Midnight at the Humble Market

The coupons were concealed carefully inside my purse, but I had to keep peeking at the list to see what was approved for me to purchase. A dozen eggs, four gallons of milk, some breakfast cereal of specific brand, cheese- all carefully lined out on the coupons the nice lady at the WIC center had given me.

It was explained that WIC (Women, Infants and Children) is a federally funded program to provide nutritional food to families of limited means. I was encouraged by the Nice Lady to spend all the coupons each month, as WIC’s annual funding was predicated by the previous year’s grant being spent. She was kind, soft spoken and I left the office in tears anyway.

Never had I imagined needing something like a WIC coupon. I was the person who helped others. I was the one working in the soup kitchens, the one cooking at the Bishop’s Storehouse, the one who donates to help others. Not me. Not me.

And so the coupons remained concealed from casual observation. Though I had waited until very late to go the market, I still felt the sting of shame as I carefully chose the approved brick of cheese and large tin can of apple juice.

In an empty aisle, I tallied my groceries, making sure I had used the coupons to the full and honest extent. When another woman turned her cart onto my aisle, I quickly stuffed the papers back in my purse, and pretended to study the label on a can of soup, my cheeks coloring with humility.

At the front of the store, I looked for a register with no line, and settled my basket in behind a woman with only a few items. As I began unloading my cart, I realized I had been in this line before. I had been in line behind women with these very same items, with small children, and my thoughts had not, I was ashamed to admit, always been charitable.

Looking at me, so many would not be charitable either. For the world to see; a nice car, a designer handbag, a big house in a nice neighborhood, a flashy cell phone and an embarrassingly large wedding ring. I could practically hear the catty voices: Why would that woman need WIC food? She must be one of those. One of those people who use and abuse the system.

And there I stood. Tears sprang to my eyes. My cheeks stung with shame. On the outside, what, indeed, did I lack? Hidden from the world: the unemployment going on four months, a health crisis for my husband, the reserves of savings dwindling as the prices of staples rose, the food storage being used up, and the quiet desperation creeping up in our family.

Maybe there was another way for me to learn that lesson. Maybe not. What I do know is, I will never, ever stand in line at the grocery store the same way again.

Matthew 7:1-2 has surely been written in my heart:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

Comments

  1. Oh Tracy! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us! Truly, it can happen to anyone (except maybe Warren Buffet and Bill gates:0).

  2. Tracy,

    Everyday as we bless our food we thank God for all of the people who provided it to us. Sometimes It’s my husband’s employer, sometimes those who give a fast offering, sometimes the tax payers of California.

    I have never found the words to describe the deep gratitude and shame mingled together that I feel when our family has needed help. ‘Humble’ isn’t too far off the mark.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Thank God for taking care of us all.

  3. I work in home health as an RN. This means I go into peoples homes and check up on their safety, assist them with their medications, give injections and change dressings on wounds. Alot of these people are on state assistance because of an unplanned illness or they are elderly and live on a fixed income. Working as a nurse in the home enviroment I’ve never seen anyone that I thought was abusing the system. In fact I usually think they need more assistance. Not for their TiVo or anything like that. My patients stress over simple things like their electric bill going up $10 a month in the winter time and wonder how they are going to pay for it. There are programs to assist them but that involves lots of paperwork in duplicate that gets lost repeatedly. This adds to their stress even more.
    As for WIC I usually hear positive things about it from people who have not been on it. The few people who do criticize it can’t come up with a really good argument. You can’t use WIC to purchase cigaretts or alcohol. The food is only the healthy stuff. I’d rather error on the cautious side and give it out. There has to be a way to scam the system but I’d rather error on the generous side. I don’t mind my tax money going for WIC.
    But it sounds like the real problem is your ability to receive. Maybe this is the other lesson for you to learn.

  4. Bless you Tracy.

  5. Yep. That’s the point. You’re not doing anything wrong — you’re accepting help when you need it. Someone has to be served, or no one can serve. This is your turn. It’ll come around again.

  6. sister blah 2 says:

    Thank you Tracy M.

