Singing or Crying In The Rain Prompt

You’ve not eaten all day and you’re at the point where the hunger hurts, but there is no desperation…yet. After all, you’ve some options to find a meal, though admittedly they are narrowing as the evening comes on. The damned rain is not helping. The best thing you can say for the rain is that the dampness is taking your mind off the hunger. But soon you may be trading hypothermia for starvation.

Would you really starve? The rational part of your brain is saying “no”. You have water at the public drinking fountains and you know if you got desperate there are…well people that you could go to. And they would feed you, happily. But that would be indeed a high price, one that you are not yet willing to contemplate. That’s the rational part of your brain.

There is a wrestling match going on between your rationality and a rising panic. You are not a street person, you’re not resourceful. What if you couldn’t eat for another 24 hours and then it became 48? Would you go to him then…or to her? After what they’d done. You’d come so far, only to go sliding back.

And then you see it…you had not even thought to look but there it was. Friday night community fish dinner…free to all. You hadn’t gone to church for years aside from a wedding. In fact you don’t even believe in God. Until maybe, just now.

USDA

Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay

US Department of Agriculture.  That’s what was printed on Food Stamps when they were actually physical paper currency.  Actually, the word “Food Stamp” did not appear, the proper name was “Food Coupon”.    I would know.  They are what kept food on the table in our little household after my mother was disabled.   But I know,  people use them to abuse them.  A few I suppose,  but mostly, they were, and are,  used to buy food.  Do you doubt that?

Here I am as as a 12 year old boy. Now come along with me to Key Foods on Jamaica Avenue in Hollis, Queens.  Come to the register,  as I remove the multi-colored currency from my pocket and try to sneak it to the cashier who is annoyed.  She is annoyed because it changes her flow.  There are impatient people in line with actual money.  They are watching.  The bag boy is watching.   They are all watching as she carefully counts out my change in the currency of poverty and hands it back to me.  Look around to see if anyone from school has seen me, especially the girls. Grab the groceries with me and slink out of the store.

Now take that experience,  multiply it by the lens of adolescence,  that same lens that thinks every slight is the end of the world.  Now tell me,  that people want to be on Food Stamps.

One summer, during my college days I was starving.  I had no money.  I had no food.  I lived in a dorm which was probably a salvation but it was hard to find a job.  I was eligible for food stamps.  I lived on puffed rice cereal, usually without milk or sugar rather than take food stamps.  I knew, that hassle of trying to get them and the embarrassment of having to use them. No one wants that.  People take them because they are desperate.  Because they need to feed their children.  Because they are less fortunate.  So stop being selfish ,  and enjoy the fact that we live in a country where we can afford to help people less fortunate.

Don’t get me started on how my mother was disabled in the first place.  That is another, angrier story.

© Glenn R Keller 2020, All Rights Reserved