imagine you, on food stamps (5)

 

Note: The following is not an account of any one conversation I’ve had with any one person regarding the Imagine You, On Food Stamps project, but is a composite derived from a number of conversations.

Oh, the conversations this project is generating!

“David, aren’t you afraid?”

“Afraid of what?”

“Of what eating like that for a month could do to your health, that’s what!”

“No, not really. Should I be?”

“Yes! That stuff can’t possibly be good for anyone!”

“That ‘stuff’?”

“You know what I mean. I mean the food you’d have to live on that can be bought for $4.00 a day.”

“Oh, you mean the ‘stuff’ we’re content for other folks to live on as long as we don’t have to live on it ourselves, don’t you?”

“No, that’s not what I mean. I mean those people who receive that kind of food are only getting what they deserve. You don’t deserve that.”

“I’m not sure I understand your point. Help me here.”

“They’re in the fix they’re in because they wanted it that way. They made some bad choices and now they have to experience the consequences. If that’s all they have to eat, let them eat it. Perhaps they’ll learn from the experience!”

“Really? ‘All’ of ‘them?’ How do you know the situations of all of the lives of all of these people? I doubt either one of us would say, after a little reflection, that every person who is poor – or even the majority of the poor – chose to be poor or want to remain in need. And even if what you’re saying is true – and I don’t believe for a minute that it is – what does that have to do with eating on $4.00 per day for a little while?”

“Okay, we both know there are surely some exceptions, but you and I both know most of the money going out for food stamps is just a waste.”

“No, actually I don’t know that … and I don’t believe you do, either. I only know a great many people don’t eat nearly as well as either of us and I think we both would do well to remember that often. Doing so would surely change the way we think of and live with the people around us.”

“So you’re telling me people who make their own bed shouldn’t have to sleep in it? I don’t feel bad for bums who won’t work. It’s in the Bible for crying out loud!”

“I’m saying none of us knows what all went on to get anyone to the point they’d cry out for help with putting food on the table. We mustn’t presume we know what they’ll do with any or all of the help that’s offered to them, either. If they do happen to misuse some, or all, of that help, that’s on them, not us, and it’s between them and the Lord. It’s no excuse or reason for us to not be merciful. Besides, no small number of the ‘them’ you’re talking about are little children, people who have absolutely no say in their circumstances or their sustenance, but who like the rest of us, need to eat every day. There are more than a few words about mercy and about leaving all judgment to the Lord in the Bible, too.”

“I don’t think I’m being ‘merciful’ to them if I see them driving a newer car than I drive!”

“Again, we don’t know all the circumstances of their lives, do we? And, I must say with all kindness, but with forthrightness, I find the way you’re lumping and labeling all sorts of individuals together under the word ‘them’ and as people of suspicious character as degrading and dehumanizing, both of which lead to being judgmental.”

“So you’re saying I’m judgmental! Who do you think you are? I have eyes to see how some of them live.”

“I thin I’m someone inviting you to join me in eating the same thing other people eat for a little while just to see what that must be like.”

“Well, you can count me out because I don’t want anything to do with those folks!”

“I think you’ve established that quite clearly. And that’s the real issue, isn’t it? Not your fears for my health, but your own insecurities over who receives help and how that doing such might draw you closer to some you have little care for … and that’s very uncomfortable for you.” Right?”

[Long pause] Maybe.”

“Then let’s pray. Let’s pray right now on what we both must surely agree.”

“Father in heaven, by your goodness and mercy and in the name of Jesus Christ, we pray that neither one us ever gets to such a point of need or want that we’re ever tempted – much less frequently tempted – to cheat, lie, or steal.

“Because only you are the Most Holy One, we pray you would ever deliver us from setting ourselves up as judges of others. May we both be always content to leave all of that up to you.

“Because you are the Creator of all, we pray that our fear of others would melt away. What can man do to us?

“Because you are the source of all that is true strength, we pray that our fears based on our own frailties and weaknesses would recede through growing faith in you. May that faith lead us daily to where we know by faith you would have us always go: doing good to all as we have opportunity.

“Open our eyes to truly see every person we meet. Deliver us from seeing ‘around’ people. Open our minds to discern what you would have us to be them. Help us to think the way our Lord and Savior thinks. Open our hearts daily so that we love others – all others – with the love you have for them. May we be channels of your blessings, not filters. And may you open our hands so that we are genuinely giving people, seeing as how you are so generous to us in so very many ways every day. Amen.”

[Long pause] “Perhaps I was a bit … hasty. I’m not saying I’ll do this! I am saying ‘I’ll think about it.'”

“Thinking is good and an all too rare commodity these days. Let’s continue to think – and pray – about these things together.”

One comment on “imagine you, on food stamps (5)

  1. “The food you would have to live on…for $4.oo ”
    Truth is fast foods, ready-to-eat, and junk food are not only laden with fat, sodium & preservatives, they generally cost more per unit serving than healtheir options, Fruits and vegetables, whether fresh, canned, or frozen are usually pretty cheap compared to say a bag of potato chips or a “TV dinner”. Rice, beans, and pasta, are all very inexpensive, and versatile as either an entree or side dish. Bottom line $4.00 can go a long way if you need it to, and eating healthy doen’t cost any more than eating junk.
    “…driving a newer car than I drive…”
    I spent a long time working in grocery, and my dad spent even longer in gas station/convience store, and yes, sadly there are those who abuse the system, sometimes to extremes. However, based on my experience, the number of those who genuinely need assistance exceeds the number of abusers by far. It’s unfair, and unfortunate that the misdeeds of a few cause some to misjudge the many others who need help and use the benefits the best they can to get themselves and their family out of a bad situation, and hopefully into a better one.
    Fact of interest: The average “christian” (at least professing a belief and attending services regularly) gives less than 5% of his/her income. If we gave 10 % it would mean roughly $200 billion more.
    Challenge: What if we were trully “giving as we’ve been prospered”? We are the most prosperous generation in arguably the wealthiest nation on earth. For most of us, I dare say 10% would only be a starting point. If we as God people love enough to give what He has so richly given us, would we even need government assistance programs? Definitely worth consideration.
    ol’ faithful

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