To the mom using foodstamps, I see you.
I see the fear in your eyes when someone gets in line behind you. You wonder if they’re judging your food choices, not knowing that the cupcakes you’re buying are for your son’s birthday. Last year your family had to buy his cake because you couldn’t afford it, you never want that hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach again. You felt like such a failure.
I see the worry on your face as your total goes higher than what you have available. Your husband started a new job this week and now has to bring his own lunches. You wonder how you’ll make it work even with the cheapest sandwich ingredients. You hope he doesn’t get bored of cheap bologna and processed American cheese.
I see the embarrassment on your face when you stand in line at the food bank because your food stamps weren’t enough to feed your family this month. What if someone from work sees you and thinks you’re using the system?
I see the distress on your face as you try to hide your cell phone in your back pocket before you get to the checkout. You think if people see that you have a phone that they will assume you’re using the system when you swipe your EBT card. They will judge you without knowing whether or not you need that phone for your job or if it was provided by your employer. They will judge you without knowing how much your bill is, or if you even pay for it yourself. You feel like it’s better to put it away.
I see the confusion on your face when one week you’re told in the checkout that you should use your benefits better by not buying so many processed foods. Then the next week the same cashier tells you that it’s “not good use of your benefits” to be buying so many whole foods like fresh veggies and brown rice. You feel like you can’t win.
I see the uneasiness on your face when a friend takes you to Starbucks to treat you, but you know that before your drink is gone you’ll have to be in front of people who know you’re on government assistance. Even though you didn’t buy the drink, you are worried they will be judging you for not spending your money wisely.
I see you because I am you.
I have felt that fear, worry, embarrassment, distress, confusion, and that uneasiness. I have been where you are, and I just wanted to tell you today that you are more than your circumstances and you are so very strong.
Some people out there are going to want to make you feel like you are less of a person because you are on government assistance, but this time in your life will help you grows in ways you can’t even imagine right now.
• You will wake up to a hungry kid and an empty fridge, and in that moment you will grow in your creativity.
• You will see someone with less than you have begging for change, and in that moment you will grow in your compassion.