Earlier today I started a new category/page/blog for more than a few reasons, and put a link to the blog on this page, rather than having a post on this page. I wasn’t sure I wanted to start another blog but…
Let me begin by saying I feel I have been blessed many times in many ways throughout my life. No matter what happens I have been able to find a blessing and to make life relative to something else, so I can have that blessing. There will always be people who have more than or less than, can do and cannot do. I find that extremes and degrees of life are important to notice and discuss. I have no reason to try to make myself appear better than anyone else or less than anyone else. I only try to be realistic about where I am in my walk of life. I try to be as honest as I can, and find sometimes I may have had myself fooled for a while, long enough to notice the difference and make an adjustment.
The fact that there have been challenges in my life, in my family, as well as blessings, makes me always a student of someone, somewhere. It makes life worthwhile to learn from someone else, no matter how insignificant it may seem. If I don’t learn something today, it was a waste of my time and effort. It can only matter to me long enough to make something happen, to change something, or to go on about my life. Of course, sometimes I just forget, too. It is only my life, after all, that I can exert any level of control over, if you can call it that. I like that someone else is in control in my world, someone I count on a lot. I call that someone God. Maybe I can make a difference somehow, and if I do, I can only hope people remember nothing of me, or what I have done or not done, but what they can or cannot do. What they will or won’t change. What matters to them, not me. Leave me out of it. Yet, I write a blog that few probably will ever read, or could care less about the content when they do read it. My life is not very exciting, but it must be worthwhile on some level, because I generally can make people smile, or feel better about themselves, when I talk to them face-to-face. I don’t know what my ramblings amount to in cyberspace, and maybe it doesn’t matter, except that I made a connection somehow, if only to myself.
The new category/page is about being on foodstamps. It is a new experience in my life, and something I never thought I would want or need or ask for. I am grateful there is such a thing as foodstamps. When I got my first job at the age of 16 I remember wondering why so much money was taken out. Some of “that money” was supposed to be what I would draw on as an adult when I was old enough. So paying into the system became part of every paycheck. It was nice to have those paychecks, whenever I had a job. Years later, the youth is gone, the jobs barely recalled, 2 divorces, children grown, and a couple of lifestyle adjustments, I am still determined to beat my present health problems and get back out in the world of earning a living. Earning a living being the key words here…earning s-o-m-e-t-h-i-n-g.
Not having an income and depending on someone else to care for you through an illness is humbling to say the least. Not being able to contribute is difficult to handle when you are used to taking care of yourself, too. When that person, in turn, cannot then take care of him/herself and you can’t contribute what you need to, it becomes another challenge. Having no insurance just puts you in the same boat as everyone else. You try to figure out how to pay something every month to however many doctors you have seen. You still need to have food, shelter, electric, heat, and whatever bills are on the list. It isn’t impossible for everyone who finds themselves in that circumstance. It is impossible for many though. A lot of people just do without.
They do without when the rent can’t be paid, and they get evicted. They do without when the electric bill can’t be paid, and they have no other way to stay warm. They do without when it is a choice between medication and food that week. I am fortunate to not have to make too many “between choices”. Like I said, there will always be those who have more than and less than I do, and I consider myself blessed. Some may look at where I live and think they could never live in a place like this. My sister calls it a hovel. I call it home. Someone else may say, gee, a place out of the rain, the wind, someplace where you can light a fire in the stove to stay warm. Now that’s living. Yes, it is all relative.
So why would I write about my new foodstamp diet, when there are people who don’t eat but a potato a day, or those who are struggling to make ends meet without foodstamps, or those who can’t imagine ever being is such a circumstance, and may even admonish someone about being in that place, to have to ask for assistance? Why? I don’t know, really, other than to allow part of my journey to cause a link in the chain. If someone else discusses a child who ate nothing today, and does something to address it, or makes a meal for a friend or neighbor that may not tell you they aren’t eating, isn’t it worth the time it takes to write something, anything to make someone think about someone, something else for long enough to roll that ball forward?