  7. Great post, Tracy. I’ve sometimes been less than charitable in my thoughts when the person ahead of me in line has been using WIC coupons (which can sometimes take the cashier awhile to process). Your post is an excellent reminder to me that I have absolutely no idea what that person’s life is like and that I owe that person my suspension of judgment and compassion.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    A virtual hug and kiss to you, Tracy.

  9. Thank you Tracy for your humility to share with us what you have learned. Our family has had it’s share of hard times. A blessing you receive in your humility is a greater ability for compassion and understanding which you so eloquently expressed. God Bless you and we at the Benson home will keep you and yours in our prayers.

  10. Tracy (sniffle, sniffle, sniffle), ACK, this beautiful post really hit home. Nothing taught me so much about humility and judging others as our recent financial troubles. Thank you for expressing this so perfectly.

    I know this isn’t the point of your post, but I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I hope you don’t mind the prayers of a stranger coming your way.

  11. Steve Evans says:

    Tracy, is it any wonder we all love you more and more every day? You’re a blessing to us.

  12. This was of the most amazingly written things I’ve read in a long time. It really cut to the gist without a lot of superfluous pomp and made me feel your anxiety.

    You are living one of my absolute worst-case scenarios…..asking people for help.

    It’s so hard to accept a change in life circumstances this way but you’re doing a fantastic job. You, ma’am are “repaying” whatever services and food you’ve been given just by writing posts like this to share with others and soften their hearts towards.

  13. I just filed bankruptcy for a couple with their own business.

    Visiting with them in their home, you look around. The stuff looks nice – nice furniture, good decoration, nice clothes. Very little to indicate that they’ve been living off about $1,000 per month for the last six months (with over $100,000 in skyrocketing business debt hanging over them the entire time).

    Keep this in mind people.

    The poor don’t always “look poor.”

    In fact, they very rarely “look poor.”

    They look like your parents. They look like the people in your Relief Society, in your neighborhood. They look like everything is just peachy. You’d never know to look at them in the shopping line that they are financially ruined and about to lose their house and their life savings.

    And most of you are one medical emergency, one corporate downsizing, one divorce, away from joining them.

    Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

  14. MikeInWeHo says:

    Thanks for a very touching post, Tracy M. I hope your financial situation improves soon, and admire your courage in accepting help in a time of need.

    Who really is poor? Is it right to set a definition that applies only within the boundaries of a developed country? Those lowest on America’s economic ladder virtually all have access to hot and cold running water and flush toilets. They have high rates of obesity. Their material lives are very different from those who live in the shantytowns of the developing world.

    What will happen to Seth R’s couple after their bankruptcy? Worst case scenario, they’ll probably wind up in a decent rental apartment with a color TV, still have access to a car, and certainly have plenty of food to eat even if it’s acquired with government or charitable support for a time.

    Is anyone reading this really poor?

  15. Mike, you can always find someone worse off.

    So what?

  16. MikeInWeHo says:

    Sure Seth, we can always find someone worse off. I’m just saying that the American definition of “poor” reflected in this post would be painfully laughable to a person living in the slums of Zimbabwe or India. But hey, I’m just a guilt-riddled liberal hypocritical affluent urban American who loves nothing more than to globe-trot and ruminate about global economic inequality and climate change. If Al Gore had a love-child…..

  17. Jonathan Green says:

    That’s a really touching post. Unless you’re in grad school, that is. In that case, we’d have to open up a can of 2-minute hate on you.

  18. Thank you, Tracy. I know exactly what you mean.

  19. Mommie Dearest says:

    Judge not unrighteous judgement indeed. Would that include judging hastily, or too soon? Perhaps there will yet be the opportunity to do the downsizing you have graciously listed, LtlEffert. I don’t know Tracy, but I like her and I like reading her blogging, and I pray she doesn’t ever have to suffer your “true” desperation. I don’t begrudge her the continued use of the things she has, including a computer and an internet connection. And WIC coupons.

    Sorry, but I had to delurk. I’ll go back now.

