Fat Fridays: Week 23 In Which I Climb Up On My Soapbox

I have been a bit at a loss at to what to write for this Friday. Since I’m trying to make an honest journal of this weight loss journey, I finally decided I would just have to stick to honesty. I promise that the following really does have to do with my weight loss journey!

 

I have always had a hard time when people make disparaging remarks about poor people. People on welfare. People on food stamps. People on government assistance. Homeless people. Everyone seems to know some lady on welfare who’s got a boatload of children and is just racking in the bucks, fancy phone, nails done perfectly, designer clothing. She is the person people always bring up when they are explaining why all this government assistance is actually just a big swindle. The poor people are living off our tax dollars and laughing behind our backs at our gullibility. For each one of you that has mentioned this woman before on your Face Book pages or blogs, or in conversation…What’s her name? Have you actually met this woman? Do you know her story? Or is she simply someone that is a friend of a friend of someone you met the other day who happened to mention knowing her. Maybe one of you actually does know her name, knows her story personally, and is disgusted at the way she has manipulated the system…but I’m going to guess that most of you don’t actually know this woman personally. I do not disagree with the notion that people take advantage of the system. It’s true. People are sinful and there is always going to be someone trying to get something for nothing. But these welfare systems are a lot more than those occasional individuals. It has been my experience that people who speak harshly against a group of people usually have no personal contact with that group and get all of their information second hand. It’s been my experience that when I get to know people personally, get to know their problems, their background, I have a lot more sympathy and compassion. So, today I want to share a story with you.

Over the last fifteen years we have had quite a few families and individuals that we have reached out to and tried to help. Many times we have had people living with us as they tried to get their feet under themselves. I’ve heard a lot of stories. I’ve gotten to know these people pretty well as we have done life together.  One woman in particular has been involved with our family for at least eight years now. She and her children have lived with our family on a couple different occasions. I haven’t seen a lot of her lately, as the last four years has been pretty stable for her. Then, about a month ago I got a call from her. She had been evicted. She was in the process of applying for government housing, but in the mean time she had nowhere else to go. Could I help?

I feel like middle class America does not understand how difficult it is to be poor. There is a pervading attitude that poor people just walk up to a building and are instantly handed food stamps, assistance with childcare, housing, and anything else their hearts desire. It doesn’t work that way. Yes, there is government assistance, but it is not easy to get. It involves getting to appointments and usually transportation is very difficult. It involves filling out endless amounts of paperwork and providing papers like birth certificates and social security cards. And when you live in a state of homelessness, or are trying to escape abusive situations, it’s really hard to keep track of those important documents. And getting them replaced is quite a hassle.

So why don’t they just go get a job?? I hear that a lot. Are they too proud to work at McDonalds? No. Actually, the people I have gotten to know are not too proud to work at McDonalds or any other fast food restaurant. But did you know that most of these fast food restaurants will not hire full time? It’s all part time. And it is usually not a set schedule, you get moved around to what suits them best, not what suits you best. So. Part time hours at low wages. Not enough to live on. Yet, they are mocked for getting on food stamps. I am curious as to how many middle class people could sustain their lifestyle at $9 an hour? And you are only given 20 to 24 hours a week. My friend would really like to get into a family assistance program that could help with childcare, but they require that she works at least 25 hours, and her job at a well-known pizza franchise will only give her up to 24 hours of work a week. So, she needs another job. But she has three children. Someone has to watch them. School just got out, she can’t afford any kind of childcare. What should she do?

People ask, why doesn’t she get a better job? Get some higher education? Surely there are programs that would help her? Well, she is a product of the foster care system herself. She was living in a group home and got pregnant at sixteen. Since then she has devoted herself to taking care of her child, now children. She didn’t finish high school. In order to get her GED she would need to do some serious studying. She has tried off and on to pursue that, but you see, she still has to live. She still has children to take care of and house and feed and clothe. She has no family support system (remember: foster care, group home). Her short marriage to the father of her children was a disaster and while she now has a long-term boyfriend, he comes with baggage of his own: child support that he pays from a past marriage, bills and debts he has to pay on.

Well, she should get into public housing. Ok. She’s trying. She had an interview, she’s waiting to hear. But you see, there’s this little problem of her past utilities bill. She still has a big bill that hasn’t been paid. She can’t turn on new utilities until she takes care of this past bill. She has asked around at many different agencies who say they will help with this kind of thing. But, she doesn’t fit into any of their narrow parameters of assistance that they can offer. Her recent eviction was the final step in a financial downhill slide that was connected to a necessary job change (with a pay cut) and unexpected events coming up with her children that made her miss work. This family’s tenuous existence quickly snowballed into a crisis which left them homeless.

And here we are. Her family of five moved into my bedroom about two and half weeks ago. My husband and I moved upstairs and are sleeping on the floor of our little boy’s bedroom (which they think is awesome, mom and dad right there, available all night long!). I hung a sheet around my bed so I can have at least the semblance of privacy.

It’s been good and bad. We’ve lived together before. She was a nanny for my kids one summer when I was bedridden with morning sickness. She helped potty train one of my boys. She has been the one person I have no embarrassment hiring to help me clean my house because she’s lived with me. She knows how messy things can get, and she’s always been willing to pitch in and help. Neither of us have any qualms about parenting each other’s children. The negative side is mostly just a lack of privacy. And the tightrope walk of setting boundaries and sticking to them. Trying to know when to be compassionate and when to be hard-nosed.

What does this have to do with Fat Fridays? Well, you all. My diet has gone on hold. Pause. I’m the juggler trying to keep a bunch of balls up in the air. This particular ball kind of knocked a bunch of the other ones out of pattern. I’m back to sticking to the basics. God, husband, children… everything else is shifting around. I’ve felt quite a bit of guilt and condemnation about it. Way to go Esther, soon as things get tough you just quit. Mess up. Fail. But, I’m trying to stop listening to that voice and be realistic. This is hard. I’ve taken on a lot and I’m not superwoman. I’m not giving up. I’m not going to wallow in my lack of discipline. I’m still fighting to get back on track. But, I’m going to give myself grace as I figure this out.

For those of you wondering why on earth we did this, it kind of falls into Love your neighbor as yourself… Do unto others as you would have them do unto you… Whatever you do for the least of these, you do unto me… And once upon a time, my husband and I were homeless and we knocked on a friend’s door and they let us in.

Goals: do some journaling and thinking…Why do I always revert to bad eating habits when life gets crazy stressful? Especially since bad eating habits just make it harder to deal with the stress????

See you all next week.

 

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