The Lord told me a few weeks ago to, “tell my story.” I’ve wondered WHICH story He was talking about and I finally figured it out . . . He means tell MY story as I see things. Whether it is right or wrong by you doesn’t matter, because it is MINE . . . from MY perspective, something you can’t tell because it’s not YOUR story . . . it’s MINE. Regardless which story it is . . . whether it’s how I came to know the Lord, my years of alcohol abuse, my years as a single mother, my time as a mom of special needs children, my time of losing a home . . . regardless of MY story, it’s MINE. And I’m to share it. So this is one of my stories that the Lord began preparing me for months ago, but I’ve been too afraid to share, but not any more.
I’ve started this post a dozen times in my head, but each time I sit down to put it on paper . . . well, you know what I mean, the thoughts become jumbled and don’t flow, so this post will be me, talking, letting off frustration, but also hopefully educating and shedding light about those of us on the other side of the counter.
I remember the first time I went to the check out register and had to pay with food stamps. I had already prepared my attire. I wanted to look nice, clean, and respectable. I did not – not want to be well-kept because I knew how badly people spoke of those on food stamps. I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to say anything negative about me.
Sadly, that didn’t last for long.
I soon found out that people (many of you reading this post) not only bad mouth those that are sloppy, wear clothes with holes in them, and have unkempt hair because you presume they are lazy, don’t work and are loafers, you also bad mouth people who are clean, wear earrings, have nice clothes on, smell good, and have clean styled hair. The reason you would judge them? Because in your opinion if they look nice and are clean and have nice things then they should sell those nice things or not be on food stamps. (Yes, I have been told that.)
With each passing visit to the grocery store, I began to change. No more earrings, no more nice clothes, no more perfume, and who cared what I looked like. After all, the ones behind me and across from me checking me out have already made their decisions about me. Eventually, I stopped wearing earrings and make up altogether. The nice earrings mom gave me for Christmas sit in my jewelry box. The beautiful bracelet with special charms given to me from my kids, dangle by the bed. The Autism Awareness necklace and dog paw charm necklace I love so much, is worn only once or twice a year. I began believing I have no right to wear these things because I receive food stamps. I had already stopped getting my nails done, stopped getting my hair colored, stopped getting pedicures . . . I had stopped the pampering for me because it was no longer in the budget. After all, for ME, that was common sense. I’ve never been one for labels or cared what I wore regarding brands, but even my Wal-Mart shopping for clothing and shoes was reduced to no new clothes. All my clothes became hand-me-downs and ALWAYS came at the exact time needed. (Oh God’s hand is timely.) All the actions I took to prepare for our lifestyle change came natural for me, but I just wasn’t prepared that I would be stripped of me. Even as I write these words my heart hurts as I fight back the tears. I’m not a glamorous fancy person. I’m a girl who loves chickens, dogs, cats, gardening, and helping the homeless. My earrings are small, my necklaces thin stranded and my clothing simple.
So why do you feel you have the right to take that away by ripping me apart with your opinions? Why is WHO I AM based on the external? Oh how sad . . . .
But, here’s the more important question. . . . .
Why have I let you?
In today’s society, a person is damned if they do and damned if they don’t regarding welfare. But there is a lot of ignorance in that same society.
Here is some information I would like to share to help with educating those who have never HAD to be a recipient of food stamps or just don’t know these facts.
1. Food stamps are not welfare.
2. Food stamps are a USDA supplement.
3. Food stamps are not intended to provide ALL the food for a family on a monthly basis, but to supplement the cost of food because they are a low-income family.
4. Welfare is Medicaid and AFDC (cash assistance). It is also based on income for low-income families.
Along with the clothing, jewelry, nail and miscellaneous attire complaints people make about people on food stamps, I also hear a lot of complaints about the food purchases those on food stamps make.
I hear, “All they purchase is junk food, they need to purchase food their families and not junk!”
I hear, “They are eating better than my family does and I’m paying for it!” (For the record, I pay for it too. EVERY American that pays taxes or has paid taxes while working contributes to USDA. That means I contribute to my own needs. My husband is working! He is contributing to our own needs! God forbid you ever need assistance, YOU too, if you have ever worked and paid taxes, have paid in to the USDA supplement fund for food!)
I hear, “How dare them buy steaks, fresh veggies, and fresh fruits! They should be eating less expensive things!”
Well, now I have to chuckle. Because this becomes the fun part.
A few days ago as I placed my items on the check out line, the Lord spoke to my heart.
“Take a picture of your items on the check out line,” he said.
I laughed and looked around, thinking, “Are you serious? I can’t do that. People will think I’m crazy.”
Well, I did it, but I couldn’t figure out the point.
Before putting the groceries away I also knew I was to take pictures of each item.
I did that as well.
Then it dawned on me.
If you are behind me, you can’t see exactly what I have, can you?
You see pork chops, chicken, fresh veggies, frozen waffles, TWO packages of donuts, TWO packages of bacon, TWO Sunny D’s, and wow, a few other items, and even an expensive roast . . .
But what you don’t see . . . .
AND my BEST purchase was this . . . .
A $21.04 roast for $9.03!!!! This will feed us for dinner and sandwiches for two days! Are you going to criticize and judge me for providing food for my family for three meals?
This particular day Winn Dixie had their New York Strips steaks marked down. A beautiful package of steaks . . . $3. I should have taken a picture and the only reason I didn’t purchase the package was fear. Fear of what YOU think of me because I would be paying with food stamps. Shame on me.
Now I have to admit, even as a recipient of food stamps, I have stood in lines behind ladies who have expensive weaves, beautiful fake nails, Gucci purses, have expensive cars, have a nicer phone that I have, and are wearing high dollar clothes. Yes, I too struggle with the logic in that, but I can’t answer for them. They (just as we all) will be held accountable for what they do. I can only answer for me.
I have a responsibility to feed my family. I can assure you, the SUPPLEMENTAL amount we receive is a far cry from what we spend on food for our family. We do the best we can with what we have. Not every one of my purchases look like this, (oh I wish they did though!) but we ALWAYS look for mark down and BOGO’s and yes, I have even purchased steaks with our food stamps, but I can also tell you I paid less for those steaks than I would have paid for chicken or pork chops because the steaks were marked down for less. So am I wrong for purchasing steak or would you have complained that I paid more for chicken than I could have steaks and shame on me for that too. I also purchase fresh green beans. My son has this thing called a sensory disorder. He gags on certain textures. The only vegetables he can swallow are fresh green beans and fresh corn. So yeah, I buy fresh vegetables too. We also go on picnics, go to the beach and have play dates where I fill my basket with foods and snacks so my kids can enjoy themselves. That doesn’t make me a bad person or someone that takes advantage of the program. It makes me a wife, and a mom, doing the best I can on a low budget, in hopes of making special memories with my children. There is nothing wrong with a person using food stamps to buy food to take their kids on a picnic.
I don’t know what will ever come from this post, I will probably be criticized even more, and surely won’t be a popular one, and that is okay, but my hope is that maybe . . . just maybe . . . one person will read it . . . and maybe . . . that one person will think before they speak . . . and maybe . . . that one person will try to see what the view is like from the other end of the counter . . . maybe.