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BarbaraFox [userpic]
Something I wrote elsewhere

Wrote this as a comment on Feministe (a hella fine blog, btw) and realized after the fact I wanted to have it in my own LJ as well.

The topic under discussion was the recent changes in the WIC program, and how hard it is generally to eat a decent actually nutritional diet if you are poor.

Nearly thirty years ago I was a single mother of three. Since getting child support orders enforced was damn near impossible I applied for and qualified to receive food stamps.

I would take the three kids (by bus) to the grocery. I had a list of what I needed to buy to feed them for the next 2-4 days, that being the limit I could carry by myself and still manage the kids. I knew, to the penny, how much I could spend.

I would shop, check out and count my change. My food was bought with the change.

One day a cashier sneered at me for being so ‘dis-organized’ I always came through the line twice. I lost it. I told him, at some length and with considerable volume, what my reason for coming through his line twice each trip was and ended up sobbing.

In the utter silence that followed an older woman stepped forward and began putting items on the belt; fresh fruit, chicken, bakery bread, band aids, and shampoo. She looked at the man behind her.

“What you got in there this child and her babies can’t afford? Thank your Maker and ante up. I’ll drive her home, don’t be shy about it bein’ too much. All of you, lookin’ down your noses at her, what you got she can’t afford? Try sparin’ a little somethin’ besides a nasty look.”

I ended up taking home nearly two hundred dollars in food and sundry items. I cried all the way home, while she drove. My kids ate grapes out of the bag like they were candy. I tried to tell her thank you and she shook her head.

“Just you promise me you won’t ever forget what that felt like, to have somone look nasty at you for bein’ poor. I kept that promise myself today. You keep it in your turn.”

I think its time I wrote another round of letters to my elected officials, to remind them that being poor isn’t a character flaw.

ETA: The blog I wrote the comment in originally is and it is a fine place to point your web browser now and then. Or daily, like I do.

And yes, to assorted inquiries, you may link to this. Out of curiousity I ask that you tell me you've done so, because it's interesting to see where my little words go when I send them out into the world.

ETA: ETA: nsingman has offered to drop arguing his libertarian position in this entry. In the interests of keeping my blood pressure low I have accepted that offer.

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*long hug*


You have no idea how hard that just made me cry. Thank you.

May I link to this, please?

You're the second person today to make me cry.
Thank you.

Thankfully, in my adult life, I haven't had problems like this. But as a kid, I know how hard it was for my parents to be able to feed us every week. It's something I will never forget.

I've never had kids, but due to some life circumstances I have had to get food stamps to survive for a while. One thing I hate about being in the circumstances I am in right now is that I can't help someone out and I have a couple of friends who could use it.

And you are so right, being poor is not a character flaw. Sometimes I think being rich is.

Being poor is not a character flaw. Being rich is not a character flaw.

Believing that how much money a person has is somehow indicative of their worth as a human is a mistake. Money is a way of keeping score, it says nothing about how kind you are, how well you treat others, how much you will be mourned when you die.

Sadly, in our society money has become a way of judging others. We have this myth that bad things only happen to those who deserve bad things. It's a weirdly comforting myth, so long as things are going well for the person who cherishes it. If the poor deserve being poor, then the not-poor are off the hook about helping them. And if the poor think they deserve to be poor they won't ask for much.

May I post this to readers_list?

(Commentsless full reposting, with attribution and a link back to this original post.)

Yes, you may.

Thank you for posting this. *hugs*

I have always known you were one hell of a fine lady, and once again you prove me right.

Very true and very well said. Sometimes a reminder is in order and your eloquent words to that well.

Kanye West said, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." That's only partially true. It seems to me that our administration sees "black people" as poor people and the truth of it is that the administration doesn't care about poor people.

This sounds so impersonal compared to your story, your truth. Thank you for sharing.

I think both are true, actually, and it's a disservice to everything black people have endured in this country on the receiving end of our institutional racism to suggest otherwise.


I read this immediately after I read

Been there, on both ends of the gift and felt blessed both ways.

Thank you for writing this. It was and is powerful and important.

Thank you for sharing this. And I mean this in the most sincere way.


Thank you for writing this... of course being british and raised middle class, I never spoke up when something similar happened to me.

Unfortunitly, it seems like there are way too many people who will treat you like crap, just for being poor. Mostly folk that have never been poor and thank god for themselves being rich, [flipside being, if you're poor it's because God decided you deserve it.]

And yes, certain elected officals need reminding.

totally off-topic, but I'd like to let you know that I've posted your Yin/Yarr icon to fab_icons

I was fortunate during the Reagan years, I had my husband.We were both unemployed, but we had each other. And we had good friends.

I actually had someone tell me I should give up my kids to foster care, and that it was child abuse to keep them when we couldn't afford them.

They were convinced that we were just starving those kids. And how my husband was getting so fat and lazy. What they didn't see was that he was living on mac and cheese, so the kids could have vegetables and fruit.

What they didn't realize was it wasn't so much fat as water weight from untreated blood pressure.

I remember being poor and I remember idiots.

And I remember my late husband who died because of it. And the job offer that finally came in a phone message 2 weeks after he died.

Someone told me when I bought a house I wouldn't be a liberal anymore. I told him he obviously had never been homeless and on the street, because if he had he would realize that no amount of money and no personal ownership could change my social view.

Kudos to you and this comment, and I'm sorry for your loss.

Here from kyra_ojosverdes. I'd also like permission to repost - this is a powerful, powerful post.

Feel free to link.

That hurts, but in a good reminder way. Thank you for posting it.

Well said.

I found this over on Readers_list and want to thank you.

I'm not poor, but I work in a shelter regularly (and not just around the holidays) and I have been a cashier for the past 5 years in a grocery store.

I can't stand my co-workers comments about food stamps or WIC's. Yeah, they are hard (WICs esp, I can never remember how to do an overage) and they take more time, but people gotta eat and that a DAMN FINE program.

In my time as a cashier, I have seen people help with other peoples grocerys, I've used my own money to pay for things, I've made sure my co-workers are fed during work.

Food isn't a priviledge, it's a right.

(There's a comic strip right now dealing with food stamps called Clear Blue Water

Made me cry. In the good way though. Thank you for posting this.

That woman was wonderful. I'm glad she got the chance to help you.


Excellent post. THanks for writing that.

Well said, and thanks for telling us this.

Thank you. Thank you.

I am a (progressive, feminist) Christian pastor. Would you be ok if I were to use this story in a sermon calling us to remember God's call to be sisters and brothers to ALL human beings, ALL the time?

Heh. As I've grown fond of saying - "God Bless Everyone. No Exceptions."

Maybe with more blessings, and fewer curses, the world would be a better place.

That is how I try to lead my life, when I can. It's just not that hard to make an enormous difference in someone's life, by being just a little bit kind and generous. And I know those little kindnesses get passed along.

THAT is how we make the world a better place. Not by pounding on some pulpit, be it religious or political, but by ... well ... being excellent to each other.

Thanks very much for sharing, I'm linking too.

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