Liberal in America

I am not sure when it happened, but it seems to have become a crime to be poor. Well. Maybe ‘crime’ is an overstatement, but it has certainly become fashionable to blame them for their own misfortune.

If you talk about the fact that $7.35 is not a livable wage, the reply comes fast and furious. “You don’t like it? Get off your lazy *** and get a better job.” Let me assure you, from personal experience, all of them have been physically hard. That person who is taking your fast food order is very likely working long hours and taking a lot of crap from their supervisors. After all, a minimum wage worker is expendable.

“You don’t like it? Get an education. Better yourself.” Easy to say. But a minimum wage worker makes $294 a week. Before taxes. How do you live on that, and afford to go to college? Student loans. Lots and lots of student loans. The years after graduation are spent paying those loans off.

And what about this? Not every person in this world is college material. Does that mean that anyone who is not college material deserves to struggle for the rest of their life? Is that the price one pays for not being as smart as everyone else?

What about the people who wind up as parents a little too early in life? Imagine yourself as a single parent in a minimum wage job. How on earth do people make ends meet while paying for childcare, even subsidized childcare?

I can almost hear the rumblings from here. “By God, she’s talking like one of those LIBERALS!” (the last word spat out as if it tasted bad.)

I guess it’s true. I don’t know. It’s just that I go to church, and I believe what I hear there. I believe what I read in the Bible. We are supposed to help the poor. We are supposed to be kind to those around us. It’s right there in black and white, and it is repeated over and over and over again. I guess, by those standards, Jesus is one of those liberals, too.

“God helps those who help themselves.” You’re not going to find that in the Bible. Benjamin Franklin said that over 1700 years after Christ walked this earth.

I know that there are those who abuse the system set up to help the poor. Believe me. I know of a case that would curl your hair, a man in his thirties who has worked less than 5 years total in his life. I don’t understand why this is an option.

I remember once, as a single mother, talking with another mother who was worried that her children ate supper at my house on a fairly regular basis. I assured her that it was alright. She said, “How do you make your food stamps last until the end of the month? I never can.” She was even more shocked to find out that I didn’t receive food stamps.

I was feeding my family of 4 on less than she was getting in food stamps to feed her family of three. Yet when I began explaining how I stretched my food budget, her response shocked me silent. She said, “Oh, no. I don’t cook.” She was blowing her food budget on expensive prepackaged food that I could not afford, and she was not about to do things any differently.

Yes. I’m not going to argue with anyone. There are poor people who are abusing the system. There are poor people who are simply lazy. There are poor people who aren’t going to do things any differently. There are poor people who deserve to be poor. I guess even we liberals have our limits.

But lumping all of the poor into the same category allows us to stand in judgment. That’s another one of those pesky repeating themes in the Bible. We’re not supposed to do this.

Yet I hear people railing about what the person in front of him at the grocery checkout has bought with his food stamps. I hear people mocking the people who shop at Aldis at the beginning of the month. I hear people talking about how they hate to go to Walmart because of the other (ahem) clientele who frequent the store. I’ve even heard one person rant about the lowlifes at the public library.

And these things bother me a lot, so I might be a liberal. Or maybe, just maybe, I’m the mother of a young woman who has struggled. Who seemed hellbent on learning all of life’s lessons the hard way. She had a very bad marriage, and a very beautiful little boy, who is my grandson, William.

She showed up at our house in the middle of the night a couple days after Christmas three years back. The marriage was over. Her confidence was shattered. She had made some bad choices, so I guess, for a lot of people looking in, she deserved it.

But I am her mother. Tim and I are William’s grandparents. We did what we had to do and it was hard. It was sometimes discouraging. Sacrifices were made by all parties involved. William’s needs were first and foremost.

All these years later, Brianna has turned her life around. She goes to church and she has gone from sitting in the back, listening quietly, to being moved to help, to be involved. She has a full time job and she hasn’t missed a day. She has her own little home, full of her things and William’s things. When she talks about how her life has changed, it is not uncommon for her to become a little choked up in gratitude. It means a lot to her to be able to provide for her son.

I understand that. Because I have to tell you that when I stop to think about the changes in her life, it is not uncommon that I become a little choked up in gratitude. It means a lot to me that she is finally able to provide for her son.

My daughter is not rich, but she has everything that she needs. Would that have happen had Tim and I simply stood back in judgment, telling her that she had made her bed and that she should lie in it?

Maybe, but it is not likely.

There you are. I am what I am due to my own personal experiences. I am what I am because I believe it is what God wants me to be. If I am to make a mistake, I will try, always, to err on the side of kindness. So, yes, I guess that you can call me a liberal if you want, however, I will just call myself an Episcopalian.