  20. Judge not unrighteous judgment.

    Wow. nice coining of the words of the Savior. How about this? ‘Don’t be an asshole.’

  21. I once ran into a woman whose family was on food from the Bishop’s Storehouse. She was in the grocery buying a few things, I came up behind her as she put a can of coctail shrimp on the counter to be purchased, She was mortified and tried everything she could do to completely hide the shrimp. I sensed that she felt my condemnation for her extravigance. I walked up to her and mentioned that this shrimp really tastes much better with a certian brand of cocktail sauce. And I bought the sauce, stuck it in her basket, and walked out, I hope she enjoyed her shrimp and sauce, I know that I did. everyine needs a break from your poverty every once in a while. Even if it is with a can of shrimp and a fancy sauce. And no one should judge.

  22. Tracy, thanks for sharing this. Understanding breeds empathy, and empathy enlightens judgment.

  23. LtlEffert – Gosh, you are probably right. Anyone who still owns anything at all must not really be hurting. But ya know – when we were really struggling half the stuff we put on Craigslist and eBay didn’t sell, and our large, beautiful home didn’t sell either. Oddly, I felt desperate anyway when we couldn’t pay for Christmas or groceries. Imagine that.

    And for goodness sake, you begrudge the woman her WEDDING ring?

  24. What Steve said (#11).

    LtlEffert, seriously? Go away.

  25. Peter LLC says:

    Excellent post.

  26. re # 18, that was extremely uncharitable and unrighteously judgmental.

  27. First comment on the Bloggernacle! (Where have you been all my life?)

    We are on WIC right now (and in grad school, throw the ‘can of 2-minute hate’ on the pile, please). When will we learn that here in our city we need to go to Walmart for the WIC food. All of the approved foods are entered into their system so they just scan it. If it isn’t approved, they’ll tell you. The other day we went to the really nice supermarket down the street and you could just see the look of anxiety wash over the cashier’s face as she saw, not one, but THREE WIC coupons. She pulled out the WIC folder and checked each and every item. Oh dear. First, it was a problem with the Colby Jack cheese, which is perfectly fine. Then, it was a problem with the peanut butter because my wife decided to choose the reduced sugar variety, which we have also picked up at Walmart in the past.

    But I digress…WIC is a wonderful program and when we were hit with a hard financial crunch coupled with mental illness about a year ago, we counseled with the bishop. Now, this may be progressive thought for some, but he told us that in addition to receiving a food order or help with utilities, the church now counsels individuals seeking help to investigate ANY and ALL government aid programs for which they qualify. Our bishop took one look at our situation and offered about three times the amount of help we were seeking. That is due in large part due to our underestimation of our needs. Bishop H, you rock!

    “And most of you are one medical emergency, one corporate downsizing, one divorce, away from joining them.”
    Seth, I always think of this and it helps me 1) not judge myself and 2) accept those around me. This whole experience of being “poor” while going through a doctoral program has been enlightening.

  28. Tanya Sue says:

    LtlEffert-That’s pretty harsh. I have been in a similar situation to Tracy.

    Let me tell you what you didn’t see. I was in a singles ward. The bishop had daugthers my age in the ward. In addition to helping me from the ward budget, my wealthy bishop would give me $100 bills from his own budget with the strict instructions that the money was to go play with. Buy clothes with, go out with friend with, etc. Under no circumstances was I to spend it on bills or debt.

    You also didn’t see 40% of my take home income (more than my rent and car payment) go to medical bills. In fact, I don’t look sick you would never know unless I told you.

    So yeah, I lived in a wealthy area (but you didn’t know my rent was less than anywhere in the state because I rented from a little old lady), drove a decent car and had nice clothes. But you wouldn’t have known why.

    With how humiliated Tracy sounds, I am pretty confident she has run out of other options.

  29. Tanya Sue says:

    Tracy-Can I just promise you it will get better? I really have been there, and it really, really sucks while you are there. It will get better and you will look at this as a learning experience. I will never judge anyone again. You will find that you are far more creative and bright than you ever thoughtbefore, and that you are stronger than you ever realized.

