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Monday
Jun262017

It's Me You're Talking About

I've stayed quiet about the ongoing debates regarding our health care system mostly because I see you. I see you over there talking about personal responsibility and that you're tired of freeloaders and all of it.

I see you ... and I wonder if you sit across from the table from me at dinners and gatherings and all of that and think about how much you wish I weren't there. I hear it in your words when you talk about obliterating Obamacare. I hear it when you say you're glad they're finally cutting Medicaid. If you had your way, I wouldn't exist. You think I'm worthless.

Maybe not now, but you thought I was worthless several times over the years. When I was laid off from a job I loved and collected unemployment, I was worthless. Got it. I was even more worthless all those years ago when I was a kid living in a trailer park eating the crap cheese you get when you get vouchers for such things and eating Kix cereal because that's all you could get with food stamps back then.

My parents were abusing the system. I know. How dare they take those food stamps and trade them for Kix cereal when they should have just gotten better jobs? If they couldn't afford to feed their kids, they had no business having kids. I've heard you say as much when you were talking about the woman you saw at the emergency room begging for free care and the man in front of you at the grocery store holding up the whole line as he tried to figure out which box of cereal to put back because he couldn't pay for all of the items he had picked out. Those adults are a burden and their kids just shouldn't exist.

I hear you.

I also hear you saying that I'm different because I pulled off the American dream and turned it all around. I paid for myself to go to college, I worked hard, and I dug up from the trenches until I landed a great job. That's different. Of course.

I've heard you, so listen to me for just a second - that "worked hard" and "dug up from the trenches" crap is exactly that. It's a load of crap.

I.

Was.

Lucky.

I was born with the aptitude to do those things, just like I was born with the aptitude to spend my life living off the system. The only difference between Path A and Path B is luck. I can pinpoint the exact days that I happened to be in the right place at the right time in order to be afforded the luck necessary to go on Path A. Life threw me a little luck and I didn't let it go.

Life doesn't throw luck towards everyone.

Which is where we go back to that part about my parents being freeloaders. I can pinpoint the exact day when they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and it all fell apart. My dad was enlisted in the Air Force. My mom worked at a carwash. Neither made great money, but they worked hard and got by. And then in a flash, there was a car accident. It doesn't matter whose fault the accident was because accidents are just that -- accidents. They are bits of luck and none of us have a choice in that moment.

Certainly nobody would choose to be in a car accident while pregnant.

My mom was pregnant with my younger brother at the time of the accident. It  resulted in him being born with a long list of physical and developmental disabilities. The good news is that since my dad was a member of the military, health insurance was guaranteed to us.

But there was the trap. My younger brother - before he was born - became a preexisting medical condition. Nobody who was in those cars that day chose the path, but a healthcare system that is designed to line the pockets of the very rich did exactly what it was designed to do after that. My dad couldn't leave the military without losing healthcare for all of us. He was stuck in a job.

Until he wasn't.

Long story short, a series of events - aka "luck" - landed him as a civilian working for the United States Air Force.

No health insurance.

Not making enough money to feed his family.

Freeloading off the system.

That's when I was the most worthless to you. I know.

By now I've paid back every little thing I received from government assistance probably a hundred times over. Good jobs come with a big chunk of taxes. And while I may be worthless, I will happily pay those taxes a thousand times over because no little girl should ever have to see your words on Facebook and be struck by how very much you hate people who happen to be poor.

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Reader Comments (12)

I'm crying. You know my story. The luck-slash-not-luck.

As a complete aside, which is still 100% relevant: We were rear-ended while I was pregnant with BOTH boys. BOTH. Because of my husband's job, we weren't ruined. Had that happened when I was pregnant with my daughter? I'd still be paying it off.

June 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJenna

Oh, love it. You tell 'em. I'm the poor single mom currently struggling to get food stamps but it's hard to prove to the state that you run your own business but it isn't enough, and between my own mental health issues and daughter's disabilities, going back to a "real" job isn't an option right now. Karma will get them, I think that's a fact.

June 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCheney

I'm not American, but if I were, I'd be a democrat.

Your words are heartbreaking because they are true for so many.

I'm grateful to live in Canada.

June 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

I was lucky too, but I know how easy it is to be unlucky and I have compassion. It makes me angry that people who think they "lead better lives" can't see they were lucky too.

June 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

It's so easy to sit back on one's big, well-fed butt and come up with hoops that other people have to jump through. In fact, that seems to be our new national pastime.

June 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBluzdude

Tears. How very powerful. Thank you for sharing these words.

June 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Bates

I always think of it as I worked hard at the opportunities I was given, and because I worked hard, I was given more opportunities to work at. But the operative word is "given"; I, too, was also lucky. Some people work hard and get dirt kicked in their faces, so they give up. No one but them have walked in their shoes, thus none of us have the right to judge them for that. Even if you are able to complete the mental gymnastics that it takes to judge an adult for their poor decisions (when who amongst us has never made a poor decision), I can never understand why anyone would think those people's children should be punished.

June 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle B

Powerful. Thank you for your words.I pray they are heard and hearts are steered in the right direction.

June 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Thank you for sharing. This is so well said.

June 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Thank you for sharing this. I've lived so much of this. And while my circumstances are different now, I most certainly haven't forgotten.

June 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle Smith

i pray my (now adult) children never know how how i've struggled and worked for them never to go without. for them not to have to stand in a grocery line with me adding every item in my cart up over and over so they didn't see me have to decide what to put back. they thought it was so neat when i could give a total within pennies of the register tape. it wasn't skill, it was fear of humiliation, of the cashier sneering because she had to take off that bag of apples. i've been blessed in the last 10 years with the ability to keep a permanent, decent, able to live off what i earn. i could have applied for food stamps, asked for help, but that fear of them having to stand in a separate line because they received "free or reduced" lunch was something i swore they would never do. i remember those days, i still have nightmares 35 years later. i pray they learned to work hard and have compassion, to help that little girls mom in front of them who has tears in her eyes as she asks the cashier to take off that that jelly. you never know when the tide will turn against you. and yes, reading this made my tears run, it hits ways to close to home.

June 27, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterkimmjo87

Standing O. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

June 29, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterlaurajtm
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