Food Stamps–A Blessing or a Curse

          Could it be both?

          Like so many issues, we are not willing to sort out the issues to answer that question. Political views focus on the politics of the situation, rather than the problem.

          It is easy to see the blessing for those who are truly in need. We all can advocate for the mother who needs food for her children; we can empathize with those who have lost their jobs. We know people who experience temporary misfortune. There are those who are not able to make to the end of the month. There are folks who need help. But I think when we reach the level of one of every five families receiving food stamps, it is truly necessary to “find the problem.” We must ask what is happening in our America.

          We all have seen the frauds, those who are happy to take the government aid whether or not they need it. There are those who see others getting a food stamps so they want to get theirs. And then there are the politicians who profit politically from the subsidies and aid that they can secure. I worry most about the insidious nature of those who believe that the folks who become dependent and believe that it is their right to be given  “free” stuff; will create a permanent voting block and therefore, give them control.

          There are so many pieces to the puzzle, and the more who get food stamps, the bigger the puzzle becomes. We nibble at the edges to put the easiest pieces in place much like we start with a jig-saw puzzle.  The larger the puzzle, the more difficult it is to sort out the pieces, but we can find those pieces if we are willing to identify what fits together. We take identifying colors or shapes or hints of similarity and create a manageable situation.

          We can do the same with the food stamps puzzle. We surely must know that not one in five families should be receiving food stamps. We surely know when we make it easier and easier and easier to get food stamps, more people will do so.

           We have plenty of evidence that feeling comfortable with one lie, one fraud, makes the second easier. We know that the farther from the source of the money received, the less personal it is and the easier to accept; it’s that big government pot–that rainbow of government gold.

          So what do we do? ”Tune in tomorrow.”


The Power and Force of Work

           Extend unemployment benefits. Forty million on food stamps. Lowest number of people in the work force since…High, high, numbers on disability with frightening increases in the numbers. You pick the headline. They all emanate from the concept of work. There are not jobs. Folks are not trained for the jobs that exist. There are untold numbers of job training programs with reports of success and failure. Fraud in disability claims abound. Fraud in food stamps is well documented. College graduates are leaving college with enormous debt and working for minimum wages.

          These issues and so many more have their origin and many of their outcomes in work and worth in our culture and in attitudes and values about work.

          For me, the concept of work and worth is simple. If I need something, I want something, or I want to help others attain their goals, I work. I put my mind and body to the tasks that answer the needs. Yes, I am going to take a walk in the California sunshine and 80 degree January weather and you say: Eeasy for you to talk. I wish I could sit on the ridge and look at flowers and avocado trees. Easy for you to talk. But I have not always been in the California sun.

          There have been times that I needed something, like something to eat when I was in college. For a year, I worked for my room and board in a private home. Terrific responsibility with two little boys. I was  17. The next year, I had a small room with cooking facilities, but no money. I made the decision that the best place to find food was in a restaurant. I went to Mack’s Restaurant and asked for a job because I needed to eat. The kindly mannered Mr. Mack told me all positions were filled. I sat down and said that I would wait. The kindly mannered Mr. Mack looked at me for awhile, sat down beside me, and there we sat. But not for long. “Oh, go get an apron. Go to work,” he said.  It was an enormous relief; I was hungry.  Mrs. Scott in the kitchen always saw to it that I had ample portions to meet my carbohydrate needs; one of my majors was Physical Education.

`         Times are different now, you say.  You’re right. Times are different. They are very different, I was in college during the depression. I had no connections; I was an unknown quantity in the marketplace of work,  and I was monetarily poor. But I knew work, hard work all of my life. I knew how to clean and cook. I worked in the fields. I knew what effort and hard work in school produced. I was willing to learn new jobs and take on heavy loads.

          I learned early that I had been given gifts at my birth. My Creator had given me all I ever needed to be all that I could be. Yes, you will hear me say this often because understanding this concept, not squandering my gifts, using and spending them wisely, and having faith in the freedom to pursue those gifts are the keys to work.

          The gifts are the power, and faith is the force.        

