This blog post is something I have been thinking about writing for a while now. Every time I start to write it, it comes out angry, or I start to feel embarrassed to share these thoughts and experiences with the Internet, but after many drafts, I feel like now it can come from a place of love and authenticity.
The topic of the blog will be the beautifully controversial topic that is… welfare. (Disclaimer: these are all based off of my experiences, so I am not speaking for everyone who has been on or is on welfare.)
Growing up, most of the family I grew up around was southern and conservative. Nothing against your political parties, but when you have Fox News playing in the waiting room of your school and are taught abstinence-only sex-ed, you grow up in a one-sided culture (I would say the same about my experience at Michigan, except on the complete opposite side of the spectrum…so I am balanced, right?!). Things I heard growing up from various family members and people I came in contact with include: “oh, just another mom on welfare” or “that lazy woman having a kid so she can get a check from the government.” I have seen all of the Facebook posts stating things like: “This Just Proves that The Majority of Americans have No Intentions of Making a Better Independent Life for Themselves and their Families and are content Living on The Tax Payers Dime for Eternity!” (Here is a snopes link showing the faults in that post, because those “un-employed” people “studied” were, in fact, children (who cannot be employed or else that would be considered child labor): http://www.snopes.com/politics/taxes/deathspiral.asp)
SO long story short, many years later, I get pregnant. I get pregnant while living on a graduate student salary which is very much non-existent. I get pregnant with someone who is not financially supportive. In this situation, I qualify for WIC, which stands for Women, Infants, and Children. (SIDE NOTE: This is not a “woe is me, feel sorry for my situation” post – this is an attempt to help my family understand the welfare system in a different way) Each month you get vouchers for certain foods as well as baby food for your child. Every 6 months, you have to go into the office and bring proof of income in order to get renewed into the program. This program is for low-income women and foster parents to be able to get food for their child(ren) until the child is 5 years old (if you continue to qualify based on your income). It saves parents a decent amount of money on food per month when there are other huge things you have to grapple with like going back to work, but also having to bear the cost of child care which can be around $800-$1,200 per month (for one child.. I know – freaking CRAZINESS!).
There would be times I would be in with my family or friends, and I would just feel embarrassed of my situation. I am working hard, I have a job, I chose to have my baby, but still the looks at the grocery store or the judgmental facebook posts from family members about experiences they have never had before or about groups of people they have never met before really made me feel like I was “less-than.” And honestly, being white and currently getting a high-quality education, the looks I get or the comments made to me are probably nothing compared to what some of the other single parents/welfare recipients out there have to deal with.
I am going to be honest; there are people who take advantage of the system. There are lazy people everywhere, even in corporate offices, even welfare participants. BUT, there are people who really need these programs, and if we condemn them because of the people who take advantage of the system, we take away these opportunities for low-income people to just get back on their feet after a difficult time in their life.
Something I have really thought about, coming from a religious, christian background/family, is how are these anti-welfare posts, comments, and judgments in any way “christian?” I know we have a president who “says it like it is,” but are these tweets and facebook posts coming from a place of Christian love for the other?
There are so many examples in the Bible about loving those less fortunate than you, giving to the poor, being generous, forgiving people infinity times. But I hear, “they aren’t pulling their weight” or “they are being lazy” or “they need to pull themselves up from their bootstraps.” Even if they are being lazy (which, at times, they are not) – you aren’t the judge in this situation, you are not the person who sets the records straight – God is that person. Romans 2:1 says “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Salt-N-Peppa also put it pretty clearly: “there’s only one true judge and that’s God, so chill and let the father do his job.”)
There are countless other examples: Luke 6:37 – “Do not judge and you will not be judged, do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” And John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son to the world to condemn the world, He sent his son to save.” I don’t understand – God had/has/will have every single right to condemn us, and he didn’t/he doesn’t. He shows us some freaking grace.
So, when you find it so easy to post a judgmental comment about a group of people (a group of people you may have never met or heard their story), whether they are in public housing or using welfare, remember that freaking grace you got. That freaking undeserved grace. Chances are, that mom you think is taking advantage of the system – can’t sleep at night because she is worrying about how to pay her rent or how she is going to be able to work when the price of child care is so expensive or where the money is going to come from if an emergency situation happens or becoming unemployed for the month so she can take care of her kids at home instead of pay for child care.
I think it is really important, when you are posting something on facebook, to think about whether you are being judgmental towards ANY group or ANY person, when you weren’t even called to judge them– myself included (because I am extremely far from perfection myself).
I realize, at this point, you probably think I am a looney Christian or a liberal snowflake, so it might be a good stopping point. My next post might be a little funnier and a little less controversial – if you still read my blog after this.