  30. I used WIC for a few months after my first daughter was born. It was a humbling experience — usually the transactions went smoothly but one time… A new Walmart store had recently been built in our town and I knew from using the other Walmart that the store takes WIC coupons. So, I went to the new Walmart and loaded up my cart with the WIC items. I went to the check-out and the cashier told me that the store, because it was so new, hadn’t yet been approved to take WIC coupons and so I could either take all of the food back or I had to pay for it. Oh dear! I ended up paying for it all because the line behind me was long and I felt so embarrassed. Make sure you know that store takes WIC and has the little stickers on the aisles!

  31. I grew up on welfare of both church and state varieties. It was miserable in many respects, but as I have come to be able to pay taxes rather than receive them, the experience has been very important to my understanding of how societies can serve their vulnerable members and why. So keep on trucking, Tracy, you’ve got all sorts of peers you wouldn’t expect. LtlEffert, good luck with your campaign to start a propaganda cell for FOX news, but I doubt you’ll make the White House in time to feel compensated for your efforts.

  32. StillConfused says:

    When I was a very young mother I participated in the WIC program. I have great respect for that program. YOu should not be ashamed of it at all. It was 20 years ago so I am not sure if it is still the same, but back then, as part of getting your coupons, you had to attend classes. I learned about making bean soup; I learned about my lactose intolerance. The program is very specific on the food items that can be purchased. Remember, never let your pride be so great that your children go hungry. And also, when your situation changes, think of all the good you can do in the world. Sometimes learning to accept charity is one of the hardest lessons we have in life.

  33. I like the Humble Market. You tend to meet a better sort of people there than at other places.

  34. Ardis Parshall says:

    And most of you are one medical emergency … away from joining them.

    Amen. I am so conscious of the desperate situation I would be in were I to break an arm and not be able to type that when I tripped running for a bus, I threw my arms over my head and landed on my face instead. (Cue crude jokes.)

    Without question, there are people who take and take and take and never give. That’s no excuse for assuming everybody who needs even temporary help is such a one. I still can’t believe we will ever be condemned for being too generous. Not that many of us are at risk for that.

  35. MikeInWeHo says:

    This is a lovely post (well, minus a comment or two….). I work with mentally ill people, many of whom experience severe money problems from time to time. You guys have giving me some wonderful insights into how people cope with the humiliation they experience when seeing help. That guilt and embarrassment is largely based on distorted thinking, but the feelings are very real. One thing I know: suffering transcends economic groups. The family evicted from their McMansion and into an apartment may be in as much subjective pain as anyone in more obviously impoverished circumstances. So in a way I guess I do agree with Seth R in #13.

  36. My whole reason for sharing this experience was not to stir up social contention, discuss wefare, or even to talk about my own relative affluence.

    I wrote this to show my own humility and shame before the Lord for my previous lack of charity.

    What started out as ego-based embarrassment for needing aid to get food for my family, ended up with a much larger lesson for me on charity and what changes need to happen in my heart before I can ever hope to stand before my God.

    I know, beleive me, that I live in incredible affluence compared to just about anyone in the world. That does not change the fact that my husband was recently hospitalized, we have the financial fallout to deal with, and we haven’t had employment or income in four months. I have to be able to feed my kids. Selling my large home would not immediately get them some milk and peanut butter.

    Thank you to so many of you for sharing your own experiences, and your kind comments.

    If anyone wants to argue social order, true poverty or any other social ill, have at it- email us with your guestpost. But don’t do it here.

  37. Peter LLC says:

    the church now counsels individuals seeking help to investigate ANY and ALL government aid programs for which they qualify.

    As it should since it’s paid out of the same pockets that tithing, fast offerings etc. are.

  38. Truly, we are all beggars in one way or another (financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc.) and equally dependent upon each other’s goodwill and the Lord’s mercy. Though our need may appear at different times and under different circumstances, it is always there bubbling just beneath the surface. May we all remember to be humble and to not judge one another; both the receiver and the giver are sanctified and rejoice together.

