Really Hurtful

“You’ll hear, ‘They just didn’t work hard enough.'”

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Transcript for Really Hurtful

I lived in a town that was very against welfare, to a point that I had people in my Econ classes saying that, “It’s social Darwinism. Everyone on welfare should just get taken off welfare and they should die.” Oh, it was awful, especially when my teacher agreed with it. Like he was just like, “Oh, yeah, yeah.” And I was just like, Man, that’s really hurtful because I’m on it.

And then we had an entire discussion about it. In my econ class we had this thing called a fish bowl. So we’re all sitting in a big circle, and then there’s a little circle, and we’re discussing things, and I was discussing welfare, and I was like, “This is actually the truth of welfare. Like you get one hundred dollar welfare check. You only get so many food stamps a month for this many people in your family. You get Medicaid. But it doesn’t cover hardly anything.” And they’d be like, “Well, why don’t you just sacrifice one hundred dollar welfare check and go get a job?” And I was like, “Well, you can’t just do that.” If I went and got a job–because when I was a waitress it was paid under the table–but if I’d gotten like a full time job, like I would have became the main income in the family. We would have lost food stamps, we would have lost our insurance, we would have lost everything, and then I would have had to drop out of school, to like support my entire family, and then I’d still be in the same boat. I’d still be on welfare, like I’d still be on welfare the rest of my life because I wouldn’t have a high school education, a college education. So because they were middle class, they didn’t understand that that’s just not an option.

We’re extremely close. We all have had to be because essentially all we’ve had is each other. So there’s my sister, she’s actually a recent college grad.  She graduated from Ancilla with a health science degree. She’s actually doing pretty well for herself. She just bought her own house. Then there’s my mom, my dad, and they’ve always been like really supportive of me and my sister. They’re both disabled. My mom has her second brain tumor and my dad has a blown disk in his spine. They actually had removed most of it when he had Medicaid still, when I was under eighteen, but then they said they’d have to fuse his spine, but then I turned eighteen and he lost insurance. Then my mom, uh, she has to go into a neurologist to find out whether or not it’s getting big enough that they have to operate on. And she told us the other day that it’s either she has the possibility of dying on the table or waiting for it to grow big enough for her to die from it.

You hear, “Oh, it’s the poverty class, they just didn’t work hard enough, they’re just not doing enough.” And like even in my classes you hear that, too. I hear a lot of people still say, “Well, if they just worked a little harder.” My parents work really hard by being the people that they are, such as my sister will need a babysitter for Kaia when Autumn goes to work. And even though they’re in a lot of pain from their disabilities, they’ll get up, they’ll clean the house, they’ll take care of Kaia, they’ll play with her, they teach her things. When we come home, if we have a problem, they’ll help us deal with it. They’ll work really hard with us to fix anything; if I had any problems with the school, my mom would go. My sister and I, like we weren’t very easy teenagers. You know, we had things going on, and they would work really hard to make us better people. Even if it meant being grounded for six months, which I don’t think I ever was, I think the most I was was two months. But like they would instill in us these values.

I don’t blame the students for their interpretations of welfare or what their opinions are because we’re really influenced by our families. And I feel like they just got maybe their opinions from their parents who were working at Braun Corporation, and they were getting huge salaries, and they got paid vacations, and insurance and everything else. So when they’d ask–“Why don’t you just go to the hospital? Why don’t you just go to the doctor?”–they have that luxury. Like we didn’t. Like I wouldn’t even go to the doctor unless I had five or six things wrong with me just because we’d have to have the gas to get there.

They couldn’t see that we couldn’t go to church. So that was part of it. We didn’t go to church, we weren’t a part of PTA, we didn’t participate in the community because you have to have the nice clothes to wear there, you have to have the transportation to get there, most of the time our car wasn’t working. The PTA didn’t want my parents there because they weren’t part of the community because how could they be? They didn’t have any money to participate. So they didn’t get to see that even though we weren’t doing anything, like it was because we couldn’t. It wasn’t because we didn’t want to. And so they always made us feel really bad about it.

But we just have to live through it. That’s what we’ve done our entire lives. We’ve had struggles, we’ve had tribulations. And that’s what make us stronger people is that we push through it, and we learn from it.