I was waiting for the cashier to finish ringing up my purchases, trying to carefully conceal my card and slide it without anyone noticing but I heard the all too familiar sound of a heavy sigh and the feel of eyes boring into the back of my head. I warred within myself to give an explanation or get out of there as fast as possible and I chose the latter, because who am I kidding, confront someone? No. So I grabbed my grocery bags filled with ice cream, ice cream toppings, pop, and various candies and got out of there. After all, it’s the same story, different day, but I’m on the other side today.
For the past year and a half my family has been receiving some food assistance. Yup, I said it, I’m admitting it, and while I feel the shame for saying so and am bracing myself for the backlash, its time to tell my story. While Josh held a steady job, steady pay and the security of insurance I felt free to judge those in the line in front of me with their EBT card. After all, I paid my taxes that helped them have the ability to have that card, so how DARE them buy all that junk food. And then my husband lost his job, and while we were able to live off our savings for a good while and pick up odd jobs, start a business and eek out some money here and there, our cupboards became bare. Our bank account started to get low and no matter the coupons used, the sales waited for, I looked into the faces of our four children and knew I had to surrender my pride and find out how to get assistance. I cannot begin to describe the relief I felt at being able to fill our cupboards and fridge.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I would feel that relief and yet feel the sting of failure, how had we ended up here? I would fill my cart with food to make meals and healthy snacks, and bypassed all aisles that I had previously judged to be “unacceptable” for purchase with other people’s money. The funny thing is that no matter what I had, I still felt the guilt and judgment inside, and received hard stares even with a cart full of veggies, meat and fruits. When my daughter’s birthday came around and I purchased the cake, ice cream and goodies to celebrate her, I held my breath until I got to my van and let it out and in a long, healing cry.
Judgement comes from others, and it comes from within, both are harmful and none are helpful. What I’ve learned from this is that as a mom (or a dad) you will do ANYTHING you have to, to provide for your family. A job you don’t like, working overtime, and even receiving assistance from the state. None of these made me a bad mom, and I am not a failure.
Every day, and especially this Thanksgiving, I’m counting my blessings and not taking anything for granted. Maybe I’m not where I want to be in life, and maybe you aren’t either, but there is plenty to be thankful for, and as you sit around your table tonight and the next: be thankful for where you are.
When its hard, when its easy, when it just plain sucks: choose gratitude.