03 Apr Catching the Fish
Just when I’m convinced that the whole country thinks it’s ok to take and get as much free stuff as humanly possible, I have a day like today that has restored my faith in people. I was reminded of the old Chinese proverb about throwing a man a fish, which is easy and feeds him once, as opposed to teaching him how to fish which provides for a lifetime. I am involved in a program called “Visiting Teaching” where each woman is assigned two female “companions” to visit her once a month just to see how she’s doing and share a great message. Is there illness in the family? Could they use a meal brought in? Help with the laundry or tending the children? A simple listening ear? We simply watch out for each other.
Today was the day that I went with a companion to visit two other women. I am fairly new to this area and don’t know these women at all. But having attended these meetings for the past two months, I’m embarrassed to say that I judged each of them. Not bad, not good, just judged. All three are beautiful with lovely families. Probably got lots of money; a little conceited, no doubt. And they’re super young. Wow! Where did they get their money? Boy, was I wrong. (Names of these women have been changed.)
We went to the first woman’s house and it was a very pleasant visit. I discovered that she actually cheered with my third daughter in high school. Ok – so I’m the grandma of the area! She’s a darling girl with two kids and a loving husband who works nights as a policeman. The second visit was very eye-opening. Susan, my companion, and Nancy, the second woman we visited, had apparently been friends for a while; not besties, but friends. They kind of locked eyes as we talked; not ignoring me, but I sensed a definite bond between them. I’m not even sure how we got on the subject but they both shared the fact that their husbands had been out of work for a long time. Susan’s for 4 years and Nancy’s for 1 year. (side note: My son-in-law was out of work from July 2013 to February 2014 and it was horrible stress for the entire family! Can’t imagine four years!) I was intrigued as they shared a little of their experiences. “We simply sold everything we had”. We stopped going on weekly dates until we realized how crucial those times were to our marriage. We just made them more simple.
Susan shared that in the middle of being completely destitute, they were asked to teach an adult ed class on “Family finance and how to balance a budget”. She almost laughed. “If class members knew our situation, would they run?” So each week, as they were preaching to others the value of saving, surviving the recession, and getting out of debt, they were in day to day survival for their very existence. She shared the little miracles that took place during this time of trial. “People were amazingly helpful. One day we went out to the car and on the seat was $1,000 cash. One time someone left a $500 Visa on our porch. We’d go out to an inexpensive dinner and upon paying our bill, discover that a total stranger had already paid for us.”
Susan shared that over this time, her clothes were not only becoming dated but wearing out. Her husband had a habit of serious meditation in the shower. I thought that was strange until I realized that I do the same thing! You generally have some privacy and can pour your heart out while the tears mix right in with the water! Anyway, he prayed that somehow they could find the money to get his sweet wife some new clothes. Later that day Susan got a call. “This is Down East Basics. You filled out a card for our sweepstakes entry and you won a $500 wardrobe!” Susan couldn’t remember ever filling anything out at this store but somehow squeaked out a “Thank you” and burst into tears after hanging up the phone.
Seemingly small incidences like this happened during this entire time. Susan continued, “My husband went back to school to get his MBA which racked up over $70K in school debt and we lived off the small amount of the loan that we didn’t use for tuition.” “How did you ever do that?” I asked. “We just did what we could with the resources we had. We had exhausted everything within our own power. At one point I found myself at DES bearing my soul in complete humiliation.” Side note… Remember that? When welfare used to be embarrassing? Not anymore. Our government has made it totally acceptable to “take” from everyone else which paralyzes incentive for personal responsibility. Is there a place for government welfare programs? Absolutely! Susan’s is a prime example. But the abuse from the government itself and the selfishness of those who “game” the system is criminal. Government assistance should be temporary not a way of life.
Rugged individualism is a deadly topic for the government because being self-sufficient diminishes our need for them. They must have you high on the government freebies which justifies their existence while increasing their power. Shameful. Susan kept a blog about their trial just to keep herself sane. Some people were kind, sympathetic and uplifting while others were judgmental and called me a “spoiled bratty housewife” because I didn’t want to leave my children to go look for a job. I felt that I needed to stay home and be a stabilizing factor for our terrified little family unsure of what tomorrow would bring. It may not be the right choice for other women, but it was the right choice for us.” Why do we pass judgement when we don’t know the whole story?
Nancy proceeded to tell her story. “After we bought this house which was a foreclosure, (very nice house) my husband lost his job. We were devastated. His mother gave us all this furniture to fill up the spaces. We had nothing. (At this point, I’m feeling like a heel. I was thinking that they must be doing pretty darn well to have all this nice stuff). We had people drop groceries and money off on our porch. Others helped anonymously wherever they could. But mostly, we just cut back the frivolous things in our lives.” She laughs, “One day a cable salesman came by to tell me about their latest and greatest deal. “Well, we don’t have a TV.” “What do you watch then?” “That.” She then pointed to a painting above the fireplace where the TV should have been. “The guy just turned around and left.” Nancy went on to tell about the creative ways that she and her husband searched endlessly for jobs practically worldwide. She smiled as she recalled baking cookies to hang on the Christmas tree and then carefully storing them because those would be the decorations for next year also. Even though Nancy’s father is a well-known and successful dentist in the area, they wanted to do it themselves and get back on their feet as much as possible without assistance. So refreshing. I recently heard someone say, “If it’s fair, it’s not a trial.” How profound is that? Fortunately, trials make us stronger and better if we allow them to work for our good, and we don’t play the victim. You’re stronger than you think.
I’m so happy to report that both these precious women’s husbands have good jobs now. And so does my son-in-law! What a relief to know that these families are being provided for. All of us know men and women, heads of households, who are out of work and frightened about how they will take care of their families. It’s a scary world where once held American values of hard work and pride, are now scoffed at and demeaned. The takers will soon outnumber the givers. So continue to be a giver! Let’s take care of each other and be part of a productive community. Hey America dive in! Plenty of fish out there!