What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post was submitted by an anonymous reader.

Photo by:  Clark Young 

“My husband and I are well educated. We were both raised in middle class families with strong work ethics. I was an educator, and my husband a master carpenter. I want you to know these things about us. I NEED you to know these things about us.

Because the truth is, right now my family is on food stamps.

I don’t want to give the details of how we came to need government assistance. Not because I’m ashamed of our reasons – I believe they are valid. But because I want you to read my story, and put your friend’s face on it. Imagine your closest friend is secretly on food stamps, because they could be. I feel comfortable here, in this anonymous space, sharing this truth with you. But our friends and family do not know. I don’t feel comfortable putting my family out there like that, open to criticism.
Many of my friends have conservative views on government and economics. To be honest, we do too. But when I see a friend post a scathing Facebook status about how food stamp recipients are lazy people who are able to “buy whatever they want” by mooching off of the hardworking people of America, I just so badly want to respond, “Hey, that’s me! You don’t know it, but that’s your dear friend that you’re talking about that way, and it hurts!” And I know what their response would be, because they don’t mean to be hurtful. They just aren’t thinking about the people behind those policies they’re decrying. I know, because I was on the other side of this issue once. And I never thought I’d be on this side.

I read somewhere that in our society, poverty and receiving government aid are not viewed as simply economic issues. They often have unconscious and unspoken undertones of moral failing. Sloth. Entitlement. There is a stereotype of people who have no desire to work and are out to bleed the system for all they can.

So, I want you to know what it’s like for me. I want you to know that when I go to the grocery store, I feel like my kids need to be well dressed and booger-free. I feel like I need to be an extra sweet and kind Mama. I actually choose which line I’ll stand in based on whether the cashier looks like she’ll judge me. And in our small town, I make sure that no one I know is in the checkout line with me. The whole thing is humbling. Please know that no one has ever treated me unkindly – my own guilt and shame make me feel this way.

And as for the entitlement mindset…. I am so grateful for this help. So thankful that we have a safety net in this country. We paid into the system, never expecting that we ourselves would be using it. I appreciate everything we’ve been given. But, I am feeding my family of four on roughly $65 a week. It’s enough. We’re making it. I’m surely not complaining. But there are no extras and we’re certainly not living it up on the taxpayer’s dime. We’re not in it for the long haul… we’re using this support for a time, until we can get our feet back under us again. And we’re working towards that. And I cannot WAIT until we no longer need food stamps. I already have plans in my heart for ways that I can give back to others in our situation, in thanks for the assistance that was there when we needed it.
I don’t feel I can safely say all of this to my friends. And so, I will say it to you instead, in this anonymous forum, in hopes that I can be a voice for one of your friends who can’t speak up. Maybe I can give you a window into their hearts as well. And when you see that mother in line in front of you pull out her WIC coupons or an EBT card, maybe give her an extra friendly smile?”