Monday, April 27, 2015
Poverty and Perserverance
But tonight, out of boredom, I checked her out. And then I sat down to write this blog. Thanks Simcha, for giving me the courage to share it.
We are a traditional Catholic family. Yes. It's a choice we made. But it's more than that. It's our lifestyle borne out of our strongly held value system. We actually really believe that our marriage is better and our children are better because my husband works and I stay home. We actually believe that the traditional teaching regarding the use of birth control is a serious matter. As each child came, and there are seven, we had faith that God would provide. As we watched our children develop in the decaying public school system, we began homeschooling because we actually believe that it's better for our children. We have had faith, regardless of our struggles, that God would guide us. But this past year has been a test.
I know exactly what Simcha is talking about. We depend a great deal on the generosity of others. In the past few years, friends have brought cases of food to our home. Many times, that has been the only food we have had in our cupboards. When my mother became ill last year, we had an amazing outpouring of Christmas gifts for our children. We always seem to pull things together, but it's never without cost. Each month, we play the past due bill shuffle. The only bills that get paid are the ones with a shut off notice. Sometimes, we have to plead for extensions on those. Any home or car repair puts us in crisis. And each year we wait anxiously for income tax time. Our only hope, sometimes, is our tax return. And this year, we had to go on food stamps. That $100 really goes far. But sometimes its a matter of whether or not our kids eat that week or not.
About December, I had a serious loss of faith. I knew how difficult our financial situation was and I became angry and afraid. Poverty today in America is a crime. If you don't have running water or don't have enough food in your refrigerator, the state, the government, will take your kids away. It's especially frightening when you homeschool because people assume that something sinister is happening in your home. So, we, as traditional Catholic parents with very limited resources, live in a state of anxiety. This is the reality of traditional parents: the constant fear that some legal authority will take your children because you are poor, or free range, or a homeschool, or natural, or anti-vaccines. I begged and bargained with God. I just did not understand why, after all the positive changes we had made in our lives, why we had to suffer financially like this. I even asked Him to give me a heart and love for poverty, so I wouldn't want the very few things I do have. Nothing changed. In fact, they seemed to have gotten worse.
Last month, my mother finally passed away. The cost for her funeral, though mostly paid, is still lingering. It is yet another bill added to the bills we already can not afford to pay. As such, tomorrow afternoon, I will return to the work force. Yes, we will loose our food stamps. My children will not have their mother in the evening around the dinner table. We won't have our family Rosary. My focus, now, will be outside my home, on a warehouse floor. There will be men flirting and gossipy women. My husband will not see me when he comes home from work, nor will he have me to talk through his work place frustrations. He will be asleep when I come home. Our marital time will be strained. Fortunately, we will continue to homeschool, but our focus will be shifted and the mornings for the children will begin with cartoons and pop tarts instead of mom and morning prayers.
I suppose many will read this and say "Welcome to the real world." We haven't wanted to be apart of this modern world. In fact, we have sacrificed a lot, to NOT be part of it. And tomorrow it comes to a screeching halt. It's a relief really, in some ways. Now we won't have to hear the whispers around the water cooler about my staying home with our children. We won't be the outcasts anymore. We will catch up on our bills. We will eventually get a second car, put some money in savings, repair the kitchen sink, and get a new washing machine. But our family, our relationships, our cohesion, that will change for awhile at least.
As I close, I would like to share this. Living in today's American culture is economically painful. We are a culture of debt, mandated insurance premiums, high housing costs, astronomical utility fees, and the fear of government intervention always looming. Those people who wade their way through it, do so sometimes with blinders on . Mothers have to convince themselves that their day care is terrific. Fathers have to remind themselves that working 70 hours a week, many nights away from home, puts food on the table. Parents have to overlook what their children are exposed to a school. Instead, we live in denial. We become paralyzed. We pray and we plead. And then eventually, we just concede.
So the next time you see a family of 6 or 8 or 10, pray for them. The struggles they face in this world are excruciating. They often don't have a lot of choices about where they live or where they work or how many hours. Many of them get food stamps, medicaid, and WIC. They don't do it because they are bums or lazy or ignorant. They do it because their backs are against the wall and they want to resist compromising their Christian values as long as they can. So be patient with them. Help them if you can.
St. Joseph, pray for us.