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