Teach Me to Fish

          Each day I am bombarded with the need for people to understand that if you give a person a fish, they eat for a day; if you teach them to fish, they eat for a lifetime. This is a take on an old maxim. You just don’t help people when you take away their independence.

          What incentive is there to get a job when you can continue on unemployment for years? How can we possibly think that it is compassionate to take away the desire to work? When you are able to work and don’t and you can collect as much or possibly even more by not working and collecting unemployment, you better have some starch in your values to keep working. You better feel uncomfortable sitting around on your duff and taking money that other people have paid from their earnings. 

          You have to have a different kind of training than that that I received or from that of our Founders. I was taught that work was how I procured money, how I acquired skills, how I could pay for my education. And fortunately, I had a grandfather who never gave us money, but he always had ways for us to earn money.

          Yes, you say, you probably walked miles through the snow to get to school. That, too. Or I walked behind a horse-drawn bus to keep warm on my way to school. But I was proud, and I was taught that your pride in yourself and your independence were closely linked. I would have been most uncomfortable taking money for not working when I was able to work.

           My first paid job was when I was in the eighth grade; I was eleven years old. Two of my teachers were kind enough to let me clean their apartment for fifteen cents an hour. I ushered in the theatre so I could see the movies. I planted a field of potatoes one summer during my high school years, tended it, and sold the potatoes for spending money. My first year of college I worked for my board and room in a private home. The last three years of college, I worked in a restaurant for my food and for professors on campus for 30 cents an hour. Most of the time I had three jobs. My first year of teaching in 1942 paid a salary of $1200. How fortunate I was to find the jobs, stay in college, and graduate with two majors and two minors, Business Education, Physical Education, English, and Biological Science.

          Was I disadvantaged? By all standards today I would be eligible for food stamps, a free phone, free or reduced lunch, tuition grants, special stuff of all kinds. But I have to tell you that I felt advantaged when some of my dorm mates kept complaining about not having enough room in their closets for their clothes and shoes. Or they were complaining about the food or transportation or something. I understand now how much I was advantaged. I was grateful for the opportunities, I was left with my pride and independence and the satisfaction and happiness of earned success.

          Never had to worry about sleeping. When I finally rolled into bed at night, I was also a very tired cookie. But I woke up knowing how to bait my own hook. I was so fortunate that I had so many who taught me how to fish rather than giving me a fish for the day.  

A Continuing Resolution

My continuing resolution is a simple but all encompassing one: Be grateful always in all ways!!!!!!

The Christmas Season always clarifies and strengthens my gratefulness for my faith. The reason for the season is a lucid reminder of why I believe.

Having the family around the table for so many great meals during the past two weeks makes it easy to remember all year long how grateful I am for family. Britt and Diane are safely back in Oregon, but their love remains. Kera is back at Arizona State pursuing her dreams. Colin is back in the desert pursuing his career in golf. Bob, Kim, Hailey and Cassidy helped me eat leftovers last night. How grateful I am that they live next door. Bob built a nice fire in the fireplace with wonderful avocado wood. We sat together watching the fire and a football game. What a family I have. Easy to be grateful all year long for them and the joy they bring into my life.

Something about the new year always bring smiles and tears. For now I’ll settle for the smiles and joy in  Haley’s face when she bounced into my house on Friday afternoon    with the news that she was cleared by her doctor to play basketball. She had surgery for a torn ACL late summer; being able to play in her senior basketball season was an unknown. Maybe a few games at the end of the season would be possible. Her goal to return, her grit, her hard work in therapy paid off. She will be able to play in the first league game. The lesson she learned and lived during this detour in her life is a good one for all of us:  Tough problems don’t last, but tough people do.

Gratefulness for doors closing and knowing that others will open is easier now. I am so grateful for my grandchildren who continue to teach me old lessons in new ways and new lessons in old ways.

Gratefulness is an attitude, a mental state, a way to think about all that comes our way. I will take a grateful walk today starting with when my feet hit the floor as I get out of bed and start my day. The sun, the warm shower, the smell of coffee, the breakfast, the home I  occupy, the views of the hills, the birds in the bird bath, the flowers that bloom in the California sun–all need my acknowledgment. I will be grateful.