A Reminder

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

(Hat tip: Elizabeth Bear)

14 Comments on “A Reminder”

  1. I remember a great many WIC mothers coming through the line when I was a bagger at the grocery store. Every single one of them counted every penny. And I always respected every single one of them. EXCEPT the one that bought stuff on WIC and then in another transaction bought lobsters.

  2. What is interesting is when you really talk to people, how many of them will at some point admit that they’ve been on food stamps and/or WIC. It is interesting how many people have that little skeleton in their closet. There are quite a few and I’m one of them. I’m not now, but who knows if that is permanent or not.

    Poverty happens to a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Quite often the situation is temporary, and even when it is prolonged, quite often it is caused by things out of the person’s control. Being poor should not label a person Loser for Life. Money is a fluid and changing condition.

    For people who are lucky enough to never have known poverty or had to go through the checkout line dividing your stuff into the stuff that the WIC vouchers will cover, the stuff foodstamps will cover, and the stuff you have to cover yourself (like toothpaste and soap) while people behind you stare impatiently; then just remember…you are LUCKY. Not necessarily so hard working or smart or whatever else you think you’ve done to avoid hardship. Lots of poor people are hardworking and smart. Some are not Lucky.

    And about the Lobsters…I don’t know what that person’s deal was, but neither do you, Haplo Peart. Maybe she saved up for months to buy lobsters for her husband’s birthday because they were his favorite. Maybe he hasn’t had lobsters in the past 5 years and this is special.

    This reminds me that once I went to the housing authority with a used “Coach” bag that a friend had given me as a hand-me-down. About three social workers sneered at me and made nasty remarks because of that bag.

    Being poor means never being allowed to be caught having something in your posession that another person deams to be above you.

  3. Damn. I am so grateful to have read that. I am so blessed in my life. Next time I’m shopping I hope I can do this for someone.

  4. And yanno, today I was in line behind an older woman who was obviously using an electronic benefits card for the first time in her life, and felt awful about it. It’s like the world gives you a little poke sometimes. Hey. Remember.

    I smiled at her, anyway. Best I could do.

  5. My daughter was used WIC for a while. She had decided that she didn’t need us or any other members of the family. She grew up QUICKLY. All of a sudden we weren’t quite as dumb as she had thought.

    Tough love is hard on the receiver, it’s even harder on the giver.


    Dave Sorgen.

  6. Sigh, that’s what I get for NOT previewing… the first line was a mess. Well, so was I while I was writing it…

    Dave Sorgen.

  7. Lisa: This came up in another online forum years ago. Someone was complaining about people using foodstamps to buy Twinkies or something for their kids, and another person, herself having been dependent on foodstamps as a kid, pointed out “Why is it that just because we were poor, we didn’t deserve the same kind of treats that other kids have?”

    Sure, if you’re buying all twinkies and ho hos and junk food, I can see complaining. But these folks were insisting that food stamps should never be used for anything other than Good Wholesome Food, and if you were poor, you didn’t deserve snacks.

  8. Perhaps I should have explained better, I was in a hurry when I posted yesterday. After the Woman left, I commented on the lobster thing to the cashier.

    “oh her, yeah she does that all the time”

  9. Haplo,

    Pardon me for being skeptical, but, umm, okay that. Go ahead and believe what you want to believe. Feel free to add to your story any time to make it sound more credible.

    Here is the thing – as a society we need to discuss openly and decide a few things. First, as a society, should we provide ‘help’ for the poor? Assuming the answer to that is ‘yes’ (and of course the wonderful college republican libertarians will answer ‘no’) then how much help?

    That is really what the ‘don’t poor kids deserve the same treats as other kids?’ is asking.

    Where do we draw the line, and more importantly why do we draw it there?

    We may say poor kids are simply victims so they should be given things that ‘average’ kids get but then that is not fair to the below average but not poor kids. Also, if we keep supplementing everyone below average the average will rise.

    I think as a society we have decided that we will keep kids from starving but that is about it. We need to remember that this is an improvement over the way things used to be, and there is much less starvation than there used to be. Now the concern is malnutrition more than simple starvation.

    As a Christian Christ tells me that what I do for the least of us I do for him. Personally I think we should provide the basics for the poor, education, real opportunity, and some treats now and then, but that is just me.

  10. I think You’ve blown my comments out of proportion. I was agreeing with the original sentiment of the article actually. I was however pointing out an instance from my personal expirence of someone who I felt was unfairly taking advantage of the system. I was raised in a lower middle class family. We never needed public assistance (although my fathers parents and his siblings did when they were kids), but we also never got lobster for dinner either, and once in a while we ate pancakes for dinner when things were tight ( as a kid I thought it was sorta fun to eat breakfast for dinner, I didn’t know why until later on). I respected and never looked down on those who needed a little help. I was however troubled by this instance of someone who appeared to need assistance often demonstrating that it might not be undeserved.

    And I have to say that I fall into the camp of keep the kids feed, but do give them a little something special once in a while. However nutrition comes first if the choice is bread, meat and milk vs cupcakes, HO-Ho’s and Coke, the staples win.

  11. Haplo,

    Okay. Many people use your example to justify the elimination of all food programs. It is practically an urban legend, along with the ‘welfare queen.’

    Actually it is always lobster, too. Never steak or caviar or some other extravagance. I guess you are one of the few people to have actually seen a living example of the legend. You should feel honored.

  12. i know the woman who was quoted by elizabeth bear. she is a kickass, strong beautiful woman who has gone through a lot of shit in her life and come out the other side with a loving husband, great kids and a very good life. i appreciate that you quoted elizabeth quoting her…


  13. I think it is justified to severely limit what can be purchased with food stamps. I work at a grocery store and I swear every EBT transaction involves candy and soda. Dont give me this “dont poor kids deserve treats” Bull$#!+. Where then would you draw the line? Dont poor kids deserve an X-box 360 or a Playstation? What do twinkies have to do with basic nutrition? Nothing! In America being poor is not being unable to provide. Being poor is

  14. What do Twinkies have to do with basic nutrition?
    Its the old give an inch take a mile situation. Its not enough that taxpayers (Including hard working lower middle class taxpayers) are helping you survive. Now that you’re surviving you want treats. Why? because the Joneses kids get treats and isnt that what “being poor” in America is really about? Its not about being able to survive Its about being able to keep up with the Joneses. Think about it? How do you measure your own poverty? Who are you comparing yourself to? Next time you feel entitled to a “treat” I suggest you compare yourself to the REAL poor people in places like India and Africa.

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