08/04/2014 11:49 am ET Updated Oct 04, 2014

On Being Broke, But Not Poor

Here's the thing about being broke (in this moment) -- I am not poor. I have family, friends; I have so much support, and I do not suffer at all because of it. I can volunteer. I can fill my days with labor, which I love. That I have no savings or retirement, no Roth IRA -- eh. Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg says, like my father used to say,"Until the candle goes out, I'll work." And I feel that way too. Poverty for me is cleansing, with less money, there is less opportunity for me to fall back to heavy drugs or booze. I struggle with those things.

I barter for my rent. I do my best to save what I can, and I always make it to the next installment of my SSDI -- albeit sometimes with $5 in my pocket. Frankly, I can't do the jobs I could in my youth: the movies, corporate tech, all that stuff requires a kind of focus and commitment I am no longer capable of doing with my current health situation. But I'll never stop writing, or working either. Paint, write, craft anything -- that's what I do now. And I don't care if it all goes to charity. I am better off on Medi/Medi. Because I believe that Medicare/Medicaid expansion for all is important, and in this moment I want to promote that by understanding the fallacies.

I believe in Medicare. It is the best insurance (barring my healthcare from the corporate world, when I worked there) I ever had. I count my blessing every day because of it. I am free from an even greater amount of stress and trauma. I am alive. I can volunteer my time in the middle of all this, and I am always busy.

Just do. Do something. Help a friend who has less. Teach someone something they don't know. Involve yourself in the community you live in. Then -- when confronted with the stigma people place on social agencies, you know -- shit man, I am working, I am doing, I am earning so much life experience to share, and I hope to help others do the same.

I see it everywhere -- ageism, stigma -- but I am not poor, I am not impoverished. I am financially challenged at the moment, but I will never be a poor man. The stigma around poverty is as real as the stigma surrounding HIV and poor mental health -- HIV I have had since 1995, mental health problems all my life. Folks, we can not change the world or that stigma; it's entrenched. What we can do is empower ourselves and others to overcome it. We can build an interior castle and fortify it with community.

I am grateful, really, for every opportunity to use public health. It's such a valuable lesson in life, and you meet great people. Some folks hate that, but I'm convinced we can make comprehensive clinical care an affordable reality for all. Not just for HIV either. This I have learned using social agencies. And I am not likely to forget the lessons learned.

So, if you're anti-social medicine or clinical care, SSI or medicaid expansion, let me send you a pair of shoes to walk in. Walk a mile or two, then reach out and be glad for what you got. Many people don't, and it isn't always sloth and greed, it's a reality we face in America. Our reliance on an immigrant labor class to do our work, the automating of industry -- jobs are scarce. Good health insurance -- you know it isn't always there. People are down, and the haves and have-nots -- wow, we really are at a crossroads in America. Compassion is at a minimum. Let's not keep heaping on more shame -- it doesn't help people feel better about themselves. To rise up we sometimes need others to lock hands and give a boost. That's what it's all about anyway. We are here to help each other and love one another.

Need help with that? Need help with any of it? Write me here. I'll make time and teach you how I overcame my own shame. Primarily, don't listen to those who call you a taker, not when you have so much to give.