“Well, you know she doesn’t NEED it. She’s just too lazy to work.”
“You’ve seen what they drive. Welfare. Pfft. As if.”
“They dress better than us. How dare they be on any sort of assistance.”
“Why should the soup wagon stop there. They look fine to me.”
“I’ve worked around people like that. They’re just ripping us off-those are my tax dollars!”
We’ve heard it all. Maybe we’ve even said these things, or worse. I know I have, in moments of frustration with life that must be someone else’s fault.
How dare the poor have anything. How dare they be poor and ask for anything more than the bare minimum. How dare they consider themselves full members of my society! They don’t work! They’re lazy! They’re dealing drugs! They can’t keep care of their homes, they abuse what we give them.
What we give them.
“These” people work jobs we won’t because they pay to little to life. They feed us, clean up after us, watch our children. We’ve set market prices, what we will pay, which dictates what they are paid. You love that cheap childcare? Those cheap jeans?
Actions have consequences.
They might be ill. Might have an addiction, an injury. Like your mother, your brother or cousin. But it’s different for them, right? They had money saved or family to look after them. They aren’t mooching. They aren’t living off our backs now are they? Not like those poor people, ripping off the system. How dare they be sick! How dare they be human!
We call ourselves kind. We drop a bag into the food box bin at Christmas, but we scorn those who might actually need to use it. We feel virtuous dropping clothing off to a homeless shelter, yet see no irony in accusing people on welfare of being lazy.
Maybe it’s because I can see myself there, easily. Because I can visualize the steps that would put me in one of those houses, apartments. I can see how little it would take for me to become “one of them”.
How limiting and repulsive our language is, as if we’re talking about something we just stepped in. “Those people”, as if they’re lepers.
Some of the kindest and best people I have ever known have been on assistance. They shared what they had, would go out of their way to do what they could for me. They were the farthest thing from lazy I’ve ever seen-watching some families stretch nothing to feed themselves for a month-I couldn’t fathom it. Watching the disgust on the faces of others if that family managed to scrounge up enough to eat out once every 2 months or so. That was a lesson.
Most people don’t want to help. They don’t want the poor to become settled, find their footing and perhaps heal a bit, find their way. It’s easier to have someone “worse off”. It’s easier to sit in one’s 400,000 home and laugh at those with less, accuse them of cheating because their car is too nice. They could never have won it, inherited it, be gifted with that which you take for granted, mobility. How dare they have something nice?
I’m learning my lessons lately about the assumptions I make based on where people live, how they live, what they wear. Do I still understand why someone not working needs to drive their child 2 blocks to school? No, I don’t. But I don’t understand the parents who stay home with their children who don’t walk either. And I’m trying to better understand both.
But when I see accusations, and superior attitudes in environments which are, relatively blessed with health and food and money and clothing not on the 3.00 rack at Walmart, I almost can’t stand it. We’re all the same people! Those poor people you think are criminals-they could be you tomorrow! How many of us are 1, or 3 paychecks away from poverty? A lot more than we might think.
We are not so mighty that we can’t fall to the ground with a resounding thud.
Stuff like this-it’s why I can’t find grace in small things, or see the silver lining. Because we still live in a world where helping your fellow man, where compassion and mercy and TRUE grace, where these things are figments, trotted out only when it’s popular or deemed appropriate.
Rich or poor, we all cry the same exact tears.