I Went To Bed Hungry Last Night
And yet, I go to bed hungry a lot of nights. I run, for miles, to save on gas. I keep the air conditioning and heat off to save money. There are a lot of things we go without, but no one would ever know.
And because no one knows, I am relentlessly judged.
I don’t owe anybody an explanation. I don’t need to give reason’s, I don’t need to explain my story, but what I really don’t need, is the judgmental eyes that look me and my children up and down when I swipe my food stamps card in the checkout lane. That, I almost can’t handle anymore.
I want to look into their judgmental eyes and tell them that my son is wearing clothes from the Gap that were handed down to us from some wealthy neighbors. Or that my daughters dress came out of a hefty bag that was left on our front porch, as so (blessedly) often happens. I want to tell them that the Abercrombie clothes that I am wearing came from my best friends teenage daughter, items that she has outgrown and was kind enough to pass on to me, but that I don’t have any socks on because I can’t afford them right now.
When they see me loading my food stamp groceries into my car, I want to be able to tell them, to scream across the parking lot at them, that my church paid for my car so that I was able take the steps I need towards being independent, which started with being able to get to work. I want them to know that even though I am grateful beyond words, it stings my heart to know that I am a charity case.
I want them to know all of the sacrifices that my family and I have made in the last year. Like the time I sold nearly ALL of my kids toys to be able to pay the mortgage, or the fact that I spent the entire winter without a jacket because I couldn’t afford one. I want them to know how much my heart breaks every time I say no to my children, and that while it is a good learning lesson, it should not be the only thing that they hear. I want them to have been able to see the look on my daughters face when I told her that that because of an unexpected legal bill, she wasn’t going to the summer camp that I had saved 14 months for, and that she had worked hard to earn on the giant behavior reward chart that we had made. I want them to know how she cried and asked why, and how my heart shattered into a million little pieces as I sobbed in the car where she couldn’t hear me.
I want them to know how ashamed I am that my friends take care of me, bringing us dinner, and groceries at the end of the month when they know our resources run low. How boxes of paper towels, Kleenex, and toilet paper are donated by caring friends. I am fully aware at how blessed I am, but it is embarrassing to know that everyone around me knows that I am unable to survive on my own.
I want them to know that I fought tooth and nail to modify my mortgage under a crisis loan that makes my payment less than an apartment, so please don’t judge me because I live in a nice place. Would you be happier if there was another foreclosure on the market?
I want them to know that the daycare school my daughter goes too, is paid for by someone who see’s the potential in her, and is blessing us by providing her with something that I can’t. While I am grateful with every fiber of my being, my heart is heavy every time I am reminded that I cannot provide my daughter with the opportunities that others can.
I want them to know that under my hand me down Abercrombie clothes, I bear the scars of an abusive upbringing, and the trauma’s of an abusive marriage, that I don’t always know what I am doing, but that I am doing the best that I can.
I want them to know that I used to be one of them, “financially normal.” That I volunteered at the food pantry once a month, and at the animal shelter every single Saturday. That I was a nanny for a family with a critically ill child, and when they couldn’t afford to pay me, I still showed up day after day to hook up feeding tubes and clean his tracheotomy. That I have been on missions trips all over the country, even named my daughter after my first one. That I helped build a youth center in New Orleans to keep kids off the street, and when it was washed away, I flew down to help with the hurricane Katrina rebuild. I used to be the volunteer, and now when I look in the mirror, I see the same broken face that I saw on all the people that I used to help.
But I can’t tell them that. In the 4 seconds it takes me to swipe my food stamp card, they judge me, and I can’t possibly defend myself.
They look at me, and they judge me. The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” has long fallen by the wayside. I need them to keep their judgmental glances to themselves and allow me to pick up whatever dignity I have left, and haul my heavy, weary, heart out the door.
I want them to know that I am an abandoned wife, a forgotten child. A mother who’s heart breaks for her children and all they have lost. That I am hungry from the core of my soul.
That I am more than just the person using food stamps. That I am a person struggling to survive.