We all have parts of ourselves and our lives that we deem too messy, too dark, too boring, too sad, too embarrassing, too controversial to share. When I saw Creature Comfort’s Things I’m Afraid to Tell You project I was so intrigued. She invited bloggers to be brave and authentic and share parts of themselves that they normally keep behind closed doors. The response was incredibly inspiring.
Some participating bloggers were more open than others, but everyone stepped out of their comfort zone. (I was quite moved by this one and this one). It was refreshing to find such courage on the web, but my first thought was : I can’t do that. And then I was reading a book last night and came across this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” So, here I am.
There are many things I am afraid to tell you. But I just turned 30 and I am facing a new decade and what I’d really like to do is start fresh. I am not always comfortable being myself, but I am learning that there is beauty in the flaws, that there are gifts in difficult experiences, and that challenges are opportunities to overcome. I feel terrified committing myself to this project, pushing publish on this and the posts to come, but I am taking on courage as a cause. Here I go:
Things I’m Afraid to Tell You (Part One):
I don’t have any money. But what I really don’t want you to know is that I get government assistance. My kids are in enrolled in medicaid and we use food stamps every month. We have been getting help for just over a year now, and the shame increases with time.
I know this is a political issue for many, but for me it’s personal. I see the quotes posted on Facebook by people I know about how food stamp recipients are taking money out of other people’s pockets. I hear state representatives comparing people who receive government assistance to wild animals. I read complaints on Facebook and blogs from people who encountered someone using food stamps at the store who also had an iPhone or was buying frivolous food items. It is a punch in the gut every single time.
At the grocery store, I try to hide my card. I worry that the cashier is scrutinizing my items – will my bag of chips seem frivolous? I wonder if the person behind me in line is judging me – do my clothes look too nice for me to have food stamps, do they think I shouldn’t have a cell phone, will I be part of someone’s rant and rave on Facebook today? Are there people I know that would despise me for taking money out of their pockets if they knew I was part of the state welfare system?
I want to explain, every single time. I want people to know that I’m working towards something better, that I didn’t mean to end up here and I hope I don’t stay long. I wish I could convey how much it means to me to be at home with my children, how I believe I can make it as an entrepreneur, and how much time and thought I put into the issue of my finances, my work, my family, my future every single day. I wish those that judge could know that I am grateful for every bite those food stamps purchase and every doctor’s visit my kids receive, that receiving assistance is no small matter to me.
I have been ashamed to receive government assistance. I know that to many I fit into a category of the lazy, the freeloaders, the dependents, the weak. I have carried the weight of judgement and the burden of shame, but when I am finally able to walk away from this, I will take with me a gift: I will know better. Having experienced this, I will know better than to assume I know someone’s story, their past or their future. I will know better than to judge someone’s worthiness to receive help.
This isn’t a discussion about “the system” or its failures or the abuses or the fairness of it all. This is just personal. For me, this is just about feeding my kids dinner and my hope that someday I will be able to graciously help somebody else do the same.