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How the Pursuit of Happiness Changed my Perspective of Poverty

Many of us form an idea of poverty based on what others have told us. " People in poverty are poor because they don't work hard". " Get an education or else you'll end up being poor". "Poor people are lazy." Based on what society says, these are facts. But what if I told you that these statements are completely different from what poverty really looks like?


The Pursuit of Happiness is a movie based on a real-life story starring Will Smith (Chris) and his son Jaden Smith (Christopher). It's a story that features the ups and downs that Chris and his son Christopher faced during poverty. It shows the emotional challenges they went through during the major events that took place during this time: losing their home, losing Christopher's mother, being homeless, etc. It shows how poverty not only affects a person financially but physically and emotionally as well.


Firstly, being poor had an effect on both of the character's physical appearance. Their hair started to grow out and remain tangled since they had no money to buy tools to fix up their hair. Their clothes began to look dirty or worn out because they had nowhere to go to wash and dry their laundry and because they could not afford to buy new clothes. There was one scene where Chris had to walk into the office building with one shoe on his foot because he lost the other and could not afford to buy another pair. These things seem to go unnoticed in our everyday lives. We focus on it for only a second and then forget all about it as we go about our day. Yet, these simple changes had a huge impact on Chris and Christopher's lives. Not only did this leave them to put up with the humiliation of looking physically unappealing, but they also had to deal with society's reaction towards them. Many people did not want to go near them. Some laughed behind Chris' back when he was interning with a company. Many kids judged Christopher because he didn't look as neat as the other kids on the street. Both father and son had to deal with being ostracized by society.


Another thing I noticed is how poverty impacted the duo's emotions. Society tends to think that the "lazy and poor people of the world" never get out of that situation because of their lack of purpose in life which made them end up that way in the first place. Society believes that people in poverty stay in poverty because they just don't have it in them to make a change. This movie showed me that people in poverty are often seen as creatures in a cage, rather than humans with emotions. As Chris and Christopher continued being in poverty, society's lack of support had an emotional toll on them. They started to lack confidence. The jests, the judgmental looks, the silent laughs behind their backs - all this gradually made the duo feel less sure of themselves. It made them lose their self-esteem and instead led to them feeling more uncomfortable in their own skin. Because of this, many tears were shed. Surprisingly, the duo didn't shed tears because of their financial issues. Rather, the main reason for their tears was because of how they felt inside. They felt alone in the world, they felt hopeless after Christopher's mother left the family, and they felt unsure of themselves when they had to sleep in a toilet at a train station because they had lost their home. The lost sense of safety and comfort showed me that this is what people in poverty experience on a daily basis.


This movie showed me how living in poverty means living in monotony. Chris and Christopher were doing the same thing over and over every day. Wake up, go to school, find a job, rush to catch the bus, and then hope and pray that there is a spot in the shelter to sleep. If not, then it was time for them to look for a place to sleep for the night- even if that meant a public bathroom. This lifestyle didn't give the duo a chance to live their lives and have some fun. They couldn't have an ice cream on a sunny Saturday afternoon or ride their bikes in the park in the evening. They couldn't watch their favorite sports game on the TV while eating their favorite snacks together on the couch. They couldn't afford to enjoy their weekends. They spent every waking moment focused on finding a place to live or a job and not on enjoying life's simple pleasures. This lack of enjoyment led to the duo feeling hopeless and made the way out of their exhausting lives a lot harder to see.


So, what do we know? Chris and Christopher did not end up in poverty because they were uneducated or lazy. They didn't end up being homeless because Christopher's parents did not work hard enough. In fact, his parents worked tirelessly day and night to pay the bills on the house. The reason they ended up in poverty was because Chris's business, which was selling a tool he had created, was not doing as well as he had expected. Still, Chris and his wife really tried their best to pay the bills and make sure that their son had access to an education in the childcare center.


The Pursuit of Happiness will forever be one of my favorite movies because of the life lessons it taught me, which I will never be able to find in textbooks. It showed me that people have emotions and that we need to show more love and kindness to those who may have more financial struggles than we do, just to brighten up their day and help them make it through another tough day in their lives. It showed me that society's prejudice towards people in poverty still exists and many would rather stay away rather than help someone who is struggling in every way possible. It showed me that change is a painful process: it comes with pain, humiliation, self-doubt, discomfort and so much more. Most importantly, this movie showed me that if you want something bad enough, you CAN turn your life around.


With that, I highly recommend that you watch The Pursuit of Happiness when you have the time. It can completely change your perspective on poverty and the people who are living in it, especially if you have not experienced it first-hand. It certainly did for me, and my view on poverty has been changed forever.

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