Monday, October 28, 2013

If You Give a Man a Fish

Ok, I saw yet another comment from someone today talking about how it makes no sense to tell people not to feed the animals in the park because they'll become dependent on the help when we are feeding people with food stamps and I will admit, it irked me. Again.  Because that is the most freaking ridiculous comparison ever.  So prepare yourself for a bit of my opinion here. And, no, you don't have to like it.

Yes, foodstamps (or SNAP as it is appropriately known now) are a necessary thing in our society. Necessary. Because we, the people, have stopped doing our duty. Our duty as a Christian, as a human person, as a being to make sure that we look out for those less fortunate than ourselves. Food stamps came into being because churches, families, and extended support networks stopped doing their God given jobs of helping out those less fortunate than themselves. Because those with money started getting an attitude and a holier than thou mindset and started saying well, just go get a job you lazy bum. Ok, how about you hire them then? If you think it is always a matter of just getting another job, you hire them. Oh, wait, you can't provide the income to hire someone. But wait, you just said all they had to do was quit being lazy and go get a job.  Um, it just doesn't work that way. Jobs, in case you haven't noticed, are not just laying around for anyone to just go get. And, yes, there are cases where a person simply cannot afford to get a job.  A single mother who has left an abusive relationship with 3 young children likely cannot afford the daycare necessary for her children if she just took any old job. A parent with a medically fragile child who's life would be put in danger if they were put in a daycare setting simply cannot just go get any old job. Yes, there are special cases.

And if you are going to attack food stamps, why don't you attack medicaid and disability and social security and a host of other programs? They are all entitlement programs designed by the government years ago to pick up the slack that we the people stopped picking up ourselves.  And they are all equally taken advantage of by the minority of people who are just truly not interested in improving their situation.

Yes, at one point Alan and I found ourselves in a situation where we qualified for food stamps when we were first married. When the funding for his government job disappeared. When our family was unable to truly help. When they said "We've paid into these programs for years. Please go apply for the help you need." And we did. But see there was a loop hole. Yes, we were in college. Tuition already paid. No refunds available. If you were in college even if you were independent students (as married students would be), you could not receive food stamps unless you were working 20 hours a week. I was, Alan was not. Our case worker said if we got divorced, I would qualify for emergency food stamps (when they give them to you immediately) but in order to get them while married, we needed proof that both of us were working at least 20 hours a week.  Yes, this was a humbling experience as indeed it should be. It is not fun to go to all 3 of your employers and ask them to sign paperwork stating how many hours you are working and explaining why you need it. It should not be fun or easy to apply for or receive said benefits. In the end, we did not qualify because we felt the whole marriage thing was more important.  We did, however, qualify for the WIC program. But here's the kicker. No one in the food stamp office ever suggested to us that we go apply. No one ever told us hey, here's another option. It took talking to someone I worked with to get the information. So for several months Alan would often not eat or we'd wrack up debt on the credit card to get food.  When Alan was finally able to find a job, he lost it when he came to the hospital with me when Bryan was born. Yes, that is a shortened version of a long story but the truth is simply that it's not always as easy as just applying for a stinking job.

What I have found in the past few years is that it is often those who have the least who are most willing to reach out and help others. It is those who are often in the greatest need who often say nothing about needing help. Many people have been too shamed by stigmas and attitudes of their friends and family members to reach out for that help when they are in need and truly rightfully qualify. I've heard so many people pass judgment on those receiving assistance who never take the time to talk to those getting it. They never ask how someone got there or what they are doing to get out of the situation. They never bother to bring over a little extra to help a family in need out.  Maybe they contribute to a food drive once a year but do so begrudgingly with a mumble under their breath about how so-and-so should just go get a job.

Yes, we still live on a very tight budget. No, we are not poor. No, our tight budget has nothing to do with having 10 children. Yes, we still qualify for WIC. Yes, we consider ourselves blessed. Yes, we feel the entitlement programs need to be reformed. No, we feel the reform should never come at the expense of feeding children who have parents who have made poor decisions. Yes, we still donate to food pantries and bring food over when someone is ill or just when we have extra and think maybe someone else could benefit. Yes, we've been blessed by the generosity of family, friends, and strangers over the years.  Yes, we've learned a lot more about how to successfully feed our family on a budget since getting married than we ever knew when we first got married.  Yes, it is our goal to make sure our children have this knowledge before they leave home so they are way more prepared than we were. Yes, we've packed holiday food packages with scouts and churches. Yes, we've even received one once. Yes, we are blessed beyond measure right now with what we have. But, no, I will not say that if you give a person food stamps you will make them dependent. Some will become ungrateful and expect more.  But so many more will be incredibly grateful for the help. For the ability to care for their family. For the dignity that a decent meal provides. Please don't judge these people.  Vote for reform but then reach out and help that family down the street or in your church or at the grocery store that you can tell just needs it. Because God did not give you extra so you can sock it away in a bank. He gave you that extra so you could share it.