  39. LtlEffert – more often than not, downsizing is more costly than keeping what you have. I was recently forced to sell my home at a significat loss, because the new job was 700 miles away. Selling the nice car was not an option as it depreciated faster than the loan was getting paid off. Selling it would be more expensive than keeping it. Not uncommon for nice cars. Buying it wasn’t the only bad financial decision I have made in the last 15 years.
    But even selling the second car, the thrift store furniture, grandma’s coin collection from her mission, DW’s jewelry (not the wedding ring), and every other extravagence we were guilty of owning didn’t make a dent in the $40,000 loss we took on the house.
    We’ll be fine. On the upside, it’s pretty cheap to move when you have nothing left. But selling everything you own seldom makes a difference when the big stuff hits.

  40. #37 – Wonderful comment, Tracy. It really is about seeing others (and ourselves) as God sees them (and us). Experiences like yours tend to define “arrogance” a little differently than a life lived without those experiences.

    Again, thank you for sharing this with us.

  41. Oh Tracy, my heart broke reading this post.

    We have been through a job loss. It happened six weeks after we’d exhausted our meager cash reserve to take our first job after grad school. It was the day I found out our fourth baby would have to be delivered early, two weeks from that day, because of complications. We would have no insurance. The company that had begged my husband to come was laying him off. How do you go to bishop you’ve known less than two months and tell him you’re most likely going to need help because you have rent, three kids, a baby on the way (and now no insurance), a one-year contract with the cable company (because signing for a year made it cheaper), cell phone contracts, etc.

    It was humbling. We were expecting humiliating. But our bishop was so quick to comfort, lift, and encourage. So quick to offer help. So slow to ask what we would do to improve our situation. He knew we wanted nothing more. No need to belabor the point. He encouraged us to get on medicaid to pay for the baby, to apply for WIC, or food stamps, or whatever other program could help us. He was so kind. My deflated husband left there feeling so encouraged and trusted.

    When a cashier I visit taught complained to me one day about a woman on food assistance buying Oreos and ice cream I asked her to consider how good it must have felt to that woman to be able to provide an extravagance for her children. How hard it is to see your children go without when they don’t understand why. How good it feels to participate in a little bit of normalcy. Oreos and ice cream.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just be happy for what people have? Sure, there are people that abuse the system. But even that is subjective. Even the person who takes more than they need, who spends unwisely elsewhere, even those that defraud the system, can we really say they truly know better? Can we say for sure that each one has been taught the possibility of a better way? Can we say they have been given the opportunity for something different the way you and I experience opportunity?

    I’m not justifying abuse of welfare, nor am I extracting agency and accountability from choices. I am only pointing out that “going against the light that has come to you, not to your brother, is sin”. Can we really know what light has come to another, and therefore judge the degree of accountability and sin?

  42. I remember a time when we had no car to sell and lived in a low income housing apartment. Our family of four was living on about 1,000 a month, and there wasn’t any gov’t assistance more to get. I prayed so many times and told the Lord that I just didn’t see any way other than for me to get a job outside the home, and each time I did, a neighbor or ward member would show up with buckets of apples or berries or we would get a box of food from another source. When I began to worry because I noticed that the children needed shoes or clothes, somebody would ask if we were interested in the clothes and shoes they’d sorted out of their children’s closets. I don’t know if many of them knew we were as poor as we were. We never told anybody that we needed those things, but we frequently recieved more than we could fit in our cupboards, and the freezer was full with what we could not eat quickly enough. I know that some would have said that I should get out there and get a job to help my family, but none of them know what happened those many times when I announced to my Heavenly Father that I had decided to do just that. You don’t have to be ashamed for needing or accepting help. Those who judge you without knowing the truth about you should be ashamed.

    By the way, things have turned in the past few years, and we are now the ones who can give. I am not only grateful that I have enough to give, I am grateful for those who are willing recieve my offering.

  43. One thing that people don’t get is that things we often take as signs of wealth, really aren’t.

    Everyone ought to have a bankruptcy attorney run through their household possessions and valuate them. It’s a real eye-opener.

