After seeing this picture today, though, I think I’m going to try again. This time, hopefully, I can do it without crying or wanting to smash my face against a wall.
You see, I have government assistance. My husband is our sole provider, and I stay home. I choose to stay home, and I have my reasons. But, I don’t have to give you those reasons. As it is, my husband works hard, and because he’s working, he’s – gasp – ALSO paying for the assistance we use.
The truth of the matter is that, regardless of which tax bracket you fall into, if you work, you’re contributing. That’s what taxes do. They go into a big ol’ imaginary pot, and then they’re doled out to help the citizens. Are some tax brackets carrying more than others? Probably. Are low income families lazy and riding on others’ coat tails? Not usually.
The reality my family faces is that we cannot afford food on our own. Especially because of #2’s allergies, we are forced to eat real food instead of ramen and Mac n’ Cheese and hot dogs and Hamburger helper. Even IF we were to just eat that, which would be terrible for our bodies, we would still be spending more than we make. We have a very, very basic budget. We also have financial mentors and have taken financial classes. We do our best to find ways to make a little extra money. Regularly, nearly if not every week, I am over my budget by $200 – $350. That’s with Food Stamps and Medicaid, and with an uninsured spouse. What would you like me to cut out? Our life insurance? Our renter’s insurance? Clothes for my kids? Gas for my car? Those are non-negotiable things on my list.
We’re not out buying fancy-pants TVs and xboxes and designer shoes. Some people on assistance do, and usually it’s because they’re trying to fix the aching hole of inadequacy that forms from not being able to provide for your family. Is it right? No. Does it happen? Yes. And I’ll bet you’ve done it yourself. Binge-eating ice cream after a break-up? Binge-watching Netflix because you don’t want to do homework? Eating out all the time so you don’t have to cook? It’s the same thing, except that for those of us with assistance, we’re just digging a deeper hole.
Before you get on your high horse and judge people with assistance, take a moment to walk in their shoes. Imagine having to pull out your Lone Star card and swipe it, hoping beyond hope that you have enough still left on the card. Or, having to shuffle through your purse for your coupons or your WIC vouchers. Trust me when I say that those Oreos you see on the conveyor belt are because I can’t buy alcohol with my card, and I very much need a break.
So look, I get it. It is super frustrating to watch your hard-earned money get siphoned for some single mom buying frozen pizzas and fajitas and Lindor chocolates with her Food stamps card. I would be frustrated, too! And I get incredibly angry with those few people who abuse the system, lie on their applications, and buy stupid stuff. Most of them, though, don’t know any different and are reacting on instinct. Those of us who don’t cheat, though, are genuinely trying to make your money count. And these constant reminders about how we’re all lazy good-for-nothing moochers are getting old.
The next time you go to “share” one of these pictures, please stop and think. If you were to suddenly lose your job, where would you go? You now have a $1300 mortgage to pay, credit cards to keep up with, and kids who need to be fed. You have no room for pride anymore, and that’s all these pictures are. Reality states that at any point, at any time, anyone could be in the same position.
As someone who would LOVE to be forking over the cash for these programs instead of having to use them, please hear this if nothing else: we are trying. We don’t want to be in this place for forever, and we know it’s hard on you. We’re doing everything in our power to get to middle class, so we can have the privilege of helping someone else. Rather than looking at it as a burden on yourself, look at it as giving back to society.
Thank you, all of you who work long hours and hard days, for helping my family survive. Thank you for giving us the stepping stone to get out of poverty. Thank you for your taxes. In return, we will make sure to buy good food responsibly (though Oreos will probably still end up in the cart). We will continue to seek extra jobs and move up in our careers so that someday we don’t have to be on it. We will work, so that you know your efforts are not all in vain.
And maybe next time, instead of disgust and anger in your pictures, you can stop someone on the street, in person, and offer them a hand up. I can guarantee that it will do a whole bunch more toward what you want than a measly picture on Facebook.