Who Gets to Say What You Buy

Yesterday, I read an interesting article about people who get SNAP/Food Stamps and the comments, stares, and sneers they endure when grocery shopping. This article made me think about my opinion of people who receive government assistance.

I am certainly not so naive as to think that I could not require assistance from the Government at some point in the future. Actually, in my younger days I needed the help but did not know that I qualified. I am glad that information is more readily available today. I am thankful that when I think about people who do receive assistance, I do not have a universal dislike or distrust of them. People are individuals who make decisions based on what they know or believe at the moment. Some people lie and cheat whether on assistant or not. It is their solution to survival. Productive or not, they are just dishonest and this is not distinct to people on assistance. I tend to think that we have all had a few positive interactions with someone who receives assistance but maybe, they didn’t tell us due to the sigma and judgement they believed would come.  We sure are a judgmental bunch. …me included.

Where I am not judgmental is when someone has an Iphone or a trendy purse or shoes. How can I look at a person and determine whether they are deserving of these items. Goodwill and Salvation Army receive new, trendy items from some of the major retailers, people get gifts, people sometimes do well and then hit a bad spot. Who am I to judge. Wait, society apparently opens the judgmental gates when someone gets assistance and spends the assistance in a way that is deemed inappropriate.

I cannot tell you the last time that I was in the grocery store and even paid attention to what someone else had in their cart. All I think about is how dumb is it for me to have to load and unload groceries 5 times before they are put away. I think about how busy the store is, sometimes I even wonder why the person behind me has to stand so close. If I do pay attention to what someone else is buying, it’s Oh darn, I forgot that. I have never been sympathetic to people who get worked up over a person on assistance buying steak or lobster or carrying an Iphone. What do I care?  Do those items indicate wealth or status? Not to me. I am going to paraphrase from the article that I read to say, does a poor person always need to feel poor? This statement made me think and in general, I have felt that they do need to feel poor. By this I mean, people who are struggling should not go to movies or out for ice cream or anywhere else until they get to a better place. This was the wrong way for me to think.

EVERYONE deserves to feel happy and joyful sometimes. We all have problems and just sitting at home and crying about them does not make them go away. I have had friends who were having a tough time and I suggested they go out to forget. So, considering the price of taking the family to a movie, I don’t see the harm in buying a steak. And a little happiness can go a long way to encourage feelings of self worth. Being on assistance does not mean that a person has to wallow in it everyday. Nor does it mean that strangers have the right to question what someone is putting in their cart. Paying taxes does not mean you can take the young girl to task at the checkout because you don’t like what she is buying. This approach will never change the system that you believe is unjust. If you want to facilitate change you must go to those that can make change happen. However, this is not the solution that I believe is required. To change a system that assists people with their basic needs, we need to put more emphasis on educating our children and making them understand the importance of school. We need teachers in the classrooms who can motivate all types of students.We, as parents, need to demonstrate hard work and commitment.

Corporations need to pay CEOs less and cut back before they have to shutdown. Corporations should be required to put money into communities that will help sustain the local economy when times get bad. There should be a required severance package when a company shuts down. Corporations are allowed to make the rules that lead people to assistance. We have the Red Cross for disaster relief but where is the organization that goes and helps people when a massive layoff occurs? When people lose jobs, it is becoming increasingly harder for them to find comparable jobs, if they find a job at all. We question store purchases but we don’t take the time to question how/why the person is on assistance. We, as a society, should focus on helping each other get to a higher place instead of misdirecting our anger and trying to bring another person down.

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