I Am The Person Your Tax Dollars Helped
A post on my Facebook page recently got me thinking about how our moral beliefs are formed. Someone said, concerning the recent election of Doug Ford as Premier of Ontario: “Prairie folk, of which I guess I am one, think differently when it comes to business and taking responsibility for one’s self.”
What, I asked myself does that mean? Clearly, she’s implying that I think differently than she does when it comes to business. She is implying that whereas she takes responsibility for herself, I don’t, or at least I don’t think people should be forced/expected to take responsibility for themselves.
Maybe people don’t offer each other help in the Prairies. Geez, I hope that isn’t true. Or do they just offer it to their own kind, their own tribe, their own sort? In what ways is this woman’s world different from mine? Maybe she’s never been poor? Never been desperate? Never been grateful beyond measure for a helping hand in a rough time?
I have to ask myself about the experiences she has had that would bring her to imply such a thing. The problem with social media is, of course, that we can’t sit down and have a lengthy discussion that would lead to such an understanding. Bummer.
And different from whom? Well, from me presumably, and correctly, if that means you could justify supporting someone like Doug Ford in a public position of any kind.
So, let’s parse the statement. How do I feel about business? Well, generally favorable. People need to work. They need jobs. Things need to get made. People need paychecks. Do I think businesses should be able to treat people unfairly? Nope. Do I think unions are a necessary part of the checks and balances of the world? Yup. (Although I do recognize unions can become as corrupt with power as anything else.) Do I think businesses should benefit from unfair tax advantages when middle income and poor people suffer an unfair tax burden? Nope. So, I’m sure there’s room in there for us to both think differently, but also to agree.
Then we come to the second point… and here is the one to which I take exception. This person — a smart and good person, I’m sure — seems to imply that I do not believe in taking responsibility for myself. Snort. Seriously? I’ve worked since I was sixteen, the age when I found myself alone in the world. I’ve worked at every sort of crappy job you can think of… and yet still, working hard, making next to nothing, there were times when I found myself on the ragged edge of homelessness and financial ruin. THANK GOD for the safety net afforded me at those times. It tided me over. I kept my shitty apartment until I could find another low-paying job and keep going. And thank God for my Best Beloved as well, who is a businessman; a senior executive in fact. (And yes, I admit that without him I’d still be working crappy jobs I’m no good at.)
So, because of the safety net, and because of (indirectly) business, I’ve been able to write and publish a number of books. Now, some people may say my books are worth nothing. Fair enough. However, I have heard from others that their lives have been changed for the better by my work. So… for them, thanks for the handout that made it possible.
There were months… yes, months, when I lived on Cream of Wheat, Tang (God help me), and sardines. The cheapest of the food groups. I slept on couches. I worked at jobs I hated, and at which I was not good at all.
People like my posting friend seem to believe there are hordes of freeloaders out there living large off welfare and other handouts. I suspect (perhaps I’m wrong) that she has never really been poor, never really been hungry, and terrified and despairing. I have, and I have lived among these people. It’s a hard, hard life and no one would choose it.
I am delighted to give my tax dollars to offer a hand up, a handout, a bridge, to people who are suffering. And yes, of course, I know that some of them may never surface. They may always, for one reason or another, need help. And what are those reasons? Being a refugee, dealing with culture change and PTSD. Being mentally ill in other ways. Being addicted. Being physically ill. Being constitutionally unable to function in society for any number of reasons. A lack of education. A lack of jobs and decent housing and medical care. Who the hell am I to judge? Are there abuses to the social welfare system? I’m sure there are, but not nearly as many as the abuses to the tax system perpetrated by the top .5% of wealthy people and the businesses they run.
I don’t call myself a Christian… although neither do I shy away from being so labeled (it’s an honor)… but I do believe Christ was right when he said that whosoever helps the least of these, helps me. The world is harsh and cold and very few people live lives in which prosperity is even a distant option. But the world can also be caring and hospitable and loving. We can, as my friend Sr. Rita Woehkle says, meet our dear neighbor where they are without judgment and care for them.
I don’t believe ‘prairie people’ wouldn’t help their dear neighbors, no matter who they are, no matter what they need, because I choose to believe that prairie people, like all other peoples, have the capacity for moral courage and openness of heart.
What a horrible world it would be if I couldn’t believe that. So.. make a Kiva loan, visit the prisoner, help out at a food bank, help refugees, do the work that needs to be done, and the world will be better and we won’t need these painful conversations any longer. See you there.
So elequently and clearly written, and I agree with your every word.
I wish more people thought and acted like you, Lauren. Even with a very harsh and hard past, you have come through and shine like a beacon to guide others.
God bless you.
Thanks, Joan. You’re one of my spiritual teachers. Love you.
One of my favorite moments every few weeks is getting an email from Kiva saying that I have been repaid enough to make another loan. I made an initial investment of $100 several years ago to help 4 people ($25 per person) and have now made microloans to 57 people around the globe. That $100 has had far reaching impact.
I also feel grateful to have a position that allows me to give back to others by hosting events such a dance party to benefit the food bank. What I loved most about that evening a few weeks back is that people were asked to bring canned good for entry, but many also insisted on giving us money. The library and Labyrinth were able to donate over 175 pounds of food and close to $100 to a local food bank.
As a librarian, I do not have a big salary and living in NJ is expensive but I am always give as much as I am able to HomeFront, Womenspace, and other local organizations that help women get back on their feet. I was once a young woman in my late twenties who needed to leave an abusive marriage. I know I was lucky to have family support and the means to leave when I finally had enough. Others are not so lucky and need a place to go for help. I want to be that lifeline to those that need it.
My world is not one where we each look out only for ourselves and our own, but one where we all look out for each other. There are things that I might want, but nothing that I need and so I would rather share.
Oh, Janie, that is such a lovely comment. Thank you! And the world is blessed with your presence. xo
Beautifully written. I am confident prairie people, and the great majority of people everywhere are good-hearted, care about their neighbors and those in need, and are willing to contribute in a helping way however they can.
I love the part where you said “but I do believe Christ was right when he said that whosoever helps the least of these, helps me.” I see Jesus in the people suffering and my heart breaks daily for them. I am so lucky that for the position I am in now but would not have made it without help from assistance!
Beautifully said… I felt like we were chatting over coffee 🙂
A new reader,
Thank you SO much, Christina! I love a good over-coffee chat!!
I love the personal aura of your blog, and this entry just compounds that. I remember being in a shelter with a nearly newborn and a toddler, no help from family and feeling very alone in the world. Eventually, I rose above those circumstances, but not very far. I remember pawning what jewelry I had to put meat on my table. I remember working as hard as my employer would allow so that my boys did not go hungry. I remember eating one meal a day so that they could have three. I am struggling to write my second book now in the hopes that my boys will witness and learn that it’s okay to follow one’s dream. I no longer have to choose between meat or ‘things’, but it irritates me to no end when someone on social media makes an uneducated judgment about those of us who were not born into fortunate and easy circumstances.
So thank you, Lauren, for being one of us. For showing us that it is possible to rise above. But most of all for reaching a hand back.
Oh, Carolyn! My heart just breaks to hear what you’ve been through, but how astonishing and inspiring that you have overcome so much and that you’re writing. Yay, you!!! And thank you for reaching out. It means a lot.