Thursday, August 9, 2012

Struggling in America - M. Cordero

This is the third story in this series.  I am still collecting your stories on an ongoing basis.  My desire is to show many perspectives of real life in America where real people are or have struggled.  Please send them to


I am exactly the kind of person you would expect to be on government assistance. Single mom with two kids.  And I love/hate that I fit that stereotype.

You see I have quite a few friends and acquaintances that don’t believe in welfare. They see it as people weaning off the government and too lazy to get off their a** and work. They picture a hoochie mama with six snotty nosed screaming kids in a rundown house on the wrong side of the tracks. They picture a clueless valley girl chatting on her bedazzled cellphone, pulling food stamps out of her Fendi purse to pay for steak and ice cream. They don’t realize that there are people who actually NEED assistance.

Well, I have worked in a grocery store where food stamps are accepted, meanwhile needing them myself because that part-time minimum wage job and the food stamps, were the only thing keeping me from being totally dependant on my parents for help, or running back to my cheating ex who treated me like garbage. In spite of having served for four and a half years in the Air Force, this was the only job I could get after getting out of the military.

The economy is bad and I don’t have a college degree yet, so my choices are limited. I’m not sitting around having a pity-party though. I will be starting my freshman year of college soon, and will one day be financially secure/stable. I will not take my success for granted, knowing that life was once difficult, and that I struggled to get by, month to month.

I used to feel differently about welfare. The first time I used WIC (Women, Infants, and Children vouchers) I looked around, nervous and embarrassed. My parents, though poor, would never have ventured into a welfare office if their life depended on it. They believed in staying debt free, but were never actually able to. My dad often worked two or three low paying jobs at a time, just to keep food on the table. One day there was no food. Some generous church people rallied together to bring us a box full of groceries. No offense to my parents, they did their best.

Even so, I would never deny my children food due to my own pride. And pride is exactly the problem with how people perceive governmental assistance. There are people who genuinely need the help. Those with lifelong disabilities, and those temporarily out of work alike. Churches, charities, and family can help only so much. If we pay taxes to the government, it’s only fair that the government be there for it’s citizens when they are down and out.

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