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Food Stamp Recipient Tired of Being Unfairly Judged Responds With This Scathing Letter
September 16, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Food Stamp Recipient Tired of Being Unfairly Judged Responds With This Scathing Letter

What you're going to read in a couple of minutes will definitely tug at your heartstrings and should absolutely make anyone think twice about judging someone else's circumstances in life. There's a sentiment among conservatives that those who use food stamps or any other kind of governmental assistance are doing so only because they are too lazy or incompetent to work for themselves. While it may be true that where there's a way to abuse the system, some will find that way and take it, the truth is that for millions of Americans every year food stamps and other social welfare programs are the difference between survival and starvation.

 

The Internet brings us this letter from a Sue Bulger in Minneapolis, MN. Sue wrote this letter after getting the stink-eye from a particularly judge-filled person at her local supermarket. Perhaps you've seen someone in your local store paying for their food with a food stamps card. If you've ever felt like maybe that person didn't "deserve" that assistance, or if you've ever wondered if it really helps at all for us to pay into social welfare programs, please read this letter a few times over.

 

If we cannot reach a hand out to those among us who, like Ms. Bulger, need help, then what is the point of being the richest nation in the history of the world? Regardless of whether Sue had extenuating circumstance on top of extenuating circumstance, at one point do we stop acting so selfishly as to cast a judgment-tinged eye on someone in the grocery store for having the audacity to ask for and get help when they need it most?

 

Something tells us if more people wrote or read letters like Sue's, there would be a lot less need for letters like this in the first place.

 

This is an apology to the lady behind me in line at Cub Foods in Edina on a recent Sunday night. This is also a reminder to me and to others who have ever slipped into believing that we are just a little better than others we encounter.

 

We were at the checkout, and just as the cashier started ringing me up, I saw you come to the line with a small order in your basket. My first apology is that I could not let you go ahead of me, but the checkout process had already begun.

 

My second apology was for pulling out my pile of discount coupons for the order, and especially when one required the manager's assistance. I know I was holding you up.

 

And then I swiped my payment method and you lost your patience. It was EBT - "food stamps."

 

I did not observe you, but my daughter was with me packing the groceries and saw it all: "EBT: Yeah, right," you muttered, with that look of disgust that would have shattered someone feeling just a little bit of shame over needing food stamps.

 

As we walked to the car, my daughter told me what had happened, and I sensed her resolve about having made the right decision to work for social justice as she starts her senior year in a social-work program.

 

We talked about you all the way to the car, and about how sorry we felt for people who were judged because they depended on support from others. But my real apology is that I did not make eye contact with you and get out of the car to talk with you as you got into your car right next to mine.

 

Instead, I did what many people would do: I felt ashamed and humiliated and angry about your ignorance.

 

If I'd had the guts to talk with you, I would have told you about my disabled 28-year-old son living with us. We have never asked for public support for him.

 

But recently we have decided that it is our responsibility to introduce him to the programs that will have to support him when we are no longer here to care for him. We started small: He is eligible for food support, and he agreed to receive it to be able to feel that he is contributing his share to the food bill, since he is unable to work.

 

I know we looked like people you might think need EBT: a bit unkempt in sweatpants and T-shirts. If I'd had the guts to talk to you, I would have told you that I'd just had an emergency surgery and that my daughter came home from college five hours away to help for the weekend because my husband had scheduled surgery two days after mine. I haven't been able to put on real clothes yet, and I can't lift a bag of groceries.

 

I thought I could handle your disdain, since I am a professional working at a local corporation where I am surrounded every day by people who respect me and care about me. But it still made me feel a little dirty - unworthy - and I still went home and cried in the privacy of my shower so my family would not know I was hurt by you.

 

I am sorry I did not tell you all of this in person. What my daughter and I resolved is that we will never let my son (her brother) go to the store alone with his Electronic Benefits Transfer card and be subjected to this humiliation.

 

We all have our stories, and no one is any better than another. Everyone deserves the respect they want for themselves, even if they use an EBT card to pay for their groceries.

 

Replies

  • MythrylHavoc
    September 16, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    Life is hard and sometimes people need help. Instead of judging someone using food stamps count your blessings that you do not need them.

  • lizmarie1975
    September 16, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    What I still don't understand is who the hell pays attention to the people checking out in front of them? When I'm in line, maybe I'll peek at a what the person ahead of me has on the belt, but once payment method begins, I avert my eyes out of respect. It's none of my business how that person pays and I certainly don't want anyone thinking that I'm watching as they swipe their card and enter their pin.


  • paganbaby
    September 16, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    Very powerful letter. I hope that woman and others like her read it.