I don’t know if my method is the best way, or even any way, mentioning something in my own life in such a way that may seem a bit ridiculous to some…either those with more, or with less, or just now wondering, how is their life any different or better or worse because of it…and quite frankly, there are a lot of other things to read and discuss more interesting and important than my journey. Yet I continue…
My friend and I went to the laundromat together and had an interesting discussion with someone neither of us had met before. We had the discussion about my starting the new blog, whether it was worthwhile, if people would be upset about the things I write, or if it would be beneficial in any way. People can always choose another blog. A few moments later a young lady came in and sat in our area while she waited for her clothes to finish drying. She was reading a book titled “In Defense of Food”. With a title like that, and that I was wondering if I should continue the blog, I asked her what it was about, she telling me about eating healthier, going back to basics, not eating processed foods, etc. I thought, OK, Lord, what is it you want from me today?
I have a tendency to think there is a lot to the coincidences in my life, whether one calls them that or not. Basically, I think nothing comes by chance, there is something that connects it all. In this case, it is food somehow. There was also another woman sitting there, who had come into the building at the same time we did. We had already exchanged a few pleasantries, and I knew she was listening to other conversations my friend and I had, because now and then she would laugh or make a small comment. I decided I should ask, is it worth it to tell people I have started writing something about my experience and ask about their experiences, so that which we have in common can be out there in the consciousness somehow, and maybe somehow, someplace, at some time, things may start to change for those that really need help? I don’t know, but I went ahead and started the conversation in the direction of foodstamps.
Within a few moments the young woman with the conversation-starter was gone, leaving my friend and the woman with whom the conversation continued. I told her how much we were receiving, and she said that was a lot of money for food stamps. Two people, $298. I had no way to measure it, other than knowing it was wonderful to have a way to eat since we had no money coming in from any jobs, and any cash was a toss-up between bills and food. She told me she was on social security and received $10 a month in food stamps. Dag.
$10 a month? She said she wondered sometimes why they put that through the system, but that many others she knows are getting the same thing (she lives in a community for the elderly). I asked her how she manages that, and she said there are times when she lets it build up over a couple of months. $10 over a “couple of months”. That is certainly a lot less than $298, even if it is for two. Of course, I don’t know what other expenses she has, what she pays for rent, or heat, or doctor bills, etc., Does it matter? She did tell me she was diabetic and she has difficulty eating properly and controlling weight on a limited income. Her story sounds like that of many others I call neighbor or friend, but I wasn’t aware that there could be an allotment for $10 a month in food stamps. That doesn’t sound like a lot to me, but to someone else, it might be a week’s worth of food, depending on where you live in this world. Where this woman lives, I doubt it really goes very far.
I need to find a way to help my neighbors, people that live in my town, once I can figure out a way to do so. I need to get back on my own feet first. God is always calling on us to do more, to find another way, to take a risk. Well, writing on such a subject IS a risk. It would have been much easier to write on the subject I originally planned…the view out my kitchen window. I thought, that would be a nice venture, little risk. Ask women what hopes and dreams and thoughts have been thought while standing at their kitchen window. I took a picture outside my window, but thought people might find it too depressing. The building next door has been collapsing over a period of a few years, so some might think it isn’t very inspiring, but one has to be able to see the blessings in that.
Here’s the blessing in my story today. With all that the woman in the laundromat has to deal with I asked her how she stays positive. She seemed to have a decent attitude, and was happy to talk with us. She said, at one point in her life, when she was dealing with a drunkard husband, whom she was getting ready to divorce, three kids, no job experience, etc., etc., she looked out her kitchen window and decided she needed to make that change for herself and her kids. Out her kitchen window.
We discussed the kitchen window for a few minutes, how deals are made or broken there sometimes, and since I opened our conversation with a question as to whether or not writing a blog about my foodstamps diet would be worthwhile, I close with the knowledge that I have learned something today. Someone else made a difference in my life by the conversation I was willing to put out there. The woman with the book was a plant from God. The other woman, with whom my friend and I spoke, may have been as well. She said she hoped to see me around town again, now that she knows I live downtown, too. I like learning about who my neighbors are, whether I ever know their name or not. I learn about who they are through chance, and like a child, I ask who they are, how they manage, what they need, so that somewhere down the line, the effort might make a difference.
I don’t know, can one person’a ramblings do anything in the big scheme of things? It can if accounting makes feet. I hear enough stories where a small thing becomes large and many people’s voices effectively change the course. Being the ever-questioning student of life I hope to learn much more. In Defense of Food is not such a big stretch of happenstance. Everyone should be able to eat…and I can do with less.