FOOD ASSISTANCE: FROM SHAME TO GRATITUDE

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.

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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.

BlackbirdJudgement 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.

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4 Responses to FOOD ASSISTANCE: FROM SHAME TO GRATITUDE

  1. Barbara November 20, 2015 at 8:18 am #

    Love all of this! Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your heart. Your mother love is fierce and beautiful.

  2. [email protected] November 20, 2015 at 8:42 am #

    Laura – you have no reason to feel shame or guilt. You are an amazing mom who cares fiercely about her kids – and this is precisely why these programs exist. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Amy November 28, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your perspective! There was a season when our kids were little and we were dirt poor. State assistance was a huge blessing for us during that time. There were definitely days where I felt like I was being judged for using food assistance. It was an incredible time of personal growth. I have such compassion and empathy for people who are on assistance and who are just trying to make the best with what they have.

  4. LH January 13, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

    We have also had a point where we had good jobs, then with the economic crisis, I was laid off and hubby got his hours severely cut and we had no choice but to apply for assistance. But it does make you look at others differently, because you never know someone’s story. I have learned to not be judgemental when I see those using EBT. They are just trying to get by like everyone else.

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