Saturday, July 9, 2011

Who You Least Expect

You think those people who have to receive state assistance for food, childcare, medical care, etc are those poor folks who live in dive-y homes or in the trailer parks. You might think those people who use those services are lazy or somehow "less than." But what if...that person was your neighbor, your friend...or a person you'd least expect? Today when I walked into Safeway the local food bank was asking for donations and requesting patrons to purchase pre-filled grocery bags to help re-stock the food bank. There was no way I could leave the store without donating at least one bag...and here's why...

Just over two  years ago I filed for divorce and asked my husband to move out of our house. He did. It wasn't pretty, but he did. Keep in mind I had been a stay at home mom since giving birth to our twin girls almost 3 years earlier. My husband had been the primary grocery shopper in our home and after he left, this was now my duty. No big deal. On payday, I decided it was time I got access to our online banking and I called the bank, got my own password and checked the bank balance before heading to the grocery store. I knew his direct deposit had hit overnight, so I wanted to make sure the children had plenty of food before the money was spent. Much to my the time I checked (probably around 9am), the entire paycheck had already been transfered out of the account. Gone. My husband (who was still LEGALLY my husband at this time) had left his wife and children with nothing.

It was another "moment on the hardwoods" for me. Discovering that we had been left with nothing made me feel so many different emotions I can't even begin to describe them all. My family and friends were taking turns buying groceries for me and my children. Talk about humbling. Every time a friend would call to say..."I'm running to the store...what do you need?" I felt not only grateful but completely humiliated. Here I was, the wife of an "executive officer" of his company, living in a nice suburban house, completely reliant on the goodwill of others. I will be eternally grateful to the friends and family who came to our aid during this time!

One of my friends suggested that I contact the state DSHS and see if I qualified to receive food stamps. I did. And with a household of 5 and zero income, we qualified for quite a bit. I remember the day the approval notice came in the mail. It was like a huuuge weight had been lifted. I could feed my children!!! After you receive the approval notice, you have to go to the local office to pick up your EBT card. Here, they give you what looks like a credit card, set you up with a pin and send you on  your way. I will never forget walking into that office...pulling up in my luxury SUV, toting my Coach purse and Juicy sunglasses, the wife of a six-figure salaried man...receiving food stamps. I cried when the lady gave me my card. I felt sick to my stomach. I had no choice. At the time, I had no other way to provide food for my family...this was not optional. I was angry and sad...and relieved...all at the same time.

That EBT card saved us. As I struggled to get on my feet while cutting matrimonial ties with a man who didn't seem to give a rat's ass about his family's well being, this provided a huge relief and filled a major need in our lives. I knew that when the time came that I did not need to rely on this benefit from the state that I would give back. Every opportunity our family has to donate food, we take it. Because I know all to well that I'm not the only woman who is finding herself in this position. I know that there are plenty of other women out there who are just like I was...left with nothing. I believe these programs are in place for people like me - with a temporary need, who just need to bridge the gap while they get back on their feet. Unfortunately, the system is filled with people who abuse it and don't even try to become self-reliant...that's probably a whole other post.

My point is...there are people suffering that you would least expect. People who, on the outside, will give you the appearance that everything is just fine when, in reality, their world's are falling apart and they are doing everything just to make it through each day. These people are your neighbors, your friends...people just like slow to judge...

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