My mother was a "welfare mom." I have a hard time saying that. There is judgment and shame attached to it, even though there should not be. So why is that? The definition of "welfare" is "the state of being happy, healthy, or successful." This is a good thing; we should wish it for everyone.
My mother worked hard her entire life. But due to circumstances outside her control, she ended up raising five children and supporting a bum husband. She found ingenious ways to fit more work into a day than anyone I've ever known, but there was still not enough money to support a household of seven, and not enough time to work multiple jobs outside the home as she did the cooking and parenting. We were "working poor" as most families on assistance are today..
The assistance of the public made a huge difference to my family. I felt shame as a kid when the grocery store clerk loudly counted out our food stamps, but I feel no shame now. Public assistance played a critical role in my life, and I am extremely grateful. So I will take this opportunity to say thanks to all of you taxpayers for sharing your abundance with those in need. Thanks for enabling my mother to put food on the table and thanks for providing basic health care for us. Thanks for supporting my education. I like to think you all made a good investment in my family and in me. I earned a doctorate and work at a community college to help others have educational opportunities I prize. All my siblings became taxpaying, hardworking members of their communities.
If more folks understood stories like my family's some of the assumptions about welfare would diminish that it's for the lazy, that it traps people in dependence.
"Oh, but you guys were different," many say when they hear my story. 'Times have changed.'
With a Perspective, I'm KC Greaney.
Dr. KC Greaney is director of the Office of Institutional Research at Santa Rosa Junior College.