Sunday, May 8, 2016

Using Food Stamps?! You Filthy %$*#@!

The older I get the more I find myself in this strange place where I sometimes don't even recognize myself.  I find I want to be compassionate towards people. I want to help them. I want to hug them, and tell them someone cares. That's not the strange part.  The strange part is, at the same time, sometimes I want to deal with other people in a completely different way.  I just want to clip them upside the head and tell them not to be so ignorant and cruel.  Of course I know a clip upside the head never fixed anything and I'm not about to actually do it, but some people just push that button in me. I'm pretty sure everyone reading knows exactly what I mean.

If you've been on social media at all in the last 5 minutes, you've likely seen some version of this saying right here.  I have no idea who actually came up with this quote (google image search it, folks attribute it to everyone from Ghandi to their Auntie Esther) but it's a great little quote to have in mind on a daily basis.  Hourly, if need be. Especially if you're one of those people like me who have a private battle of my own.  Yes, it's true.  I'm addicted to something and no matter how hard I try to break the addiction it gets the better of me time and time again. It's horrible and I know it, but I just can't stay away from reading comments on posts or articles.  I'm not new to the internet, I know better! Yet, the struggle is real.  And I walk away wanting to clip someone. Almost every time. Which brings me to the real reason I'm typing away here today.

A few days ago Steven Crowder posted his thoughts on this video going around.  Man at WalMart using food stamps to make non-food purchase and lady in line goes all Profane Condemnation on him. (YES, warning, there is a lot of cussing in this short exchange). Some folks commenting say he's actually using a WIC voucher/card, but whatever. Apparently it's gone viral, with over 4 million views since it was uploaded a couple of weeks ago.  Interestingly enough on the you tube page the description says "This all started by her saying to her son "see this is why you go to college so you don't take handouts". Sigh.

Before I get to what I really think of this video, I'll share a short story:

In 1995 my first husband died after a 5 year battle with cancer. With 3 little kids in the house and me without a job (I was his full-time caretaker the last year or so) our family immediately went on SS death benefits, medical aid and food stamps.  We were in that situation for about three years until I remarried.  During that three years I tried to find work and could not. I applied for a assistance and enrolled at the local community college to further my education with the goal being getting a good paying job instead of a garbage wage job. Daycare fell through, and without that I was unable to go to school. It was a most unpleasant three years, to put it mildly.

It was during that three years though, that I discovered first hand just how cruel and thoughtless people can be.  While I never ran into anyone like WalMart Lady in the video, I did run into people that thought nothing of making comments at the grocery store check-out line because I was using food stamps.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see them examining things in my shopping cart, and then they would make comments just loud enough for me to hear.  Such as "I wish I could afford that box of Twinkies on my salary at my JOB."  I never responded.  Never even looked at the people that ever made those kinds of comments. I pretended like I was deaf. Literally.

I never tried to engage these ignorant people because frankly, I loathe confrontation.  What they did not know, was that I had with me a list of items I needed to feed my girls for a week, breakfast, lunch, dinner & school lunch items. They didn't know I did meal planning a week ahead of time and with each dinner I'd put on the list on the left side of the paper (I'd printed my own meal planning pages to make sure I was completely organized about it), I'd put all the ingredients for the meal on the list on the other side.  Next to each item was the cost: Milk $2.00, bread $1.00, cheese $1.00, etc. I always checked the grocery store flyer to see what was on sale that week, and planned most meals around the sales.  Then, once the list was complete for absolutely everything I needed for the week, I'd add it all up. If it came to more than I had for that week's grocery money (food stamps), I'd go back over the list to change things until I was under budget.  I shopped at a particular time of day, because sometimes in the bakery they had day old bread or other items for half the price, and that always allowed me to stretch the budget.  What they also didn't know was that I had my calculator out while I shopped.  I added every cost of every item as I'd put it in the cart.  Most of the time my numbers came out to exactly (within the dollar) the price at the register, and I was happy with that.  Other times I'd come in way under budget before I ever got to the register (because I added as I shopped) so I knew that box of Twinkies or box of popsicles or bag of chocolate chips for cookies (or whatever) that was on sale or half price that week would be okay to add to the basket for the girls.  Grocery shopping for me, on food stamps was a huge deal.  I had no choice but to make it work to feed my kids and myself, so I did everything humanly possible to make it work.  And it did.  Thank God.

But none of those smart-mouth people at the grocery store knew any of that.  None of them saw me sitting at the table with my printed meal planning/grocery list, calculator and sale flyers trying to plan for 7 days worth of dinners and groceries according to what all the girls liked and what I liked. None of them saw me checking the freezer to see what was left that I could add to, to make a dinner. None of them had any idea how often I had to cross off things from my list to stay under budget but still try my best to buy healthy food for my kids. None of them had a clue how many times I was in the produce section and wanted to cry because I just wished I could buy all the fruit they all wanted.  No, none of them knew each girl got 1 piece of fruit every other day, because that was all we could afford. If it was on sale, I got some too.  

So watching this wretched video reminded me of all that.  Obviously there are people out there abusing the system and that makes people angry. It makes all sorts of people angry when any kind of unjust or unfair thing is going on, in any situation.  But for this lady to automatically assume this man is one of those people, just makes me want to scream.  I don't have any idea what he was buying that made her so angry but it doesn't really matter.  She's a stranger to this man, and has no idea what his family life is like at all.  NO IDEA.  She just made assumptions based on what she saw, and decided to run with it, and run her mouth off, and run him down, in front of his child (and what appeared to be her own child as well).  Great job lady. I sincerely hope your family never suffers devastating loss and finds you need government assistance.  God forbid this happens, I sincerely hope you never encounter someone who publicly shames you in front of your child, for using government assistance in your family's time of need. But if they do (because let's get real here, there are some really mean people out there), I hope you'll receive it as a Learning Moment, and make the decision to hold your tongue or maybe try a little harder to be kind to people. I hope. 

I've read a handful of comments where I've seen this video posted, and there are people that say things like "if you're on food stamps, it should be the law you can only buy the essentials, like milk, bread, eggs and cheese - nothing prepackaged, no sweets or treats, ever!"  I am not making that up. These people actually exist and they live among us. They act like suddenly they've become the Grocery Gods and can hand down a commandment on what thou shalt not eat.  People like that make me wish I could *poof* their wifi for a year so they can't publicly comment on anything. They speak (or type, as it were) out of sheer ignorance and then sit there and gloat over their triumphal declaration when like-minded ignorant people "like" and comment in agreement.  How wonderful it must be, to be a Grocery God who is adored by the people. Or, something.

Okay then. Rant over. I know I feel better now, how about you?