarding poverty made my life so much more interesting.

 I remember my "friends" saying things like, Hey David, were you guys moving this weekend? And I'd say No, why? Oh I was just wondering because I saw your mom kicking a can down the street, was the response. Even my teachers got in on the action. During parent teacher conferences they would often say things like, David's so poor he can't even PAY attention.

 My first experience financing a large purchase was also interesting. What large purchase could you be speaking of David? Since most middle-schoolers don't make large purchases…..Shoes! More specifically, the $120 Shaquille O'Neal Reebok pumps that came out in the early 90's. I must thank the Fingerhut Corporation for making that purchase possible. Have any of you ever financed shoes? I'm sure some of you have, you just don't want to admit it!

 After it was all said and done, 24 monthly payments of $7.95 later, I ended up paying Fingerhut $190 for those $120 shoes. This was my first finance lesson and the second time I realized what it was really like to "Grow Up Poor."

 Being poor was not always a bad thing, there were perks. Including the time when my brothers and I were recruited by the high school's wrestling coaches. See, all of us "poor" kids had the tan colored lunch tickets (meaning free or reduced lunch) versus the yellow tickets everyone else had. The wrestling coaches would look for us "tan ticket" kids since he figured we probably didn't mind going days without eating. After all, weight loss is a key element of the sport. The other thing they figured was that we were probably great scrappers since we probably had to fight or wrestle for everything at home, from food, to the clothes we would wear. They were right! We ended up becoming pretty good wrestlers.

 Everyone's "poor" in college, so I won't spend much time telling you what it's like "Growing Up Poor" as a college student. Except that buying milk with a credit card is not a good idea. Yes, I am one of the very few people in the world who's paid 19.9% interest on milk!

 My financial situation has changed slightly since I was a kid, and I can no longer claim that I'm "Growing Up," so the narrative is slightly different now that I'm an adult. I'm still poor, my net assets compared to my total debt is a couple hundred thousand in the red, but on the bright side, I no longer have to finance shoes or milk.

 Another benefit of "Growing Up Poor" is that many of my current deficiencies, or shortcomings, can be traced back to malnourishment (I have scientific data to support this claim). And therefore, people tend to lower their expectations for me. When I don't "act my age", my wife will associate the lack of proper nutrition I endured as a child to my inability to remember the instructions she has given me.

 When people ask why I'm so short, I tell them I was malnourished as a child. I mean, it's a great excuse for almost anything. At work, people may ask, David, why are you such a Procrastinator? I was malnourished as a child!

Poverty is a serious issue and one that impacts 1 out of 10 Minnesotans. I've been involved in a number of initiatives that have tried to find solutions to eradicate poverty and what I've learned is that we'd be making much more progress if we invested the money that goes toward studying the poor into the poor. I consider myself extremely fortunate that I've been able to experience one of the few things that money can't buy…..poverty!