Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Many Faces of Food Stamp Recipients

Food insecurity is a major problem in this country that affects more than just food stamp recipients.  Some people desperately need help, but don't qualify, others are too ashamed to ask for help when they need it so they do their best to get by even if it means going to bed hungry.

We all hear the stories of people seen driving to the grocery store in a Cadillac, talking on their iPhone, with their perfectly manicured nails, but what your perception may be, and what that person's reality may be, are often two totally different things.

Take Allena Brown, for instance. She had a good job with a government agency until she fell at work and busted her head open on concrete, causing permanent brain and spinal cord damage.

 "The day I went back to work they handed me my termination papers.  I had only been working there for 9 months and the government can fire you for any reason within the first year."

 "There are no jobs around here, and my husband only worked part-time and he took on odd jobs to help support us".

"It wasn't easy and it took almost 2 months to qualify for assistance. There were days we didn't know how we would feed the kids, but God always came through, whether it was sending my husband days or weeks worth of work or people from our church helping us."

"Once we got assistance it lifted a weight off of our shoulders. We had been receiving assistance for about six months when my husband landed a full time job driving a truck.  We are still trying to catch up, but the day he got hired I called the DHS (Department of Human Services) and told them I wanted to close our case.. People can be so rude and judge others without knowing their story. Not everyone is abusing the system.

"During that time, I don't know how many times I heard "You have a Coach purse or you have a nice ride, but you don't mind swiping that food stamp card." "They didn't stop to think that we haven't always struggled, we just fell on hard times for a brief period, and I bought those items before I got on food stamps."

"Even though I could, I refuse to file for disability,  because I know there are people out there worse off than me, but it has been really hard. I try and help make ends meet with my photography and any odd jobs I can find on the side.

While a few are too lazy to work, and bilk the system for what they can get out of it,  in most cases it is a matter of survival.

Take Shelly for instance, she had a great job making $23 an hour, and was the sole support for her two children  After an unexpected layoff she found her self unemployed, but the bills kept rolling in, and there was no money for food.

Walking into a food stamp office was something she never thought she would find herself doing, but she had paid into the system her whole life, and was thankful it was there when she needed it.

What she didn't expect was the way she was treated by the people who worked at the food stamp office.  They were rude, and treated her like she was dirt. After all, if you are poor, you are at the mercy of Government workers that could care less about you, and if you don't have a job, they stare down their nose at you, and think they can treat you any way they want.  After all, your poor, so you are a nobody.

I remember one friend that worked in the cafeteria at a school.  Fortunate to be married to a man that made decent money, she resented all the kids that came through and got free school lunches.  She was always talking about how they wore nice shoes, and such, and if they could afford that, they should have to pay for their lunches.

What many people don't realize, is many of those parents are working, and they don't make enough to buy those shoes, the grandparents do it, or they find them at yard sales and other places.  You have no way to judge that person's situation unless you ask them, and if you ask you might be ashamed of yourself. 

We would all like to think our friends or relatives or church will come to our rescue, but in many cases they are in the same boat or just don't have the time to fool with our problems on top of theirs.

Many years ago there was a crippled man that needed help, and one of God's angels made it her mission to carry him a plate of home cooked food every night.  One day the church ask if there was anyone in the community that needed help so God's angel brought up the cripple man.

It all started off great, but soon people began to complain that he was a burden to the church. What was meant to be the church helping someone in need turned into a job, and soon it was discovered that the cripple man was in possession of Playboy magazine.  That was the only excuse that was needed to stop the daily food gifts, and put the cripple man back in the hands of the angel that carried him food without complaint.

This is not meant as a judgement on the church, but rather to explain that more often than not, well meaning people have problems of their own, and don't have the time or resources to help those in need.  Like the Deacon at one church once told me, "There are just too many needy people for us to help."

If you are blessed, be thankful, don't waste your time complaining about those that take advantage of the system, you will always have those people, but more often than not, food stamp recipients are people like the ones mentioned above, who have fallen on hard times, and are struggling to survive.

Your life can change in an instant, and you never know when you may find yourself in the very shoes you condemned.  But for the grace of God go I.

Sometimes I think our whole country is like the Children of Israel crying in the wilderness, where they wandered for 40 years because of their ungratefulness, and lack of faith.

Like my son David told me one day when I was complaining, "Someone is praying for what you have, for your blessings, and if your not grateful, God may take what you have and give it to someone else." I fail, but I try and remember what he said, because truer words have never been spoken.

God never ask if we were worthy when he sent his son to die on the cross for us, he knew we were not, but he sent us the gift just the same. Be thankful and be blessed!

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