First a few bits of business . . .
The I will be making the drawing for the winner of the HomeRight SteamMachine giveaway on Friday, April 10. So if you haven't had a chance to enter click here.
I have a guest post over at Country Chic Paint Blog today. You can see what I did with a couple of roadkill side tables here. I would love it if you visited and showed some love with a comment. Please.
You may have noticed - but I doubt it - that I've missed the last two Wednesdays. It seems that I often forget that is actually Wednesday. In case you haven't noticed, this blogger doesn't have an editorial calendar. I rather fly by the seat of my pants and don't generally have a rhyme or reason to when I blog. My life is generally of little consequence and thus the days tend to flow together.
This week I had something I really wanted to write about so I kept reminding myself, counting down the days so I wouldn't forget.
But then I heard something on the news last night.
And I saw this post from a friend on facebook this morning.
I know the person who she was referring to.
I know her circumstances.
I know what a wonderful person she is.
I know that she spends her life helping others live a better, healthier life.
And I knew I couldn't write about what I originally intended.
That I had to write about poverty.
Or at least my thoughts on poverty.
I try to stay away from subjects that are politically charged - for many reasons.
The least of which being that people won't want to read my blog anymore.
Mostly because I find it difficult to talk about multi-faceted subjects in 500 words or less.
But I want to say some things to the world.
Not that you are the one that needs to hear it.
I just want to say it.
Because the subject just breaks my heart.
So here goes.
I beg you.
In the name of all things holy.
Find a space in your heart for those that live in poverty.
Please give them the benefit of the doubt.
My mind is so full of things to say and my heart is beating so fast that I'm afraid everything I write will be nonsensical.
So I'm just going to tell you about me.
I've never been rich.
I've never even been what might be considered "comfortable".
I was raised in a family of 7 in the days of one family car and Christmas gifts that were based on needs.
My father was college educated and had a professional job. He had to wear a suit to work everyday. If my memory serves me he had two suits. But it could have been one.
I remember that when his suit slacks got so thin that you could see his underwear through them that my mother died them dark.
We did not live like Don Draper. I don't remember knowing anyone who did.
We always had food. We were loved. All of our basic needs were covered. We were insured. We vacationed at my grandparents. We never had everything we (I) wanted to have.
I babysat to make money when babysitting paid nothing.
I saved quarters to buy books when the book mobile came to school and make Scholastic Book orders.
I started working at 16 and worked through high school and college.
Mostly I used my money to buy shoes and clothes that were fancier than my parents cared to pay for.
I paid for my college. My parents bought me a car so I could drive to college and provided me with whatever food and shelter I needed over that time. Some of that time I lived ay home and some of that time I lived elsewhere.
After I married I worked.
After I had children I stayed home with the kids. I also sporadically kept others children to make extra money.
At a point in time when my kids were pre-school aged I went back to college and finished my undergraduate degree and then went to graduate school.
During grad school I worked as a graduate teaching assistant and made somewhere around $6400 a year.
During the first semester of grad school my husband and I separated.
I moved with my 2 children into a very inexpensive apartment in my neighborhood. This was fortunate because the kids were able to remain in their school.
I was able to work for the apartment complex on Saturdays showing apartments and receive a discount on my rent.
For about a year I was basically able to make ends meet. This was really a fantasy, because when my car died I had to get help from my parents. When school tuition was due, I had to get help from my parents.
It all blurs together, but I think that around the end of my 2nd semester of grad school I finally went to financial aid for loans. I can still feel the angst of sitting there with the financial aid counselor. I remember that desperate, yet angry gut feeling you feel when you have to ask someone for help. Trying not to act as if it was HIS fault I was poor. It brings tears to my eyes to this day. I SOOOO wanted to be the one who could raise two kids on $6000 a year and minimal child support without help.
Then THIS happened.
The kids and I were getting ready for school.
My 5 year-old daughter was eating breakfast and I was sitting at the table.
She looked up at me - I remember her beautiful face ...
and said "mama, do we have to have cinnamon toast for breakfast again today?"
I am sobbing as I write this.
That day I went to that big ugly building, in that "bad" part of town, where "poor" people went to wait, and jump through hoops, to get food stamps.
I remember a big room. Filled with too many people. People with babies. Old people. Young people. People of all kinds. A few men. Mostly women.
Every one of them looked as miserable as I felt.
Turns out I was also eligible for government assisted housing (Section 8), child-care, and a few other things that my mind has suppressed.
I decided not to accept any assistance other than WIC and food stamps.
I hated going to the grocery store with those stamps. There were no debit cards then. I had to count out the stamps to the closest dollar. I had to buy only certain brands/types of milk, peanut butter, cereal, etc. But I was so glad to be able to buy food - healthy food - for us.
There was never a time when I felt fat and sassy or in any way proud of myself for being on food stamps. I was never on drugs or any of the other things that people say about "those people" - "the poor". I admit that once I used my food stamps to buy a birthday cake for my daughter.
My kids ate free lunches at school, and then later, reduced priced lunches. They never knew it. Until, one day my son asked me why they never ran out of money on their account like other kids do. By that time they were older and wiser and able to join the discussion about how we live frugally because we NEED to live frugally.
After 3 years I finished school and got a job. Ironically, even with a Masters Degree and a good job, my kids still qualified for reduced priced lunches. That fact turned into pretty good ammunition to have the pay structure for my job altered. That was a good thing.
I got help in other ways occasionally. A community agency paid my utility bills a couple of times. A friend and her husband each gave me $100 (each without the other knowing) for Christmas money one year. A church fund helped me get caught up on car payments once - a call that came miraculously out of the blue and was clearly straight from God's hands.
All that was 20+ years ago now.
And I'm still not rich.
It is doubtful that I ever will be.
I won't live a luxurious life in retirement.
In fact, I may even live a financially challenged retirement. (sorry kids)
I have a life filled with love.
I've more money and things than most of the world.
I'm not perfect.
Probably not even close.
But I would hope that even if I hadn't had my low income moments that I would still have enough empathy for the poor that I would avoid making huge sweeping generalizations about them. That I would avoid thinking that I knew their motivation - that I knew anything about what it feels like to be hungry that I knew what it felt like to come home to a home where the electricity had been turned off - that I should sit on my high horse and make laws about whether I can buy steak or seafood with my food stamps.
It's hard for me to believe that the majority of you guys out there don't know what it is like to be in need.
What if these people were your children?
Are your parents not taking advantage of Medicare? - which is, remember, a government assistance program.
What if it was you?
Do you KNOW how MANY people need help?
We live in this world where most of us are WAY closer to becoming the poor than we are to becoming the rich.
Does the Bible not say to feed the poor?
Does that mean to selectively judge and then give out boxed, processed foods to the poor?
I don't know what else to say.
Please love the poor.
Please get to know someone in need.
Please volunteer at a place that helps the poor. Not so you can feel pious. Not so you can put it on your resume.
I know there are people milking the system.
I know there are people who it is a mistake to help.
Please err on the side of giving too much - of being too generous.
Please remember that the poor live among you - not just in that bad part of town.
Please pray for them.
Please know that we all want the same things.
I challenge you with this thought . . .
Would it be possible that you replace all thought of judgement and negativity for the poor with empathy and compassion? What would it hurt? What if you just said a little prayer every time your mind crossed the issue? Pray that our hearts will soften enough that we can wisely deal with this issue on a national, state, and community level. Would it be possible for you to invest yourself in the issue?
Because where your actions go your heart will follow. I know this to be true.