What you’re going to read in a couple of minutes will definitely tug at your heartstrings and should absolutely make anyone think twice about judging someone else’s circumstances in life. There’s a sentiment among conservatives that those who use food stamps or any other kind of governmental assistance are doing so only because they are too lazy or incompetent to work for themselves.
While it may be true that where there’s a way to abuse the system, some will find that way and take it, the truth is that for millions of Americans every year food stamps and other social welfare programs are the difference between survival and starvation.
The Internet brings us this letter from a Sue Bulger in Minneapolis, MN. Sue wrote this letter after getting the stink-eye from a particularly judge-filled person at her local supermarket. Perhaps you’ve seen someone in your local store paying for their food with a food stamps card. If you’ve ever felt like maybe that person didn’t “deserve” that assistance, or if you’ve ever wondered if it really helps at all for us to pay into social welfare programs, please read this letter a few times over.
If we cannot reach a hand out to those among us who, like Ms. Bulger, need help, then what is the point of being the richest nation in the history of the world? Regardless of whether Sue had extenuating circumstance on top of extenuating circumstance, at one point do we stop acting so selfishly as to cast a judgment-tinged eye on someone in the grocery store for having the audacity to ask for and get help when they need it most?
Something tells us if more people wrote or read letters like Sue’s, there would be a lot less need for letters like this in the first place.
[box type=”shadow”]This is an apology to the lady behind me in line at Cub Foods in Edina on a recent Sunday night. This is also a reminder to me and to others who have ever slipped into believing that we are just a little better than others we encounter.
We were at the checkout, and just as the cashier started ringing me up, I saw you come to the line with a small order in your basket. My first apology is that I could not let you go ahead of me, but the checkout process had already begun.
My second apology was for pulling out my pile of discount coupons for the order, and especially when one required the manager’s assistance. I know I was holding you up.
And then I swiped my payment method and you lost your patience. It was EBT — “food stamps.”
I did not observe you, but my daughter was with me packing the groceries and saw it all: “EBT: Yeah, right,” you muttered, with that look of disgust that would have shattered someone feeling just a little bit of shame over needing food stamps.
As we walked to the car, my daughter told me what had happened, and I sensed her resolve about having made the right decision to work for social justice as she starts her senior year in a social-work program.
We talked about you all the way to the car, and about how sorry we felt for people who were judged because they depended on support from others. But my real apology is that I did not make eye contact with you and get out of the car to talk with you as you got into your car right next to mine.
Instead, I did what many people would do: I felt ashamed and humiliated and angry about your ignorance.
If I’d had the guts to talk with you, I would have told you about my disabled 28-year-old son living with us. We have never asked for public support for him.
But recently we have decided that it is our responsibility to introduce him to the programs that will have to support him when we are no longer here to care for him. We started small: He is eligible for food support, and he agreed to receive it to be able to feel that he is contributing his share to the food bill, since he is unable to work.
I know we looked like people you might think need EBT: a bit unkempt in sweatpants and T-shirts. If I’d had the guts to talk to you, I would have told you that I’d just had an emergency surgery and that my daughter came home from college five hours away to help for the weekend because my husband had scheduled surgery two days after mine. I haven’t been able to put on real clothes yet, and I can’t lift a bag of groceries.
I thought I could handle your disdain, since I am a professional working at a local corporation where I am surrounded every day by people who respect me and care about me. But it still made me feel a little dirty — unworthy — and I still went home and cried in the privacy of my shower so my family would not know I was hurt by you.
I am sorry I did not tell you all of this in person. What my daughter and I resolved is that we will never let my son (her brother) go to the store alone with his Electronic Benefits Transfer card and be subjected to this humiliation.
We all have our stories, and no one is any better than another. Everyone deserves the respect they want for themselves, even if they use an EBT card to pay for their groceries.[/box]