I also just read an article online that was about a mom in her thirties, that had 2 children aged 10 and 12. She had moved to Texas from Ohio about 8 months prior and had applied for food stamps sometime in July. Unfortunately her application was denied. I guess she hadn't filled out enough information. Because her application was denied, she decided to take her two children with her to the state assistance office ... along with a gun. A standoff and hostage situation ensued, ending with the mom wounding her children and fatally shooting herself. Her children were critically wounded and are unconscious right now.
My questions are ... did anyone ever reach out to that mom to try and help her? Did anyone know their situation and offer a helping hand? Something had to snap for that woman to go about in the way she did.
Yet someone else I knew had a family of 4 where the mother worked nights making $9 an hour (plus tips) and the father worked days making $13 an hour, yet they received food stamps, health insurance, and rent subsidy. How is that possible? Those people lived in the same apartment house I lived in. They had the same children I did, and they were the same age. They weren't married either. Ooooh ... I know why ... I made $12 an hour and the "single mom" made $9 an hour ... that was $4 less an hour than me. It didn't matter that the father of those children was making $13 an hour while the father of my children was out of work. As a "single mom", making $12 an hour was too much.
Or - how about the time when my husband (we were married by this time) was out of work due to being laid off by a company that didn't pay into unemployment (meaning he wasn't able to collect like everyone else who gets laid off), and I had to work two jobs to survive. I worked 80 hours a week to pay for my mortgage, utilities, food and gas. That wasn't including any extra money that we desperately needed to heat our home - heat with oil in the cold New England winter.
My husband's step-father was the one that gave us information on how to apply for heating assistance. We had 3 small children under the age of 10, we had to qualify.
Well, I called Citizens for Citizens and got all the information I needed. I knew that I had to bring pay stubs, copies of bills, and proof of residence, which I brought. I also knew they opened early, so I made sure I was there right when they opened the doors. I got my ticket and sat in the waiting room with several others applying for assistance.
There was a woman there who had recently lost her parents and she was left with being the sole caregiver for her mentally disabled sister, who at the age of 30, thought she was 12. Then there was a man who smelled of alcohol, had a stubbled beard, glassy eyes, and several layers of clothes. He kept to himself, opting to watch the television in the corner - Good Morning America was on. Then there was the woman with what had to be six kids. The kids scattered about the waiting room, each wearing thick hand-me-down coats and mismatched gloves, while the mom sputtered in a foreign language on her cell phone. Lastly there was a sweet older woman with a worry-lined face that sat by the door. She kept flipping her ticket in her shaking hands, and tapped her foot nervously against the linoleum. I was pretty sure she was in her late 60s, maybe her early 70s.
I kept to myself, cautiously checking my ticket to be sure I remembered my number - 9002. I could only assume the numbers started at 0001 and I was the 9002nd customer hoping to get assistance. I was nervous, stomach filled with butterflies, and clutching my paperwork in my other hand.
When my number was finally called, it was by an older gentleman with a balding head and what appeared to be a permanent frown smeared across his face. His dark eyes were narrowed as he appeared to size me up. I gulped.
He led me deep into the bowels of the building that was surprisingly large inside compared to what it appeared to be outside, and took my paperwork without a word. He pointed to a chair that was in a room compromised of two cubicles, each with a desk and two metal chairs. I sat down and looked around. It was devoid of pictures and other homey knickknacks, which told me this place was not for humility rather it was a place for business. I sat back, wringing my hands, waiting for the gentleman to return. When he finally did he spoke, but I couldn't understand what he was saying. He was rubbing his bald forehead and speaking to me as though I didn't speak English - slow and demeaning. When I asked him to repeat himself because I hadn't caught what he had said, he sighed long and hard, leaned back in his chair as though he had been there all day and night, before repeating himself - even slower and more curt.
I wanted to cry.
The more he looked at my paperwork, the more awful I felt. He kept rubbing his forehead and sighing, yet I couldn't figure out why. What had I done? I wasn't rude. I was trying to be pleasant, my smile waned and I felt tears welling in my eyes. I asked to speak with someone else because I felt he was being rude. He swept his hand out as if to say, "Be my guest," and pointed to the cube behind him where a woman sat with the lady who was now her sister's caregiver. When I asked him why he was treating me the way he was he leaned his chin against his fist and said point-blank, "You make too much money. There are people who don't even have a job, and you have two. You should be able to afford heat."
I was appalled. Tears streamed down my face and I shakily requested my paperwork back, which prompted him to once again give one of his famous sighs before he stacked my paperwork and handed it to me. I ran out of that building and never turned back. I was so humiliated. Not even in Rhode Island, when we had applied for health insurance, had I felt bad, but this miserable man at Citizens for Citizens made me feel terrible!
I called my husband bawling, and told him the entire thing. I also called and told my mother-in-law. If it weren't for her that winter, we never would've made it. She paid for us to have oil three times that winter and we are so grateful for her to this day (this was a few years ago).
It is because of her and the others that have helped my family, that I always think of others during this hard season. While it has burned me in the past helping people, I will never stop doing it when I can. I cannot understand people miserable enough who do not help, and people who abuse those who do by abusing the system.
Tis the season to be grateful for what you have, to be grateful to be alive, to be grateful to have health. Share that warm, fuzzy feeling with someone you know or don't know. Donate canned goods, non-perishable items, and supplies to your local food pantry. Donate a slightly worn coat to a needy child. Pick up an extra toy or two to donate to children who might not have a Christmas this year because their parents can't afford it, or because they're a foster child without a family. If you have a few extra dollars, donate to your local "heat my neighbor" program. There are so many charities that would even give you tax vouchers for helping, if that's what you're in to.
I, as one who has needed before and couldn't get it, implore you to help a friend in need. Perhaps your child goes to school with a child that won't be able to celebrate the holidays because his-or-her parents were laid off or have health problems. My children know so many kids that could use the help, but can't get it and I only wish I could help each and every one of them. It breaks my heart to see them in short sleeves in the cold because their winter coat from last year was too small or too tight. It breaks my heart to see their eyes light up when my children bring out a snack because their parents couldn't afford to feed them lunch that afternoon. I just want to scoop them up and squeeze them ...
Here's my promise ... if I were to ever "make it big" or win the lottery, you bet your bottom I'd be donating left and right. I'd be doing my best to help my fellow man if and when they'd need it. This is why I like a certain author that I like ... she is so charity-aware. I love her for it! She just so happens to write a killer, best selling vampire series too, but that's just gravy for me. :)
**Edited to add, unfortunately those 2 children didn't make it. They both succumbed to their wounds shortly after the standoff. Rest in Peace little ones ... your lives shouldn't have ended so soon ...