Real-people

I like people who understand. The type who are not quick to judge. You can vent to them, and labeling you will be the last thing on their mind. They don’t believe rumors because they know there are two sides to every story. They give you a change before they judge you. They get to know who you really are, then have an opinion. I like those type of people, real people.
—  The Idealist

A letter to my young, conservative, adult child (yes, it was sent):

I see your friends discussing welfare, food stamps & unemployment benefits. I know you lean conservative, but I think it’s important that you know that our family benefited from SNAP (food stamps) while you were growing up. I was responsible for paying for your lunches, per agreement with Dad. I couldn’t afford full price, and applied and qualified for free lunches. So you grew up on the free lunch program. After I lost my job at ******, SNAP is what kept food in our house and on our table.

I’m now collecting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). A lot of people consider that “welfare” but it isn’t - it’s an insurance program workers pay for for their entire working lives. Just like car, life or house insurance. You hope you never have to use it, but if you do, it’s something you paid for and something you are owed. Lastly, we also got heating assistance, another welfare program, which kept our house warm. As you know, I didn’t waste energy and always kept the temps low to conserve as much as possible.

I just want you to think about these things and about how they affected your life and mine before you say things in public about these programs. I know you haven’t, but when people start to complain about these programs, think about what I’ve been through. We did not live high on the hog. Welfare programs are just-barely-able-to-meet-the-minimum-standard-of-living programs, not “free money” to do with as one wishes. Welfare fraud is less than 2% of all recipients. Compare that to theft and fraud in the private sector, and that’s a damn good statistic.

These programs exist to help people like me and, by default, people like you. My SSDI back payments paid for all of your college to date. I know it is very easy to fall into the simple minded thinking that welfare=bad and I’m writing this to you now so that you put some thought into the issue and maybe someday, if you feel confident and strong enough, you’ll stand up to people who disrespect those who are on welfare programs. Because they are disrespecting me and disrespecting you.

Really preoccupied people don’t have the time to be intrusive with other people’s lives or go out of their way to try to find out as much as they can about a person they don’t truly care enough about except to bring up at parties or on the porch with their friends and spend most of their days and spend most of their hours talking about what other people are doing. Really preoccupied people only have time to focus on doing things for themselves, changing for the better and reaching out to those who need advice and help. They can relate. They know what it’s like to struggle and to be talked about. And they know what it’s like to get what you want and feel completely empowered and free. They want you to know and feel the same thing. Real people and real friends just don’t happen. So cherish those great ones and leave the rest to talk about you and the things you do as they waste time on their back porch.
—  Joanna Strafford
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