    Massive flat screen TV? $100 dollars is about right. A walk-in closet worth of clothes? $100 maybe – honestly used clothing has next to no resale value. Leather sofa? Maybe $300, maybe. When you’ve done the math at yard sale values, you really don’t have jack squat.

    And that “expensive” car in the driveway? A rapidly depreciating asset that you are probably still paying $250 a month to keep driving.

    These days, even the home isn’t worth anything since more and more people are finding themselves upside-down on their mortgages.

    These trappings of wealth do not translate into real wealth or indicate that the possessor of them is any better equipped to ride out a financial shock than the guy at the soup kitchen.

    Creditors descend on these people like a plague. They harass them at all hours of night. They call them at work, threaten them with jail (a bald-faced lie by the way), and try to talk them into selling off household possessions to make payments on debts that wouldn’t even keep ahead of the interest rates and processing charges on out-of-control unsecured debts. Sometimes people are desperate or stupid enough to actually believe the debt collector and pawn their wedding ring (usually for something disappointing like $50-$100), deplete their 401K, and sell their nice car. They then find themselves no closer to getting on top of the debt and now they have no stuff. In fact, losing the car simply reinforces the poverty spiral – since loss of car is one of the BIG correlations with poverty (no ability to travel to a job).

    Indeed, riches have become “slippery.”

    Stuff no longer has any value and interest has gone exponential. A person can have every appearance of wealth in our society and yet still be poor as dirt.

  44. Tonight, when we say the prayer over dinner, “we’re thankful for this food” will have a new and deeper meaning. God Bless you, Tracy. Much love.

  45. Beautiful Post!

    You’ve been paying taxes for a long time. You’ve been putting money into the WIC system. Now you’re in a place of need and taking out of the system. Nothing wrong with that. Anyone that begrudges you for using government help in a time of need fails to realize that over the years you’ve been paying the government to assist others.

  46. shameless plug for a fabulous organization:

    People Helping People- http://www.mentors4women.org/

  47. Tracy, a truly magnificent post. Thank you.

  48. Althought I understand the reasons why, after reading a post like this I ask myself “why can’t Sacrament Meeting / Sunday School / Priesthood / Relief Society be like this?”

    Awsome post. Thx for sharing it!

  49. TracyM, we’ve been to the Bishop’s storehouse in the past, which helped me during my tenure as bishop to be a lot more charitable about people’s situations. The poor in our area here don’t look poor anymore. They dress like you and I, live in nice houses, and drive nicer cars than I do. Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope it helps me to be more compassionate, and that things turn around for your family soon.

  50. most of you are one medical emergency, one corporate downsizing, one divorce, away from joining them.

    If not one, then two or three or four. It can always catch you.

    Sure, we aren’t as bad off as the guy my parents met on their mission who came home to find his entire family hacked to death with machetes and so set off to find a distant relative, fell exhausted and only lived because there were orange peels in the dirt that he revived and ate and thus found the strength to go a little further and find water, but …

    Pain and suffering need kindness more than anything else.

  51. This is one of the best posts I’ve read in the bloggernacle. Thank you for sharing.

  52. kristine N says:

    Thank you, Tracy, for sharing. The more stories like this I hear, the more grateful I am that our federal government spends that penny out of every dollar I give them on programs like WIC and medicaid. Wish they’d make it two.

  53. You rock, girl. And we still pray every night for you and your fam.

  54. This is one issue I hate to get involved with particularly when I think people will misunderstand what I say.

    The statement was made that: “the church now counsels individuals seeking help to investigate ANY and ALL government aid programs for which they qualify.”

    That is not quite correct. The Church’s position on these issues is in black and white. One doesn’t have to guess, you can read it word for word in the welfare manual entitled “Providing in the Lord’s way”. Should be easy to get your hands on one, every member of the ward welfare committee should have a copy.

    What it actually says is that certain members may choose to utilize certain community resources. And if they choose to utilize these community resources, the bishops job is to encourage them to follow gospel principles, obey the law and avoid dependency. Nowhere is the Church advocating for the use of these programs. But you could interpret it as a neutral stance, perhaps.

