Monday, October 3, 2005

Be Tender-Hearted and Kind

In response to a post I read today, may I encourage everyone to be tender-hearted and merciful in your thoughts to your neighbors, whether they live next door to you, in another town, or another state. Everyone is our neighbor. I personally like the term "brother" and "sister". Wouldn't we treat people differently if we thought of them more as our brothers and sisters? In general, we'd probably be more kind and forgiving and generous in our thoughts toward strangers if we did view them so closely-related.

My specific comment is regarding Food Stamp recipients. Not everyone has had to use the program, and sure the program does get abused by some, but for those for whom the program was created to help, it does provide an assistance in times of need. I was going to say a "great assistance", but that's not true. It helps.

Currently, I am a Food Stamp recipient. I don't mind sharing with you that for my family of 5, (2 adults and 3 children), we receive $156 a month (that breaks down to $39 a week or $5.56 a day for 5 people). This is only for consumable products. I should say "edible". It does not pay for toiletries (soap, shampoo, deodorant, tissue, etc.), cleaners, detergents and other items needed to run a household. It is a drop in the bucket, but it helps. While it doesn't go far at all, I can't imagine not having the resource at this time. We would manage if we didn't receive it. But I'm thankful that it is there for us to be able to use at this tight time in our lives.

Throughout my adult life, before I used the program, and even before I even knew what the program was, I have heard the "comments" about Food Stamp recipients. They're generally demeaning, self-serving, and sometimes go as far as being rascist. What does this benefit? Sure there is abuse in the program. What assistance program doesn't consist of a population of abusers? Even some "charities" have corruption and abuse within their walls. Whenever we set up programs to help the needy, whether a Food Stamp program or Disaster Relief program, there will always be a certain amount of abusers. But do we scrap our assistance efforts? Do we demean and belittle those innocent and needy persons who are on the program legitimately just because we've heard about the ones who take advantage of the system? I say "Of course not".

It was hard to receive assistance in our Food Stamp program initially because of the remarks and unkind thoughts (that come out through facial expressions and body language) I had seen and heard towards other recipients before I became one myself. The most popular comment is "I'm paying for their food (through taxes)." In my situation, I know noone is "paying" for me to use the program any more than I already have. I was in the workforce before I had children, and I paid taxes, too. And I sincerely doubt I will ever see any financial assistance remotely close to the taxes I paid to our government. But even if a person never worked and never put taxes into the "system", don't we agree that if a person needs food in this country that they should be able to receive it? In any country, really! Not everyone can work, some due to personal injuries received through various ways. Not everyone can earn enough money to feed their families because some jobs don't pay what the job is truly worth. And some business owners take advantage of their workers by paying low salaries simply because they can get away with it. What about the widows, or even just the elderly, whose Social Security wages or Pensions are not enough. What about single mothers (who could be single for a variety of reasons, maybe through no fault of their own) who cannot earn enough after child-care fees and household bills to feed her family?

There can be many reasons under the sun why any given person or family is using the Food Stamp program. Please don't generalize. Don't form opinions based on appearances. Instead, be patient towards those you see who are using Food Stamps in front of you at the Check-out Lane. Be tender-hearted, compassionate, merciful, and just give them the benefit of the doubt - that they are truly in need of assistance at this time in their life. Just be kind and treat others how you would want to be treated were your place in line (life) reversed.

If you've never done it before, consider what you might be able to do to help someone else whether by taking a bag of groceries over to a neighbor, or even simply a cooked meal. LOOK for people around you who might need an extra hand up. Believe me, they're all around us. And never consider for a moment that you couldn't be in their shoes, if even for a season.

A perspective for you from someone who is grateful for the assistance her family receives at this season in their lives....and for the generosity of her "neighbors".

"...clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another...." Colossians 3:12-13


Kari said...

I will never forget being married to my ex and having his step father follow me around in the store telling me what to buy and what not to buy because he felt since we were on food stamps. "HE" was paying for our groceries.

Juli said...

I was there too years ago when my teenage son was young and I was a single parent. I couldn't make it on one income, even with a full time job. I drove to another town to use my foodstamps where nobody knew me because my family said it embarrassed them, and people made comments. It really is hurtful to those who really need the assistance and aren't abusing it.

I agree with you fully Karla. Jesus asked us all to love our neighbors. Kindness, understanding and generousity are very important. Being a Christian, you have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

It only takes a few minutes to visit an elderly neighbor, to help someone with yardwork who can't do it themselves, or to donate time/money to a homeless shelter or donate unused items to a thriftshop or shelter.

Hugs! Juli

Juli said...

eeek....somehow that posted my comment 3 times. I hope you can delete the extras karla. :)

sue said...

I used to go to the store on my lunch hour so it wasn't as busy. I had 3 children, and would get comments on them all having different dads, they are all from the same abusive man. I hope things get better. Even those with money can fall.

Gina said...

I too have been on the "System". I have found out that when you need it use it. That is what we pay taxes for and trust me we ALL pay for it! It is there for when we are down and need help getting ourselves back into place and I have used it off and on for years when things woulodnt go right I would go talk to them and they would help out. But as soon as I was back on my feet I let it go.

But around here its the same thing. If you use it some consider you worthless etc....

We all need help sometimes! I am not ashamed of it and thats something else people are sometimes ashamed to admit they have used them.

Hope all is well there today!

Jennifa said...

I know what you mean about the bias against people who use them. When I was 19, I could have gotten them because I'm considered disabled, and my parents tried to convince me to get them. I cried and cried because I didn't want the discrimination about "welfare" and "charity" and all that. Now that I'm older and a little wiser, I realize that society's perception was the only thing keeping me from accepting it.

NS said...

Karla, I sent you an email in response to the comments you left on my blogs...check your spam folder!

Kathy said...

I was there too, Karla. Heavily pregnant with my second child, my husband had lost his job and left home so I could get some assistance (in those days a man in the house meant no benefits for anyone). We got a card in the mail that had to be redeemed at a certain bank, and when I went there the teller made a commnet: "maybe next month I'll takd the day off and you won't get your food stamps". Well, I said "maybe next month I'll have your job and you won't know how you're going to feed your kids".

Karla said...

Oh, Kathy, I laughed out loud when I read your post! How mean of the teller to say such a thing to you! But you gave her something to think about, didn't you?

You know, Tommy has gone in the Health Dept. to apply for our foodstamps before, or to reapply, and he says you can tell they don't know what to make of a man coming in asking for assistance! But not all men are paid what they should be paid, either. At least he's not too proud to ask for help when he needs it.

Thank you all for your comments. I love to hear each perspective and experience.

Karla said...

I'm sorry! Instead of "Health Dept" I should've said Dept of Family and Children Services.