As a single mother, Marge was struggling to put food on the table after paying all of the bills. Even though she needed help, she wrestled with how her family’s reputation would be perceived if they accepted government assistance, and ultimately looked to a counselor for advice.
1. Asking for Help
Marge: I went there to look for food, somebody told me that if you went to social services that you’d get food stamps. And, I didn’t want that because I thought that would be horrible. I didn’t want people to say that my kids were on welfare. And when I went there the lady said, ‘You know you do qualify for food stamps, it’s nothing to be ashamed of’. And I said, ‘Well, I really don’t want to do that’ and the lady suggested coming to the food pantry and if it wasn’t enough, then come back and go on food stamps.
2. Facing Fears
Marge: I would come and I would be like most people in line, be looking down at the ground or just sheltering my children, you know, talking to them and not paying mind to anybody else because I was highly embarrassed. I didn’t know if people that I worked with were going to come through or people I even went to school with were going to say yeah look at her now. You know people don’t know your story and I was working when I was coming here and I had been through an awful lot at a very early age. Then I met this lady, she made me smile, made me not feel bad at all about being here and I had made a promise to her, I came when she told me and I told her one day I would turn it around.
3. Unexpected Opportunity
Marge: They know you and you know them. They know that I’m a mom. They knew that my son had been ill and they would come up to me and say ‘I’m praying for him’ and they’ll ask how he is. And you know it’s important so that when he comes I can say, ‘hey guys this is Richard’ you know. And then I find out when they’re having new grandchildren, one of them’s daughters is going to have a baby and it’s just really, important to let them feel human, to let them know that they’re recognized, not for standing in a line for food, but because they’re a human being and they’re friendly.
4. Childhood Experiences
Marge: My daughter is an administrator in a city school system and it’s perfect because she’ll say to the kids, ‘You know what I know where you’re coming from, we were poor. My mother made pizza out of bread, out of toast with ketchup and seasonings.’ And she would say to them, ‘I know what it’s like, my mom stood in line at clothing places to get us clothes’.
5. Leading by Example
Marge: To be honest, I could have depended on my family over and over again. My mother and father would have never let me starve, my sisters wouldn’t have let me starve. But you come to a point where you want to feel like you’re doing it for yourself. And that’s why I did it. You know. You hold your head up. I eventually held my head up.