Broke in America

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

If you’ve ever been broke, then you must know how it feels. It hurts. It is embarrassing. It is humiliating. It makes you ill at ease and small. For some, clinical depression sets in if they are broke for a long time. You see, some types of insolvency are like heartbreak: it hunts you, and have the capacity to change your outlook and how you handle money in the future. It may even change how you relate to friends and relatives. Why do people go broke? Well, there are different reasons why: (1) loss of job; (2) financial irresponsibility; (3) prolonged or out of control emergencies; (4) bad luck; and or (5) a convergence of the aforementioned.

As strange as this may sound: there have been times when, not only are you broke, all your friends are also broke — in which case, you are all useless to yourselves and to one another. Why this happen I will never know. But, whether you are broke for a short or a long term, I’ll bet you this: it is better to be broke in Nigeria, than to be broke in America. If God won’t help you, you help yourself. If you can’t help yourself, you better pray. If your supplications go unanswered, well then, considered yourself toasted, doomed! It is terrible to be broke in America.

In the Nigeria I knew, you could go to your parents or to your siblings, or to your aunts and uncles or even to a mentor; or, to a neighbor (depending on how broke you are). One way or the other, someone will find it in his or her heart to “dash” or “raise” you. If all else fail, you go to your well-off paddy or to a group of your paddies to take care of your urgent needs. I don’t know about the Nigeria of today, though. I don’t know whether one could still hop from one neighborhood to another and from one family member to another in search of naira and kobo, to get this and that done. But I know that being broke in Nigeria was easy, it was child’s play compared to being broke in America.

True, if you are broke in America, you may be able to use your overdraft privileges, draw on your credit card, ask for a bank loan, or go to the pawnshop to trade in some items. Otherwise, there are loan-sharks who are willing to loan you some money against your next paycheck. But what if the services mentioned are not available to you? Or, what if they are available, but you didn’t want any formality since all you wanted was a couple hundred dollars to get things done until you are stable again. On rare occasions, you are so broke all you need is a mere fifty dollars. Or less!

With confidence you call or go to your best friend for help. If he or she can’t help, you then go to one of your close friends. If the “best” and the “close” friends fail you, you then gingerly and awkwardly seek your other friends. If the first, second and third group of friends can’t help or refuses to help, then, you are in trouble. You begin to wonder “who else can I call?” Because you don’t want your private affair publicized, you are careful as to whom else to ask. You wonder. Before you know it, your long list of friends shrinks. You will come to realize that not all who call themselves your friend are truly your friends: there are wayo-friends, fair-weather friends, and party-party friends.

In other words, you are friends only when the going is good. In times of need or in times of emergency, they suddenly become indisposed — refusing to return your calls or not opening their doors should you show up unannounced. This has never happened to me, but I have seen it happen to others. Or have heard horror stories of friends suddenly refusing to be friends when things get tough and rough: the landlord wants his rent, the utility companies are on your case, your parents back home want some money…things are getting out of control…the world seems to be closing in on you. You are broke, and all you need is a helping hand but there is none. Blessed Jesus! It is in times like this when “America will show you her true color.”

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chiddy October 3, 2006 - 2:22 pm

Been there before,down to a dollar in my account which I left to just so I would say I had some money and was so scared.But God saw me through as always.

Andrea October 2, 2006 - 1:41 pm

Preach Sabella, Preach!!! This is so true. You have hit the nail on the head a hundred times.


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