Where I’ve Been

With the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare recently, there have been a lot of comments about having to support people who don’t pull their own weight. Although the privilege in those comments is smothering, I’m mostly sickened by the assumptions people are making about people who receive public support.

As a teenager, my grandparents never taught my mom how to protect her eggs from the cute boy’s sperm. So, I was born. 1978. Mom 17, Dad 18. Not a good foundation for a relationship. That didn’t last. From the beginning of time, I remember my mom working at a local grocery store; Big Bear. Although she worked 40 hours a week, she didn’t make a lot of money. Luckily, my grandparents owned some land and were able to pull a trailer up in their adjacent lot so we had somewhere to live. As far as I knew, I never went without anything. That included food.

Although my grandparents would have never let me starve, part of the reason why my mom was able to feed me was because of food stamps. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember the strips of orange stamps in my mom’s purse and the page from the booklet with the orange stamps my mom would hand to the cashier. And those stamps helped pay for our food.

I was never hungry. And my mom wasn’t lazy. And she was kind to me. And she would say, “Kiss me and tell me you love me.” And I was mostly always clean and if I wasn’t it was my own fault. I did have some bad haircuts though and that was my mom’s fault because she cut it. She washed my clothes. I had clothes. And she would get me a cool birthday cake from Big Bear every year. One time with Cinderella’s carriage and horses. And I sometimes even got to get my pictures “professionally” taken with my cousin.


The point is that we used food stamps and we were mostly perfectly normal. Not trying to cheat the system. Not laying around smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, and watching TV all day. Not having more babies to get more support. Not letting men freeload off the support she got.

Just trying to make a living for the mistake that she made. And she always wanted more for me. And for her. She went to community college. I went to college, twice. But before we got there, we had to eat. 

So when I hear your comments about these dirty, filthy freeloaders who should have to take drug tests before getting their aid, I realize you must not have ever been in my shoes. Or my mom’s. And then I feel bad for you because my mom is pretty remarkable. I think you might like being in her shoes. 

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8 Responses to Where I’ve Been

  1. heather says:

    love this! thanks for sharing!!

  2. karlapr says:

    Lovely, simple, and to the point. Strangely, I was just this evening having a conversation with someone (a wealthy physician) about this very issue. He was so convinced that most (all?) people who receive public assistance are abusing the system in some way. I love your post and hope you can find other places to publish it where even more people can read it!

  3. Just a spoiled white kid says:

    We can’t deny that there are some who abuse the system, but my view is slightly different. If we where to understand the minds of those abusing the system it may shed light on why the “choice” is made to do so. I believe that the ones who are in a sence stuck in this system are those who where raised in the system, and have a feeling of being trapped in the system. If you spent your life trying and trying only to hit walls at every turn, you too may become resentfull. This causes a feeling of anger stong enough to say screw it I will find happiness in the position I am in and give up trying. I know people say all the time that “well I had a similar experience, and I made it out”, but that is rarely the case. How many sucsessful people do you know right now besides athletes or musicians that have made it out? The system we currently live in is (in my opinion) set up for failure. Try putting your self in the out skirts of Gainesville, Florida in a ghetto that every day your friends are selling drugs, robbing, and are murdered. I think you will find even the most talented, intellectual, and strong willed people fail often. The present structure is just not intended for success. Throw in the fact that the media, entertainment industry, and government constantly throw in your face what you don’t have and I too would say “give me, help me, save me”. It is easy to spout off that these people are lazy, no good, and drug addicted but you have no clue the struggle they have fought or the trails and tribulations they have had with our rich get richer system.

  4. sharilea17 says:

    You are exactly right Bryn, and that’s the core of privilege and oppression. Those who have not been in the cycle often don’t understand that the answer isn’t to work harder. That’s much easier said than done. Not only is everything you said true, but sometimes those who grow up in the system don’t know that there is another way to exist. Where would they get that example?

    What I try to figure out is how to get others who haven’t been there to understand all that you have written. How did you come to believe what you do?

  5. Just a Spoiled White Kid says:

    I was raised seeing both sides of this problem. On one hand I had part of my family that were members at 3 different country clubs, and on the other extremely poor welfare folk who struggle still to this day. It was easy to see even at a young age the difference. I understand both sides of this argument, but feel compassion for people, and believe genuinely in the good of people. I have seen first hand how easy one side has it while the other sometimes makes decisions based on need and not always what is right. I blame these poor choices on environment, not on the person (with in reason).

  6. Susan Tate says:

    And now I think you’re even more awesome than before 🙂 And a darn good writer too! Thanks for sharing.

  7. sharilea17 says:

    Aw, thanks Susan!

  8. Pingback: Diversity and Social Justice | GEAR UP

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