Did I want to turn around and blast out that I was cashing these in on behalf of our foster boy? You betcha. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I bore the shame you felt necessary to hand out. I did it on his behalf. I didn’t have a list of “WIC approved foods” with me and so I picked up the wrong brand of juice and the wrong size loaf of bread. I found out after standing in front of you for 30 minutes in one of the 5 open check-out lanes and then made you wait another 7 while we sorted that out.
Here’s what I knew not to do: I didn’t whip out my iPhone while waiting in line because I’ve heard the complaints. Instead, I just waited with E3’s milk, cheese, eggs, peanut butter, and bread. Once I pulled the checks out, I didn’t make eye contact with you. I already knew what you wanted to silently communicate with me without my having to confirm it by letting you burn it into my eyes.
And here’s something I wish I could communicate to you: We do not know everyone’s stories. Sure, we are smug with our decent jobs and our ability to provide for our own kids. I stand with you on that most of the time. And I hear what you hear: people on government assistance, buying crap at the store for free and laughing about it elsewhere. But there are people out there doing their best to get by and care for their kids and keep their kids and maybe they need a little help doing that for a season. There was a season our own family needed it too. And then there are families doing the best they can for kids who don’t even belong to them, kids who will only be with them for a short spell. And it would behoove you to dig deep and pull out an ounce of compassion over your pound of condemnation.
Now that we’re smack dab in the middle of this whole fostering gig, I’m seeing other sides to stories. Some of them are truly hellish stories. Some of them are simply heartbreaking. Some of them are actually hopeful. But it doesn’t seem to matter much to anyone else – all they see is handout.
There are plenty of cases out there that define the stereotypes. I get that. But there are plenty of situations out there which also bust right through them. And for the sake of restoring dignity to lives all across our country, please don’t make the assumption that you know someone’s story simply because you see the way they are paying for their groceries.
Because unless you ask, you don’t.