Through all of the political comments on Facebook, I have come across some I nod my head to in agreement, some I say, “You have GOT to be kidding,” and some that hit really close to home. One in particular refers to those on food stamps and I just HAD to put in my two cents in.
This image I recently came across REALLY irks me. It would be difficult for someone to read that and not feel lumped in to a category by those who have never been struck by hardship. Just because one requires assistance with food doesn’t immediately make them “lazy couch potatoes living off the taxpayers money”. I hope those who make these statements NEVER have something drastic/traumatic happen to their cushy little lives and find themselves in the pride swallowing line at the state human services department. Why? Because I was there once with my mom and I knew it was anything BUT laziness that put us there. Here is my own PERSONAL experience with that Monopoly money that was like gold to us.
During my years between ages 13-17 we struggled. After my parents got a divorce, we were flat broke and my mom was unsure of our future because of it. We went from a middle class lifestyle with two incomes (although my mom’s income wasn’t enough to support herself and 2 teenagers) to living in a new town in a room at my grandparent’s house. We soon moved in to a cozy (in other words TINY) duplex where Natalie and I shared a room.
Carrie, the oldest of us three kids, had turned 18 and struggled herself when she moved out on her own, not really having much of a choice. For all of us, those years were HARD. My dad had lost his job due to reasons I will one day cover in a separate blog post altogether….or a book. haha But for now, let’s just say he was NOT a dead beat dad and life had it’s own internal struggles for him, which left all of us drowning financially and emotionally. So my mom did what she had always dreamed of doing: she went to college. She enrolled at New Mexico Tech at the age of 39 and embarked on this journey to become a Registered Nurse.
In order to eat we needed food stamps. Period. This road we were on was going to require all of us to struggle for a few years while she worked hard at her education.
I remember the first day we went with my mom grocery shopping. We were new to town and Natalie had just started her junior year in high school. What a difficult age to go from middle class America and almost getting her own car, to coming up to the register with food stamps; not to mention this was when it was paper bills and not a dignified card that looked like any other debit card. A tad mortifying for a 16 year old with the worst part being that the sacker was a popular and cute boy from school. I vividly remember her fidgeting in her body wondering how she was going to get out of this situation. I understood, but at 13 I hadn’t gotten to the point where I was embarrassed about that stuff yet. I was just happy to have a cart full of groceries and cereals that I got to pick out. So Natalie asked my mom if she could wait outside. The fact that she was THE most beautiful girl in town and everyone turned their heads when she walked in the room made a disappearing act impossible for her, but she tried anyway. Natalie wasn’t bratty about it, it was just going to take some getting used to. This would then become a bond that she and I would forever share; hard times can either rip you apart or pull you closer together and thankfully we got closer and learned to laugh about all of it as it was happening and for years to come. One of the funniest moments was when I was a freshman and she was a senior. Natalie, my mom and I shared clothes to give us more of a selection and when she got ‘Best Dressed’ for the yearbook her senior year, one, we were shocked and laughed hysterically and two, my mom and I joked that we should stand with her in the photo. I still laugh about that. 🙂
Then two years later, off to Laredo, TX my mom and I went. Natalie stayed behind and lived with Carrie and continued in their struggle, while we went to Texas where my mom was accepted in to a nursing program.
Things didn’t get any easier there since financially things were the same. We continued on food stamps, medicaid, grants, scholarships and credit cards to keep us afloat. My mom would send food stamps back to my sisters in Albuquerque because they needed them as well. At 18 and 20, they were living with our dad who was unable to contribute much because of his illness; times were dark for them and any little bit of help was welcomed. I qualified for the free lunch program, free school shoes for those in athletics and anything else that was “given” to those of us who were in financial need. And yes, we took those “handouts”. We HAD to. My mom continued busting her butt at school and got excellent grades. She graduated with a GPA that any student would be ecstatic over and soon thereafter took her first nursing job in San Antonio. My senior year we were off to another city to continue this journey together. Once she got her first paycheck, we stopped all form of government help. I was so proud of her and through it all I learned that I came from a magnificent woman who set her mind to something and made it happen. I also got a job because even though my mom was working, she still had racked up credit cards from paying rent, traveling to see my sisters, student loans, school shopping over the years and other life expenses that incurred. My measly little paycheck went straight to her and I was happy to help since she put on her brave face for me during those years. Through her hard work she paid those credit cards down to nothing and even though it took several years to do so she never filed bankruptcy in order to wash it all away.
So with these ads and comments regarding welfare and food stamps, just know that there are many that needed it to get through (and out of) those extreme lows that can happen in life.
Life as we knew it was ripped out from under us, yet with our wonderful government programs she was able to better herself for the family. Her nursing degree has been able to provide her with job security over the economic downturn and has allowed her to be generous to the family and helping out Natalie’s family after we lost her. God led her towards the necessary path required to have been able to take care of Natalie those 13 months she battled cancer. Without my mom’s specific skills Natalie would have needed to be in a home and for that I’d have been on food stamps and struggled alongside her all over again.
Thank you, mom, for being such a blessing to this family. XOXO