I can't contain myself on this one anymore.
There's a story behind it. A lot of us bloggers/facebook page admins become friends sort of "behind the scenes". We add each other to our personal facebook pages and get to know each other and we have a great time and whatnot.
Anyway, there's this awesome chick behind The Klonopin Chronicles that I have gotten to know better recently. She's really cool and you need to go check out her page and her blog when you get a chance. Because I said so, that's why.
Anyway, she posted an image on her personal page, and it really hit home from me.
Cheaper than Freaking Therapy - I don't know if the admin behind that page was the original creator of the image, but that's where it came from to the best of my knowledge (please, if you know that I'm wrong, correct me).
Anyway, I shared it on my personal profile as well, because it's no big secret that once upon a time in the not-so-distant past, I was on food stamps. And I took a lot of criticism, both from people I knew and from total strangers. When I posted this, it sparked some discussion about various perceptions of people who use food stamps, how they dress, what they drive, and what they purchase.
It's been bugging me. It really has.
Probably the main reason is because I was that person. I was the person buying food for my family with food stamps. I also used to be a case manager, and dealt with people who had to jump through hoops to get them - or worse yet, got them and abused them.
I am not so naive that I would believe that no one abuses the system. I know that it happens. I've seen it happen, and I've busted people for it in the past. But I've also seen so many people who have been so unfairly judged for whipping out that EBT card to pay for their food.
So, in order to get it off of my chest, here's some more food for thought in addition to what's listed in that image up there.
You see her buying junk food and you just can't believe that she would do that with food stamps.
Maybe, just maybe, her child's birthday is coming. She's been saving her food stamp money for the past couple of months in order to get some cake, ice cream, chips, candy, and soda so that finally, her pre-teen daughter can have a birthday party and invite her girlfriends over for a sleepover and they can pig out on junk food all night, just like any other kid their age does. Maybe her daughter will finally feel as though she fits in with her peers.
Ugh, she's buying so much processed food. Look at all of that frozen crap that she's buying - she should be cooking "good" food instead of buying that crap!
Yeah, in a perfect world - I agree. However, I also know that when I was working 2 jobs and trying to take care of my kids on my own, I didn't always have time to make those wonderful home-cooked meals from scratch. I did it as much as I could. But there were days when I was so exhausted that I couldn't see straight, and so I grabbed a frozen corn dog and a pop tart for my supper at 1am after I got home from my second job and inhaled them and went to bed. I hate to tell you this, but sometimes convenience and sanity wins over good solid nutrition - and everyone is guilty of it once in a while. While you see her purchasing "crap", you don't see that she actually has meals already prepared and in the freezer at home - but sometimes, she just needs something easy to nuke and eat so that she can take care of the kids' homework and laundry and spend quality time with them instead of cooking.
OMG - she has a smart phone! How can she afford that if she has food stamps???
Like the image up there suggests, maybe it was a gift, and the giver pays the bill for it so that she can stay safe from an abusive ex-partner. Or maybe she bought it used off of craigslist (like I did), and doesn't have cable or internet at home (like me), so the phone is her only connection to the outside world. She uses it for all of her internet access so that she doesn't have to pay a separate bill, yet she can take it with her and feel safe when she is traveling with her young children.
Her car is nicer than mine!
Maybe it belongs to a friend. Maybe her brother loaned it to her. Maybe she already owned it before her world fell apart and she lost everything that she had except for the car and what she could fit into it when she left. Sure, she could sell it and get something older - but this one is newer and dependable and she knows that she can count on it to get her to work and get her kids to the doctor when they need to go.
Her purse - is that a Coach bag? OhMyGodSheIsTrulyEvilForHavingThatBag!!!
Again, maybe it's a knock-off. Maybe she found it at a yard sale and the seller didn't know its true worth before tossing it in the "Everything's $1" box, but while she was trying to find some decent "new" clothes for her and her kids, she found it. Or, maybe it was a gift from her husband - yet another expensive gift that he bought her to try to make up for the fact that he beat the hell out of her a few days before.
I've seen her house before - it's bigger and nicer than mine is!
And your point is what? Do you know for a fact that she owns the house? Maybe she's renting it from a family member. Maybe it was left to her when her grandmother passed away. Maybe it was approved for low-income housing and she's paying rent based on the income that she gets off of her 2 jobs. Maybe she and her abusive husband owned it, but now it's in the midst of the foreclosure process and she is saving every penny that she has so that she can get a place of her own and move out of it and get to a place where he can't ever find her again.
And here's another explanation that I bet 95% of people don't even think about....
Maybe the food stamps aren't even hers.
Maybe she's shopping for her elderly aunt who is disabled and can't get out of the house easily. Her aunt gave her the list that she had made and her EBT card and sent her to the store to get what she needs - because if someone can just do the shopping for her, she can take care of herself. Or maybe she's a home healthcare provider and she's shopping for one of her clients who is terminally ill. Maybe she's shopping for her father who has slipped through the cracks of the system and isn't getting the pension that he has waited on for years.
My point is this: Unless you personally know the individual using the card, and you know for a fact that he/she is abusing the system, keep your judgments to yourself. Some people are lucky enough to never need assistance to get out of a tough situation in their lives - and some of us aren't that lucky. Sometimes we need help. It happens. Every person has a story, every person is different, and every person has a right to live his/her life without being judged by total strangers.
Because to put it quite bluntly, judgmental people suck.
(Note: To those people who commented on the above image on my personal profile, this is NOT aimed at you at all. I'm glad that conversation remained civil. Some of your comments just reminded me of things that were said to me in the past by strangers - and a few friends at the time - but I am seriously not aiming this at anyone in particular. Please don't be upset with me.)