Friday, April 10, 2015

The Food Stamp Family: How Dare You Think You Are Good Enough To Eat Like The Rest of Us

Steak and Seafood: Only for the Rich and Famous?

Yesterday on social media, I kept seeing an article come up in my news feeds. It was talking about a Missouri lawmaker wanting to have steak and seafood (among a few other items like chips) banned from food stamp users accessibility. I read the article, shook my head over the idiocy, and moved on. Well.....I tried to anyway. It was while I was reading comments on these various posts, last night, that I lost my composure and my husband asked me what was wrong.

I looked up at him and replied, "God forbid that I should ever become so calloused against humanity, especially as a Christian, as what I have witnessed on here tonight."

I kept seeing the same theme running in all of these comments.

"If you're on food stamps, you don't deserve to eat steak and seafood."

"Those on food stamps are scum of the earth. They live off the system and never work."

And, I am sad to say, most of the negative, hate filled comments that I read were coming from people who professed to be Christians.

Portrait of A Food Stamp Family

Once upon a time, several years family was once on food stamps. My husband had lost his job and it took several months for him to find a new one and it was part time. It wasn't long before we were faced with the very difficult budgeting decision of keeping the electric on and a roof over our heads or feeding our children.

Now, allow me to digress for a moment. If you were to ask my husband what my greatest, most paralyzing fear has always been, he would be quick to answer that it is of my children going hungry. You see, I went hungry when I was little. There were days without food and there were days of digging food out of dumpsters. The fear of not knowing when or if you will get to eat again is truly terrifying, especially as a child.
Once my grandparents took my sisters and me in, I hid food (just in case) and I ate a lot and quickly because inside of me was that terror that something could happen and there wouldn't be food again. That isn't something you can get over easily when you have already experienced it.

Back to my story. We had to go on food stamps in order to eat. I was not willing to put my children through what I went through. You can call it selfish - I call it parenting. And do you know what the worst part was? The kicks we got while we were down. The looks, the comments, the advice on what we should be eating (name brands were too good for people in our position).

Do you know what we had once while we were on food stamps? A clam bake. It was a highlight during a very dark time for us. You see, we couldn't go on vacation. In fact, our youngest has never been on vacation. The last time we took a vacation our teenage son was a year and a half. We were actually planning a vacation this year, until something recently came up and we needed to use that money we had put back. (Maybe next year!) Anyway, because of the food stamps, I was able to buy the food for a clam bake that summer. It was a meal that reminded us that we were not less than worthy. It was a meal without shame and humiliation and fear. And all these years later, our children still talk about that first clam bake. It's why we do a shrimp boil every year. It's a reminder of that moment for us, that pivotal moment when we saw our worth through God's eyes instead of people.

So, I have to ask, "Where is our compassion?"

I know I saw compassion when Jesus fed fish to the five thousand. He didn't keep some back from the people who weren't working or poor or barely making ends meet. He fed them all the same. And out of that compassion, came abundance.

How dare we try and dictate what another human being is worthy of eating.

We must find our compassion. Love and kindness are our most powerful weapons against darkness, but it does us no good if we don't use them.