Anyway, that is my rant for the day. Quit complaining about those on food stamps unless you are willing to help more of them out yourself. Vote for reform but don't take your frustrations out on those on the programs themselves because they are just as worthy of being treated with dignity as you are. And just like you might sometimes buy your child a juice box or a soda or a box of cookies, they sometimes might do the same thing. Or, oh my goodness, buy a steak for dinner for a birthday. Because even if you are poor, you still might want to eat something other than beans and rice every single day if you had the option.

And on that note, one wonderful resource for learning how to stretch your food dollars and still eat real food can be found here. She just started a realistic food stamp challenge for 2013. Not the fake ones politicians and noteworthy figures pretend to do every so often.  Awesome realistic ideas and thoughts to share with those living on a tight food budget.


Jeff Hite said...

It reminds me of the guy in Dave, It it Tuesday and everybody works on Tuesday.

stephanie hubbel said...

Amen, sister!

Anonymous said...

Another thing that is worth noting is that most people in this country have ZERO idea of what it means to actually be hungry. It is not something that anyone who had gone to bed hungry, day after day, would discount. But, again, most in this fortunate country have never done it.
Bring on the food programs. That's the smaller part of our debt by a half.

Dirtdartwife said...

The federal government needs to get out of it and I truly believe the Church needs to start slamming the Priests and religious about not promoting the REAL social justice programs that the Church was designed to provide. As soon as the government started to build these entitlement programs, that's when the people stopped giving to the Church like they were supposed to. We also need to have a push to fix people's behavior.

I agree with the idea behind what that meme talks about only because even scripture talks if a man doesn't want to work, he doesn't eat (2 Thess 3:10) We need to find better ways of teaching people to have a better work ethic so they don't quit certain jobs, or quit because they think a job is beneath them, or quit because so and so at the office is a witch. We're called to discern if we should continuously help someone if they've shown the propensity to not put in an honest effort of living properly, and I think that's where many people are right now in our society.

Many people are starting to get really tired of seeing perfectly capable people depend on welfare. The scenarios you mention are not the norm, they're the exception. Understandable, but the exception. The dependency is also a cause to push for abortion because the biggest reason for abortion is "not ready to have a child." That not being ready isn't an emotional thing, that not being ready is a financial reason. Most people having an abortion state they're not financially ready, nor able, to have a child. But yet if you try to help both mom and child by making abortion illegal, you get liberal pro-aborts screeching about "Now you'll flood the welfare system with more poor kids!"

Everyone needs to pray to figure out how and where they can help though. Instead of all the infighting and smacking each other around about who has more righteousness (as if any of us has a claim to it!), everyone needs to pray about where God wants them to be that provides the most help, and they need to go there.

Cheryl said...

I do believe the current limits are way too high and there should be further restrictions on SNAP benefits. I do think we need to work better at figuring out how and when to truly help people in need. You do need to find a way to say hey, that family is doing everything they can and just keep getting hit with bad luck vs hey, that family is just caught in an endless cycle of keeping up appearances or something. And, yes, churches, charities, and individuals need to do more to help rather than keeping it as such an impersonal thing and leaving it to the government. That is where my true frustration comes in I think. I've spoken with people who were on SNAP benefits for a short time due to true need and were actively in the role of trying to better their situation. Folks who lost a job or had a spouse leave or had that one final semester of school. And many of these people speak of being so ashamed if someone who knew them found out they needed help. IF the folks who knew them just reached out and helped for that short term, the people wouldn't need the benefits to begin with but we as a society have conditioned ourselves to think that being in financial need is something to be ashamed of and that is what needs to change. Don't say "We're told not to feed the bears lest they become dependent so why are we handing out food stamps?" because i guarantee at least one of your close friends in on food stamps and too embarrassed to tell you. I know it's a big messed up situation and much change is needed. I guess I'm just tired of seeing the statements without action from the people posting them, you know?

Cheryl said...

So I guess I used the wrong line because it was the Don't feed the bears comment that set me off. :) Don't feed the bears because they might come back and eat you. But please sit down with the folks in need and share your gifts and talents with them to help them figure out how they can work to better their situation. I mean, maybe all they need is someone to babysit every so often so they can finish school or work that extra shift. Maybe the need someone to take the time to teach them how to cook or help them figure out their budget or say, hey, here's a cheaper option. Maybe they just need someone too look them in the eye and say you are still worthy of respect even if you are swiping a EBT card at the register.