Luck of the Draw

I wrote this in response to this amazingly, powerful article called Ketchup Sandwiches and Other Things Stupid Poor People Eat by Anastasia Basil. Make sure when you read this article, you click on the YouTube of the two people going at it in the grocery store as a man attempts to buy food for his children (who are present) using food stamps. 

I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.

I remember when I was a kid sitting at the dinner table and refusing to eat my peas (I hated peas—still do).

My dad said, “Lauren, there are starving kids in Ethiopia.”

“Let me go get an envelope,” I said.

If there were starving kids in Ethiopia they could have my peas as far as I was concerned.

Little Lauren

Little Lauren didn’t love peas, but loved big white bonnets and fancy dresses!

My parents made it a point to tell us we were lucky. We were lucky to be born in the United States and to have enough food on our table. Things they didn’t tell us that were also true: we were lucky to be born white and well-off, especially living in the South. My parents always said they weren’t rich, but we had plenty. I didn’t know what it was like to go without. We had name-brand foods, and when we wanted Guess jeans and swatches to fit into our new private school scene, my mom could go out and buy them for us. Privilege.

We were lucky, because we didn’t have to go all the way to Ethiopia to be hungry or poor. One could simply look in West Montgomery to see the generational poor that lived there. Children born of poor parents, being raised poor. Children who were made to feel bad, and still are, for depending on food stamps. Children whose parents worked two jobs just to put food on the table. Children whose parents were addicts. Children whose parents wanted to give them the world, just like my parents did, but couldn’t afford to do so. All of those things, I was lucky enough to be born without.

Some people don’t believe in luck. They believe in predestination. I’m guessing they think God thought they were special and made them the child of someone rich, while the people born into poverty were destined because of some sin? I’m not sure how that works exactly, because I’m Episcopal and don’t believe in predestination. Was I predestined to be the daughter of a doctor? What makes me more special than the child born to a family who can barely scrap it together?

I’ve never understood people who look down on the poor. People who say, “Oh, they should get a job.” I want to ask them, “Have you ever been in their shoes?” Do you know what it’s like to have to choose whether to buy your child new shoes or to eat tonight? Do you know what it’s like to have to tell your kids, “Hey, I’m sorry but we don’t have enough food to have dinner tonight? We don’t have enough money to buy your Type 1 Diabetes medicine. I can’t send you on that field trip, because it costs $20, and I don’t have that.” I don’t know what that’s like, because I was born lucky.

My kids have had much the same experience as I did growing up. I don’t have as much as my parents, but we are well-off. Teach compassion. Have your children volunteer in a food bank. Show them that poor people are people too, with hopes and dreams just like them. Understand that being born poor does not make someone less of a human. It makes them a victim of their circumstance. In this country, being born poor really does dictate whether or not you’ll end up being poor. Talk about the American Dream—it barely exists. Talk about the luck of the draw influencing outcome in life. I basically hit the jackpot. My kids did too. We won the lottery of birth.

So next time you think poor people are scamming the system, maybe you should take a step back and look at where those thoughts are coming from. Because chances are, your bias as someone born lucky is affecting your compassion for those who weren’t born as lucky as you.

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8 thoughts on “Luck of the Draw

  1. “Children who were made to feel bad, and still are, for depending on food stamps.”

    I was shocked (and it takes a lot to shock me these days) to learn recently how prevalent “lunch-shaming” has become–children and even school staff openly and loudly making fun of or penalizing students whose parents cannot afford the money for school lunches. I was an elementary teacher until 2004 and any student (let alone a teacher or principal) who would have engaged in such nasty behavior would have been in the office with a call to the parents. America has suffered under both racism and classism forever but how is it that as a nation we have grown so hateful and mean? How is it we don’t recognize our own face in those of other human beings? John Donne is turning in his grave.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In our public schools, every child receives a free lunch. So we are lucky in that no one is “lunch-shaming” other kids, but unlucky in the fact that our system receives that grant because we have an 80% poverty-level in our schools. Living here, I see racism and classism every day. I see how the system is designed to keep the poor poor. It’s quite sad.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Lauren. This hits close to home for me. I felt the stigma of being poor, of using food stamps as a child and of wearing knock-off sneakers. Now I think it strengthened my character but at the time found it very difficult. I remember being in a gifted and talented class and listening to the “rich kids” talk about how welfare recipients shouldn’t be allowed to buy chips or soda with their food stamps. I bit my tongue.
    Sorry…I’m rambling.
    This is a very nice post which shows your compassion for your fellow human beings. I truly appreciated the sentiment. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful, wonderful post! I believe in luck, along with hard work. People don’t choose what family and circumstances they’re born into and if you’re born into a poor and disadvantaged home it can be so hard to get ahead. It really is about compassion and understanding. It’s too easy to say that people don’t work hard as an explanation for their circumstances, but unfortunately the easy answer isn’t always right.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a great and humbling reminder about how difficult it can be for families to simply survive and how lucky many of us are to have what we do. I came from a single-parent home without a lot of money, and while we always had food to eat, something for which I’m very grateful, there were certainly times where it was tougher (though I imagine not nearly as tough as what others have had to face). I feel very fortunate to be in a position now where I can give my kids more than what I had, and I often remind them of how others need our help and to be shown love and compassion, because not everyone has that privilege. Wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

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