Rose Colored Photo/Flickr
Last month, my mother told me she was receiving food stamps. When she told me, my first reaction was one of embarrassment—what was my mother doing wrong that she wasn’t able to provide for herself? Then frustration—why didn’t she tell me that this was how she was surviving, since I am very fortunate to have a well-paying job at the moment? Shouldn’t I have saved her from the shame of having to ask for a hand-out? Then disorientation—only a few weeks before, in my capacity as a board member of a non-profit, the Executive Director had asked me for a $10,000 multi-year donation. What world was I living in that one moment I was being asked to be a major donor, and the next I was hearing all about my mom’s trip to the food shelf, how she was starting to volunteer there, how the available food was shrinking, and how one weekend she got a bushel of heirloom tomatoes?
Then I took a step back and asked my mom about the experience of getting food stamps. Here’s part of what she told me about waiting in line to apply:
Sitting there, watching the people in the line, I focused on many people but mainly the older women. Quite a few older white women probably in similar situations as I am in. Lots of older women with their daughters and often young grandchildren. They came as support for their daughters, I presume. I wonder what they had gone through with their daughters to get them here. And what are their lives like? I gained strength by imagining their lives and just looking at them. People in line had such dignity. No complaining, no pushing and shoving, some visiting among us. Beautiful people. Some young fathers with kids, also old men. Our world would be a better place if everyone had a chance to stand in this line.
Comparing my reaction with hers, I recognized with surprise how much I had internalized the dehumanizing rhetoric directed at poor people, a group that now includes members of my family. Asking for help to put food on the table should not be a cause for shame. However, instead of merely ignoring people who need help feeding their families, political leaders like Paul Ryan, who claims to be Catholic, are actively blaming them for the problems of our economy that excludes so many. The prophets of old attributed Israel’s tribulations to how it ignored the widows, the orphans, and the strangers. The demagogues of today blame the widows, the orphans, and the strangers for asking for basic sustenance. Far from embracing the preferential option for the poor, these politicians are advocating an active preferential scapegoating of the poor.
Read the full article from Millennial.