Let me tell you a story about a girl.
A girl who, for all her professions of pity for the unfortunate, had a tendency to be judgmental about how they got there. Though a great part of me felt bad when people couldn't afford a doctor's visit, the other part of me-- to fit into conversation--assumed they spent that money on themselves.
It sounds harsh to actually spell it out-- but I'm going to. Being poor was laziness. Not having insurance was irresponsible. Living on the rough side of town called for stereotypes.
So I went to college and graduated with a 3.98. I went on and got my Master's and got a 4.0. The more I succeeded, the more this poisonous message began to grow. Why couldn't people be like me? Why couldn't they stop asking for help and start becoming me?
Then I began to look for a job. And I looked, and I looked, settling for one that would barely pay my bills, with no extra emergencies or unexpected car breakdowns allowed.
Already paying off previous doctor bills, I did something out of the ordinary for me today. I walked into a low-income, sliding scale clinic to help me ward off this laryngitis, congestion mess I've been fighting for 7 days. Donning my purple sweater and scarf, I began to ask myself: "What if they wonder why I'm here? What if they think I don't need their help?" Perhaps because this might have been my conclusion years ago.
I found out I needed an appointment. So I called some other clinics around town. $130. $120. Could be more than $200. Tears began to swell up and fall. It hit me that I am not going to be able to be completely independent. I am going to have to ask for help for the time being from parents and others.
And I hate that.
Why? Because we live in a society where being poor is an embarrassment. It's something to look down on people for in the same breath that we offer to adopt them for Christmas.
I'm not saying that there aren't going to be people who abuse the system. And there are people who are going to continually take advantage of other people.
But my eyes have been opened over the past year through the people I have met, through the children I have come in contact with.
Forget politics. This isn't even about politics for me. It's about the woman who works at IHOP every single night, but still needs food stamps to feed her kids. It's about people I work with who can't afford to put their husbands on their overpriced insurance plan. It's about the girl who has her Master's degree and can't fix her car without calling her parents in tears.
As Christians, we all too often study, "If a man shall not work, he shall not eat" more than we do the times in the Bible where Jesus gave things to the undeserving, the thankless and those who could do nothing in return.
I guess now that I am vulnerable, now that I can often not return the favor, I am beginning to see this other side of Jesus. I know this topic is a very sensitive one for many people, which is why I have avoided it even being on my heart. But there's something about being on the other side of the glass that is so shocking that it will shame you.
I work 10 hours a day every day. I don't smoke. I don't drink. I'm not on drugs. I didn't spend my entire paycheck on tattoos. I'm not in debt. And I'm struggling. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I also find myself looking at people a little differently now, in a softer light.
The people I see on a daily basis that I place judgment on should magically have the logic and reasoning skills of a well-educated, economically-conscious, raised-in-a-Christian-home person. It just makes no sense. They weren't raised like me. I don't know what they've gone through in their life and whose example they are following. But the fact is-- they need help. And their children need to eat and go to school.
My transparency is not intended to be a pity party, but rather, a call to humility and compassion. I have seen crowds cheer on someone saying "Let him die" when talking about someone without insurance. And these are people on a Christian platform. These are people who are supposed to be representing us.
Something needs to change. And making someone take a drug test to make sure they're the right kind of poor and other such plans are not the avenue. Accountability and responsibility are important, but they are also vital on the other side. And I think that is what we have been missing.
"If you could actually stand in someone else's shoes to hear what they hear, see what they see, and feel what they feel, you would honestly wonder what planet they live on, and be totally blown away by how different their "reality" is from yours. You'd also never, in a million years, be quick to judge again." Author unknown