    I am at work right now, (Yes I own my own business) but can get an exact quote when I get home if anybody is interested.

    And now if anybody is still listening, I would add that it is the Churches job, and hence our job as well to teach correct principles, and quit editing how others apply the principles.

    Hunger is a terrible thing, and people make choices, based on the options they have in front of them. Many argue that we have the most affluent poor people in the world. And the Church recognizes that when they state community standards must be taken into consideration as we evaluate needs. In other words people living in Provo don’t have to meet the poverty criteria applicable in Haiti, before we help them.

    I recall as a young boy in 2nd grade (before WIC or food stamps) being pulled out of class every month for the social worker to weigh me to see if I was gaining the appropriate amount of weight. We knew that if I didn’t show the right weight gain, our family might be broken up. And the social worker would ask me what I had for breakfast that day. Although my mother never asked me to lie, she did make sure I knew what other families were having for breakfast.

    Tracy thankfully you have shared your feelings with us in a way that might help us increase our understanding.

    BTW I love what our Church does to help, including food orders, the Employment Resource center and the Career Workshop. Every individual may not find the solution to their problems through the Church, but I love that the Church has an organized system and is willing to help.

  55. I’ve always wondered..Can’t they add a gallon of ice cream once a month to the approved list. It would do wonders for the recipients mental health. :)

  56. I think I missed something. Did someone actually suggest pawning a wedding ring? WOW! My parents both did that one year for Christmas. The older of us 12 children were devastated! What a terrible idea! We scrimped and saved and luckily they were still there to buy back for Mother’s Day. We made our parents promise never to do that again!

  57. Just a Mo says:

    When a cashier I visit taught complained to me one day about a woman on food assistance buying Oreos and ice cream I asked her to consider how good it must have felt to that woman to be able to provide an extravagance for her children.
    How I do love this point sol.
    We are a WIC family. With prices on cereal and other items going up so rapidly, we’d never be able to buy them without WIC. WIC covers about $320 worth of groceries a month for us, which is more than our monthly grocery budget. I sometimes wonder what people think when I get my WIC items and then pay for Chocolate chip cookies out of pocket. But frankly, passing Multigrain Cheerios off as a treat to my kids only works for so long.
    At the end of a long day, lugging my three kids through the grocery store, not feeling very charitable at all, I imagine what I would think had I not been in a position to experience this myself. Why does she have so many kids if she can’t handle them/afford them? I see a nice ring on her finger, shouldn’t she sell that before asking the gov’t for money? She’s driving a big car, is that really necessary?
    Ahh yes, it’s so easy to figure it all out….until you actually have to do it for yourself.
    I wonder if my embarassment comes from using WIC checks, or my perception of the kind of woman I had to be to need WIC checks.
    Beautifully shared Tracy, thank you.

  58. Tracy, this post is just great. I love reading everything you write. Thank you for being willing to share your experience. The lesson to not judge others is a great one that I need reminding of often.

    mmiles – I think the offending comment re: rings and other things was deleted.

  59. Heart-achingly beautiful. I think this should be circulated far and wide; we are each a bit too judgmental in our own way for our own good, I think.

  60. Fantastic post, Tracy. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  61. #54 – I will check that pamphlet, we have it around here somewhere…
    I sometimes misinterpret my particular bishop’s counsel as the church’s counsel. I probably should have said: “Our bishop counseled us to investigate ANY and ALL government aid programs for which we qualified.” Emphasis was placed on the fact that this was a temporary solution and that other long-term changes needed to be made.

    Thanks for the gentle correction.

  62. A quick follow-up…here is a pdf of “Providing the Lord’s Way” from Provident Living.

  63. Thanks for that PDF, Jimmy. Quoted below is the relevant section of “Providing in the Lord’s Way” A couple of my comments are in (brackets)

    “In some instances, members may
    decide to seek welfare assistance from
    the government. The bishop should
    advise members to comply with any
    laws that regulate the receipt of non-
    Church assistance, especially while
    receiving Church welfare assistance.”

