Life without welfare was quite the challenge, but today it is what drives me to believe that when people see themselves as having their backs against the wall they can survive.
My mother knows how to survive! If I never had to eat another pack of Ramen noodles it would be okay with me; however, noodles are definitely not beneath me. A moment of silence for every pig that ever lost its life to give me a ham sandwich. And God bless Brother George Washington Carver because had he not let the Lord use him, I would have lived without the magic of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This was the diet of a family that refused the assistance of the system.
To dispel the stereotype of people that lived in South Rome, I didn’t know a family on welfare, or that took food stamps from our neighborhood. Most of us were struggling to make ends meet……and the ends weren’t meeting. So our perception of drug dealers were a little different. I am in know way condoning the selling of drugs, but I lived in a neighborhood where dope money fed me many a day. Most trips that we took to McDonald’s and Krystal’s were trips taken on empty pockets. It was the hustlers that would always foot the bill. For a number of years I purposely never discussed the struggle, because there was no way to convince people of how a person could post up on the block with drugs all around them with the potential of going to jail at any minute ever present. I simply viewed us all as survivors that were choosing different paths to freedom.
I remember going to the home of an individual who’s family was receiving welfare and food stamps. After leaving their house I wanted welfare and food stamps. I think I even asked if we could get food stamps because I saw variety and abundance. What I did not know at the time was that much of the welfare and food stamps were providing for families and at the same time creating cyclical dependence. I know of many that eventually got out of the loop and many whose children continued the cycle.
This was our reality, but was endured that we might reach our destiny. I would not trade the struggle. If I could go back and say anything I would encourage my mother to hang in there, we are going to be okay. Systems are not created that we would completely and blindly trust. Sarah Breathnach said,” Always remember that striving and struggle precede success, even in the dictionary.” Our struggles may be different. For some struggle has and will never be about food, clothing, and shelter-one does not trump the other. Please know that there are more enduring and making it without the assistance of the system.