By every definition of the word, my husband and I are in financial crisis. We are both disabled adults, both of us are unemployed and neither of us can physically do enough to be gainfully employed. As of last April, we suffered a significant financial setback when we lost a good portion of our income every month, money that we used to buy things we used to take for granted. Things like food, medication, upkeep on our one vehicle, and the ability to save a little for a rainy day. After a year (and then some) of rainy days, even that piddly little savings account is dried up, too. I am not kidding when I tell you that we can’t afford to even pay attention. I have overdue hospital bills from last year, for both myself and my 89 year old mother, whose finances I also manage. I have no idea when, if at all, I can pay on them. My coinsurance on my three most important medications rose this January by 4200%… each. Most months, I am making the impossible decision between feeding the both of us, or taking my medication for that month. Stopping two of the three suddenly could be life threatening, so we all know which takes priority.
My father, who worked in manual labor his whole life, supported a family of six on an 8th grade education. He didn’t have the luxury of finishing school. He was the oldest male child born to native Italian parents. He was expected to help support the family of eleven after the Great Depression began. He never once complained about having to work a skilled trade; the back breaking labor, the often times too-hot-to-breathe weather in the summer and the bitter cold in the fall. In the winter, there was no construction work in Connecticut, so he and everyone else on his job was laid off. There was nothing my Dad loved more than his family, and we were his life and his reason for working as hard as he did. It pained him, physically, to collect unemployment during his annual lay off, and he would have rather died than take food stamps. His own parents taught him the value of hard work, and the importance of being free enough to support his family. That is, after all, the reason his grandfather toted five children by himself from Naples, Italy to America… to seek a better life.
Being in our current predicament, while I accept full responsibility for years of poor decision making, weighs heavily on me, because I always think back and remember my Dad telling us the value of a job well done. To not be reliant on anyone to provide for us, and he meant the government, was a huge source of pride for him. Many times I catch myself wondering what he would think of me today. Disabled at 38 years old, collecting that government check every month, regardless of whether I had paid into it. The disability is something I have absolutely no control over, but nonetheless, this is a tremendous source of shame for me, and is difficult to bear. I’m sure his words would not be terribly kind., but as always he would have had good, constructive criticism and loving advice.
This, in a roundabout way, brings me to my point. Society at large does not have much empathy for a couple of disabled, childless, unemployed adults. Now I know there are exceptions to this rule, just like every other hard and fast rule ever made. But it has been my personal experience that my statement is true. Our familial status has been the defining feature of whether society deems us “worthy” of saving. No children? Well, then you don’t qualify for x, y and z services. We were even told once, when we were facing homelessness that we could never qualify for Section 8 assistance, because families with children would always bump us down to the bottom of the list. It would take literally years for approval, and we had just weeks. I had always thought that government agencies could not discriminate based on familial status, but obviously that means you need to have children to qualify for goods and services provided by most cities and counties. If they don’t mean that, then the Powers That Be should clarify, because that is what we have been told over and over again. Mean what you say, and say what you mean!
There are a lot, and I mean a LOT, of folks with good intentions in the world, who offer everything from a listening ear to prayers. Both are fantastic, wonderful things to offer someone who is down on their luck, but prayers sometimes just aren’t enough for a person or family in crisis. Yes, they would like someone to care and pray, but also ask when they had their last hot meal. Please, check up on them or call, but also ask how, not if, you can help. Many people in crisis don’t want to be a bother to others, and will seldom volunteer that they are, indeed, in crisis, or have a specific need. Prayers are wonderful, but they don’t work immediately to get tonight’s meal ready, or provide a ride to the store to pick up a much needed item, or watch children so a single parent can go to a job interview, or lend a helping hand with household tasks that a disabled person cannot do without aid.
I think, and I’m guilty of this myself so I will shoulder this as well, we get complacent and put too much burden on God, when WE could actually be His hands and feet, and provide a blessing to a person or family in crisis. It’s easy to say, “I’ll pray for you,” and you’ve fulfilled your promise, but things are still left undone. It’s easy to look at the brokenness around us, shake our fists at Heaven and say, Why Lord? Why aren’t you fixing this injustice? When all along, we could be providing the answer, the fix, ourselves if we are just moved to act. Is it not our duty as Christ followers to feed His flock, and care for His sheep? Did He not command Peter to do these things for Him? How, then, are we any different than Peter? Jesus did not tell Peter to refer these people to the government for care, but that he was to do it himself. So why do we pass the buck when it comes to doing the work He has given us to do? Like I said, I am just as guilty in this way, so I am pointing three fingers back at myself.
As a society, and as Christians, let’s all try to do better. Though right now we are in no position to help anyone, once this crisis passes, we will both be much more aware of people that tend to fall between the cracks. I will be prepared to help in ways that I am able, and if not financially, with my time and helping hands. I encourage us all to do the same. Offer prayers, words of encouragement, and then ask how you can help. I will do the same, too. Anyway, this has been weighing on me this week, along with other things over which I have zero control. I know He is working on something big for us, and we are in the middle, as always it seems, of a great testimony. I appreciate your audience, more than you know. Thank you for indulging me in this, and for joining me in this part of my walk in life.
Gentle hugs and God bless!