    (If the bishop pays their rent or utilities, they have to report it as income)

    “Bishops should be careful not to duplicate
    welfare assistance.”

    (If they get food stamps they can’t get food orders from the bishop)

    “Regardless of the source of assistance,
    members should avoid becoming
    dependent on these sources and
    strive to become self-reliant. Where
    possible, they should work in return
    for the assistance they receive.”

  64. Tracy,

    What I love most about this post is your willingness to admit your previous judgments, and your tears of shame were truly heart wrenching. I have sadly made these judgments too – looked down my nose at people I knew were continually on welfare yet had luxuries I wasn’t able to afford in my life.

    Sadly, we not only judge those who need help, we categorize them into worthy recipients, those who in our feeble judgment have “worked hard” and “done everything right” but are just having a rough time with something beyond their control versus those we think are lazy, unwilling to sacrifice or milking the system, who continue to have children they can’t afford and make other decisions we don’t approve of.

    How many times have we thought “they’re on welfare, but they have nicer clothes and tv and cell phones than I do, and they bought them with MY money – must be nice”. Or complained that our parents are helping other siblings who then don’t have to struggle like we did in a sense that they are almost “getting away with something”. I now understand it would not really be all that nice, those things that seem free they are actually paying for, not with money, but with their pride, security, independence and sense of accomplishment. Not really all that nice to have the church or government (or worse yet your immediate family) overseeing your spending, deciding if your purchases are luxury or necessity, deciding whether you are looking hard enough for the right kind of job, etc.

    Do we think the “chronic welfare mom”‘s children are equally deserving a stay at home mom as those of the grad student who is receiving aid or do we want her to go get a job and support herself? How many of us feel for Tracy but complain about other recipients of welfare whose stories don’t seem quite so noble?

    Thanks for making us all think about this and I really do wish for sunnier times for your family!!

  65. Snow White says:

    Hi, Tracy!

    I hope you will be able to feel better soon about taking the help you need. We get WIC right now, and it really helps. Milk and cereal are both really getting expensive. I’ve definitely felt the receiving end of the judgement too. When we were going through a tough time financially, some ladies that were in the primary presidency with me came over for a planning meeting and I could tell they were judging us for some of the things we had. You can tell even when they don’t say it when someone is judging you, and it’s hard when they don’t give you the opportunity to explain. We had a big 80’s style tv with the speakers built in on the sides which looks pretty big and extravagant, but it was one my family got that was being trashed that they paid to have repaired and gave to us, but you wouldn’t know that to look at it. My kids also had a little tv in their room that was just for playing videos, which was my old tv from when I was single,not something we had recently bought. And my kids always have great toys, clothes and books which we find at yardsales and second-hand stores. Just because you see some child with a $60 dress doesn’t mean their parents paid that much for it. And just because we had those two tvs didn’t mean we value entertainment over other more prudent expenditures. If we’d tried to sell those tvs, at best we would have got enough for a one-time purchase of a jumbo box of diapers, but 5-10 years of Sesame Street and kids video watching is certainly worth more in the long run, depending on perspective.

  66. banister says:

    Communally helping each other in need is what we are all striving for in the end– it’s what the United Order is all about.

  67. DH told me I needed to read this, but I haven’t had a chance until now. The part that hit me hardest:

    “Hidden from the world: the unemployment going on four months…the reserves of savings dwindling as the prices of staples rose, the food storage being used up, and the quiet desperation creeping up in our family.”

    I’ve felt that quiet desperation. It is gut-wrenching. It is the most faith-trying and panic-inducing experience I’ve ever had. I believe it is the biggest reason you find people buying ice cream/cookies along with their WIC items. Sometimes you have to splurge to hold back the debilitating tide of desperation and hold onto hope. And yes, sometimes h-o-p-e is spelled c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e. Please don’t begrudge that of someone whom you only know by sight in the grocery checkout lane.

    Thank you, Tracy, for sharing this and helping us see this perspective of true humility and the real meaning of “judging not.” I admire you so much!

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