When Chili and Rice is all You Need


By Mark E. Smith

When I was growing up, we were poor in every way. Yet, no matter my mother’s troubles – from poverty to substance abuse – she always had dinner on the table. No, it was never much. Pancakes or french toast were the norm, with chili-rice a treat, but we never went without. She had no money, but she sure could turn a can of chili and a bag of rice into several nights’ meals. Those dinners may not mean much to most, but till this day I’m grateful for what we had.

What my mother understood – and a life-long value she instilled in me – was the “power of poor.” That single life lesson of making the most out of how little you have has been an invaluable tool toward my successes in life, from addressing challenges of my disability to accomplishments in my career.

During the best of times, life is easy, and struggles are easily overcome. You’ve probably heard the idiom, Just throw money at it! to solve a problem. However, life is rarely that easy. For most of us, we only have what we have – and we either figure out ways to make the most of it.

Yes, there’s enormous power in making the most of it, for that’s all we have. When we live with adversity, it isn’t about what we have, but how creative, innovative and indomitable our spirit is. I may have cerebral palsy, but be darn clear that I’m making the most of it, for that’s all there is. The adversities in my life have inspired me to reach deep and find capacities that I wouldn’t need to strive for if I had limbs that functioned as they should. This reality applies to so many aspects of life. The power of poor brings out our best.

I remember years ago sitting in a product development meeting, and a manager started listing all of the people and money we’d need to put into the project. The colleague next to me whispered in my ear, “No, we need three days and a white board.” …Mr. Money Bags soon left the company. Mr. White Board is on a host of industry leading patents.

In our lives, if we wait for the right amount of money or the right conditions to pursue a goal, it’s likely to never come to fruition, and if it’s all handed to us, it likely won’t bring out the best. Yes, sometimes utilizing the power of poor is a necessity – I suspect that my mother would have relished a ham if she could afford one. However, harnessing the power of poor doesn’t have to stem from literal poverty. Sometimes, with all the resources in the world in front of us, the wise move is to reject the easy route, and simply embrace the creativity, innovation and indomitable spirit within. That’s when we turn a can of chili and a bag of rice into a phenomenal meal.


Author: Mark E. Smith

The literary side of the WheelchairJunkie

One thought on “When Chili and Rice is all You Need”

  1. I think that is what we did, we used the power of poor… we used the chili and the rice and made a phenomenal meal. Roger talked with you at the expo last Saturday but he had forgotten to mention that he’s the owner of the GECKO and he is the TRACTIONNUT.
    I went back to see if I could find you but you had disappeared. We wanted to invite you to come see the Gecko while you were in town…
    Roger Fontaine

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