  • JustCJ
    by JustCJ
    September 16, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    Yeh you had me till there's a sentiment among conservatives....Tell me, how does one that uses food stamps know the one judging is conservative? And how do we know the one using the food stamps isn't conservative?

  • lyranightshade
    September 16, 2013 at 12:00 PM
    This is a good letter, but I've known others who went from scorning those with an ebt card to needing one in the span of a year. Those are the people that should write about how it feels to be judged and found wanting.
  • AtiFreeFalls
    September 16, 2013 at 12:04 PM
    Every single person I've met on public aid has NEEDED it and had a story. I used to think I knew good people but MOST were exploiting the system and being lazy. After meeting and getting to know some folks and needing help myself, I realized how wrong I was.
  • AtiFreeFalls
    September 16, 2013 at 12:08 PM
    Quoting JustCJ:

    Yeh you had me till there's a sentiment among conservatives....Tell me, how does one that uses food stamps know the one judging is conservative? And how do we know the one using the food stamps isn't conservative?




    Obviously not all conservatives hate the poor. But there most definitely IS a sentiment amongst conservatives that people on aid need to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Look on ANY PA post on here and see the usual suspects, conservative to a woman, denounce PA and blame the poor for the nation's problems.
  • katy_kay08
    September 16, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Years ago after leaving my abusive husband I found myself in a position of needing support.  I was pregnant and lost my job because of it, my ex-husband wasn't paying any support of any kind and I needed assistance while I worked to get back on my feet.  

    I had a particularly painful experience in the grocery store.  At that point food stamps came in a booklet and it was hard to hide how you were paying for your groceries.  Thankfully I was by myself at the time as I went shopping right after school and the kids were still with my mother.  

    The woman behind me called me trash, told me I was a leach on society and that I was her problem and her business because she was paying for my lazy ass.  She demanded that the cashier check my identification and was told by the cashier it wasn't necessary, which only pissed her off more.  

    I couldn't get out of the store fast enough and was so embarrassed I avoided the store for weeks.  When I did go back in the cashier remembered me, pulled me aside and told me she spoke with her manager and they both wanted me to know that my business was welcome and they were sorry it happened. 

    It's been nearly 20 years but it stuck with me because it came at a time where my life was truly falling apart.  Physically abused by my husband, ashamed because I needed the help and made to realize just how disgusting I was in the eyes of the community in which I lived.  

    Thankfully, I only needed the help for a short time, I can't imagine how beat down one could become experiencing this type of disdain for years.  

  • JakeandEmmasMom
    September 16, 2013 at 12:16 PM

     When I was a kid there was a letter in Dear Abby from a woman complaining about a woman who had been in front of her at the grocery store buying one of those decorated kid's cakes from the bakery, and paying for it with food stamps.  The woman was IRATE.  A couple of weeks later, the woman who purchased the cake wrote in to Dear Abby to respond.  She was on food stamps because she'd lost her job due to caring for her daughter who had leukemia.  The doctors had advised the mom to prepare herself because the daughter only had a couple of months left, at most.  So, this was to be her last birthday.  Her mom wanted to make it extra special, so she bought the special cake from the bakery.

    I always remember that story whenever I see people bashing those on assistance.  We just can't tell another person's situation based on a couple of minutes in line at the grocery store.

  • JakeandEmmasMom
    September 16, 2013 at 12:17 PM

     Ugh.  That is such crap.  I'm so sorry you experienced that.

    Quoting katy_kay08:

    Years ago after leaving my abusive husband I found myself in a position of needing support.  I was pregnant and lost my job because of it, my ex-husband wasn't paying any support of any kind and I needed assistance while I worked to get back on my feet.  

    I had a particularly painful experience in the grocery store.  At that point food stamps came in a booklet and it was hard to hide how you were paying for your groceries.  Thankfully I was by myself at the time as I went shopping right after school and the kids were still with my mother.  

    The woman behind me called me trash, told me I was a leach on society and that I was her problem and her business because she was paying for my lazy ass.  She demanded that the cashier check my identification and was told by the cashier it wasn't necessary, which only pissed her off more.  

    I couldn't get out of the store fast enough and was so embarrassed I avoided the store for weeks.  When I did go back in the cashier remembered me, pulled me aside and told me she spoke with her manager and they both wanted me to know that my business was welcome and they were sorry it happened. 

    It's been nearly 20 years but it stuck with me because it came at a time where my life was truly falling apart.  Physically abused by my husband, ashamed because I needed the help and made to realize just how disgusting I was in the eyes of the community in which I lived.  

    Thankfully, I only needed the help for a short time, I can't imagine how beat down one could become experiencing this type of disdain for years.  

     

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