Trying Out The Soapbox


There was a very hurtful comment on Facebook the other day and this would have been from one of my “friends” since those are the only posts I see.  Then I heard another, similar one from someone I know who probably didn’t realize the message I was going to get.  I think the aim might have been to give me a “kick in the ass”?  I am feeling rather on the defensive side so this will come out sounding like it.  I apologize in advance but only for sounding defensive, not for what I want to say.  I’m not one to give my opinion as I usually fear it would be “wrong” but I’m learning in many cases, there is no such thing.

Many readers know that I’ve been on medical disability (part of the Employment and Income Assistance Program) through the provincial government for the last year for bi polar disorder that has been going up and down with its hold on me over the course of several years. This time it’s so I don’t rush back into working sooner than I should as I had done in the past.  I get a very, very modest income that is supposed to cover my rent, utilities and food.  Luckily I’m also covered for my medications and I get bus tickets so I can get to my medical appointments.  I am so grateful for this income, you no idea.

I’m not “lazy” or trying to rip off the government.  I am truly not able to work and have spent the last year trying to get my life to make sense, to find the focus and strength to go on for my family so I can find my way back to some kind of work, earn money and a source of pride.  It takes so much effort just to write these words because it uses energy and organization I just don’t have yet (as a matter of fact I rewrote that last line 12 times).  I was telling my friend today about how I long for the days when I could open my mouth and out would come words and ideas filled with imagination and intelligence and people looked and listened to me with respect.  Most of what I get now are some strange looks from family and friends as I, yet again, try to convey information that proves to be false or terribly mixed up or I wonder if I’m spitting on them while I’m talking.

Yeah, I’m having a hoot spending the government’s money to live in poverty.  I don’t smoke, I don’t buy booze, I don’t do recreational drugs of any kind and I don’t have a car.  It’s been a real easy way to lose more weight; goodbye to 7 more pounds thanks to the meals of crackers or whatever was leftover from whatever I made Carly for the past several days while waiting for my child tax credit cheque.  None of it exactly nutritious, excuse me for that as well please.  But she was fed.  When the cheese gets mouldy and the milk goes sour and it’s still days away from that cheque, you make do.

I so much want to work again. No one would or could ever want to do this if one could help it.  No amount of budgeting or whatever it is people think it is that someone like me is supposed to do with “all that money” will stretch it any further than it can already go.  There are no extras.  Cough medicine when I was sick? It costs money. Toilet paper costs more than $10 for crying out loud! It’s a very good thing only one of us bleeds once a month now or I don’t know how that would work.soapbox

I challenge anyone to live on $30 a day (including rent, utilities, food and any miscellaneous payments you may have, in other words for everything) for an extended period of time and, hey, get back to me about how it goes.

What started all this besides the snide comments?  I wanted to give my daughter a great 17th birthday party.  It’s been such a tough year and she’s still doing amazing at school and gives me no cause for concern like most teenaged girls her age.  I had to drastically change our plans for her birthday because of our situation.    Oh, I know it might not be a big deal for most people if they do or birthday cakedon’t go to a nice restaurant for dinner.  This was something SHE asked for specially and she doesn’t ask for very much.  Ever.  I hated the look of disappointment on her face when I finally told her there wasn’t going to be any way I could take her now.  No matter how much planning or budgeting I do I can’t justify spending that kind of money.  It really means not eating for the rest of the month or no toilet paper or no to many things.  She, of course, being the darling daughter she is, took it fine, saying it was okay but I felt my heart break for her knowing what she wasn’t showing me.  I hope to do better by her for next year when she turns that magical 18!

So that’s enough about how poor I am.  It’s not just about me.  The Manitoba government just announced its budget for the coming year and is giving an increase to Social Assistance rent benefits of about $50 to $70 a month.  https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/commentary/manitoba-budget-leap-forward-poverty-reduction .  I think this is a step in the right direction and still nowhere near being close to reality in Manitoba’s housing crisis.

I hear a lot of people cry out that everyone on welfare should be drug tested.  Oh my god what a message.  The majority of people, and I’m included in that group, are doing the best they can in a, hopefully, temporary situation.  These include persons with disabilities which also include people with addictions, like it or not.  The funding for helping this unique group of persons is almost non-existent.  That circle needs to be broken.

I never, ever thought I would ever need to go to  welfare but I can tell you that if it wasn’t there, where would I be?  It wasn’t all that easy to get either.  You don’t just walk in the door and say you can’t work.  There’s criteria that blew me away and I was aghast I met them all.

So give people on Assistance, Welfare, or whatever it’s referred to where you live, a break for a little while.  No one likes being poor.  Everyone likes having support and their pride intact.  I know I do.

Be part of the solution and use your voice to make it better.  And talk louder when you do.

I’ll be listening.

Thanks.

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5 responses to “Trying Out The Soapbox

  1. Oh, my gosh, “yes” to your conclusions. My mom would occasionally try going without assistance because it wounded her pride, and people were so noxious in their statements/judgment toward her. But there is only so far that can be taken with four kids. The pennies she was cursed for “stealing” were not enough, and the suggestions? Equally useless from those who had no realistic concept whatsoever about her life and limitations.

    • Thanks Deb. I appreciate the validation. I really am getting sick of seeing that the “people in glass houses” syndrome is alive and well. Will it ever be dead? Doubtful.

  2. “If you can afford beer, cigarettes, new tattoos, drugs and cable tv…Then you don’t need Food Stamps or Welfare.
    Share if you agree.”

    To the above post, I commented, “Sorry. Don’t agree. 1st, ask yourself what is normal, regardless of economic status? 2nd, examine the nature of addictions. I would rather someone fighting an addiction to any drug to have a cigarette for coping than crack. Especially since they are likely struggling. I don’t want people to spend money on cigarettes but if that helps them keep their kids, for example, they get the bloody cigarette. 3rd, if your only entertainment, source of news, relief and sense if normalcy is through having cable tv, see #1, I don’t have the right to take away dignity.

    What I can do is get involved, start a group kitchen, food buying club, garden, literacy skills building, and give a damn more than judgement.”

    • Thanks Karen. These are all good responses to the problems faced by people living in poverty. I always said that poor people eat a lot of pasta and there’s a good reason for that. Cheap, filling although not altogether that nutritious in great amounts. Alternatives are always welcome.

  3. I’m not sure why people feel the need to voice their opinions regarding situations that do not involve them. We all did our best parenting before we had children. This applies to most everything.

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