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Couldn’t have said it better myself

Over at The Antisoma, Heroditus Huxley explains her view of compassion, and who deserves it.

Like the title says, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Look, I’m a pretty soft touch, all things considered.  It doesn’t take much more than someone, who truly needs assistance, asking politely for my help for me to give it.  A lot of times, you don’t even have to ask before a meal comes to your doorstep or an extra few dollars are in your hand.

But there are folks for whom that doesn’t apply.  I call them the “willfully poor,” and I know of which I speak.

You see, when my folks split up, my mother took us headlong into the welfare system.  Food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance, energy assistance, free school lunches, and everything else she could get her hands on flowed through our home.  Us kids ate what food stamps and free lunches would provide and we wore what government checks would buy at the Salvation Army.

I met some very hardworking folks during those years.  Problem was, the vast majority of them were working hard toward the wrong goals.  These people made welfare a 9 to 5 job, and they burned the midnight oil trying to find some way to squeeze just a few more dollars out of the system.

Tattoos were uncommon then, but booze and cigarettes were an everyday experience. My mother’s friends on welfare always had name-brand soda and candy at a time when most folks in my town had store-brands as a very occasional treat.  The number of kids who found themselves labeled as having learning disabilities or other medical issues skyrocketed amongst my mother’s circle, with each case bringing in a little more cash or another excuse to not find work.

At the beginning of the month, it was pizza and beer and new clothes.  At the end of the month, it was rice and canned tuna and government cheese.  But somehow, there was always money for the adults to go out to eat or to go to the local bar on Friday and Saturday.

But there is a silver lining to this:  I will sell organs before I take a dime of government assistance.  Too many memories of my mother buying a 25 cent pack of gum with a $10 food stamp so she’d have the change to spend on whatever struck her fancy, along with the looks the lunch ladies gave me when they stamped my free-lunch card, have driven me deep into the “I’d rather be hungry, thanks” crowd.

There are those who have hit a rough patch, with some needing assistance for a long while, but want desperately to stand on their own two feet.  Then there are those who not only can’t fathom what not having someone bring them their checks and EBT cards, but also violently and vociferously object when you suggest that there is a better way to live.

For the former, I have compassion and sympathy, and I am willing to give until it hurts.  For the latter, well, not as such.  If that makes me too hard, then I’ll wear that badge proudly.

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3 Comments

  1. Agree 100%!

  2. The first year Jennifer and I filed taxes together, we had a combined household income of $12,000. We would have easily qualified for government assistance, but we were both too damned proud to even think about applying. Some friends and family members suggested it, and couldn’t understand our horror at such suggestions. It doesn’t surprise me that you might be able to relate to that.

  3. I have, twice in my lfe, collected unemployment (hell, I paid into it). Each time I managed to find work, but each time simply doing the form filling, reporting to (mind numbing and pointless) required meetings, and so on, was a serious chunk of my time when I could have been doing something more useful, like going to interviews …. or watching my toenails grow. And the meetings were a pain to get to …. and I had a car. What they were like to get to on public transport, I hate to think.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong about the willfully poor. But the bureaucracy makes collecting benefits an awful lot like full-time work when it’s full time work to find a job. It helps people into the willfully poor position.

    Maybe that’s inevitable.

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