My Years as a Welfare Mom

Twelve, to be exact.

And during those years, I experienced on a very deep and real level what it’s like to be poor, to depend on the kindness of others, and to be told I must quit school so I could work full-time instead of just part-time, which, presumably, would lift me out of poverty just enough to be ineligible for assistance, yet broke enough to suffer.

Although it would take bottle upon bottle of “ink” to fully discuss the time in my life that included short-term homelessness, food insecurity, and harsh stares of judgment, today at Red Letter Christians I recount a few of my experiences during those twelve years, and how they informed my stance on government benefits.

You can read the article here.

9 thoughts on “My Years as a Welfare Mom

  1. Pingback: Thankful Thursday and random tidbits from the web « Barefooton45th Barefooton45th

  2. Been there; done that. And it hurts. And when you have children with disabilities unrecognized by the so-called experts, the impoverishment never lets up. However, we have the impoverishment and homelessness of Jesus to remind us we share such suffering with far more people than those who know only comfort and excess.

    We have had the resources of land to garden, to raise chickens for eggs and meat, and to pasture a wealthier neighbor’s cattle in exchange for meat. The land is intrinsically beautiful, but it cannot provide more than subsistence living for a couple of families even if we had the specialized farming equipment that we cannot afford. I know we are comparatively blessed, despite the dreadful things that have befallen our children. Money per se cannot solve all problems. But the sense of self-esteem that comes from living in an egalitarian society is missing in our rural and village community along much the same lines as you describe in your urban setting.

    The greatest advantage of impoverishment is the even-handed perspective it gives you, and which you so eloquently express, Jamie. Those divergences between rich and poor, comfortable and miserable. are widening across all societies. People who have known both conditions can build bridges of understanding between the haves and the have-nots, The question is whether we can find radical solutions to more equitably distribute the wealth. The wealthy must revise their sense of entitlement. The rest of us must help one another in the meantime. In the aftermath of Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans, I saw a TV clip of a older black woman somewhere north of the catastrophe rearranging the furnishings in her tiny home and saying, “We will make room for more; we have always managed to help when there is a need.” Shame on me for ever thinking I should do less!


    • What a lovely and insightful comment! Thank you for taking the time to share these thoughts. Your statement that “People who have known both conditions can build bridges of understanding between the haves and the have-nots” is one of my greatest hopes in life.


      • Mine, too, Jamie, although I am very focused on the haves and have-nots in the hearing department these days. In that context, I have posted a comment on your lovely description of your daughter’s “addictive” response to your ways of going about the housework.


  3. Excellent article at RLC, Janie. For those who voted against SNAP, etc., I’d like them to commit to a week – just a week – of living at that poverty level. Bet they’d have a new way of thinking.


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