I have surely, finally, completely lost my mind. I signed up to participate in the Ultimate Blog Challenge, which means I have to write 31 blog posts over the next 31 days. Yikes. I usually write humor, but since the House recently passed a bill to cut Snap, or food stamp benefits, by 39 billion over the next 10 years, this has been on my mind. I've seen other's sharing their stories, like Jay Kirell. See his story here http://thesterlingroad.com/2013/09/19/my-name-is-jason-im-a-35-yr-old-white-male-combat-veteran-and-im-on-food-stamps/ Jay says we should not cower in the corner, ashamed of needing help. I'm 20-some years beyond my food stamp experience, and to this day feel shame when I think about it. That's as crazy as committing to blog every day in October. But here we go.
The day I applied for food stamps was the worst. I’d left my husband and moved to Seattle with my young daughter. I looked for work and was told that I was overqualified or underqualified until I no longer had even enough money to hire a sitter while I looked.
When you have to choose between feeding your child or giving up pride, sooner or later you take the shame and ask for help.
By the time I completed the paperwork I was crying so hard that the clerk had trouble understanding my answers to her questions. I kept apologizing. She kept telling me I was doing the right thing.
Besides food stamps, I also qualified for financial assistance of exactly $20 more than I received in child support. If you accept financial assistance, the state intercepts your child support payment to cover it; for $20 more per month I wasn’t willing to let the ex find out about this, so he could remind me again that I’d be nothing without him.
To those who say they weren’t raised to be “takers,” neither was I. I got my first job at age 15, moved from my parents’ home at 18, and worked every day until I became a stay at home mom at age 28. By 30 I was a single mom and on the hunt for work. Never even crossed my mind to have more kids so I could take more.
To you who say those on food stamps are lazy and just want the fine upstanding tax payers to support us, guess what? I pay taxes too. And lazy? Well, most are out trying to find some work that might pay enough to put food on the table and maybe pay the rent. ‘Cause guess what? Food stamps free up about enough cash to pay the electric bill. Period. We aren’t lounging around eating bon bons that you paid for.
That attitude about seeing people using food stamps that have manicures or drive nice cars, or in my case carried a Louis Vuitton bag? Well, I can’t tell you about the cars or the manicures because I don’t know anybody else’s story (like you do), but I happened to own one purse, and it was a gift given to me years prior to finding myself shopping in strange neighborhoods so I wouldn’t have to face the embarrassment of running into anyone I knew.
I’ll tell you one thing I know about those who get a hand up when needed: we remember. Maybe it’s that shame you want us to feel that makes those memories of struggle stick for so long – whatever it is, we remember.
We are not takers.
A neighbor lost his job? We share some food or childcare or whatever we can. Transitional housing needs some furniture to get the homeless off the streets – we don’t give a shit how that family became homeless, we just donate something. Tornados and floods strike – while you’re saying that’s what insurance is for, we’re taking action. We hear of a struggling single parent and make damn sure that family has gifts and food at Christmas.
Sometimes Christmas comes in July.
That’s how we roll.