I have a good friend, who through my own quirky thinking, lives pretty well. She has ample food in her pantry. She lives in a lovely townhome. She and her children have medical insurance. She has a car to get around, and at the holidays, she has turkeys and hams and an abundance of gifts. Her children go to camp and participate in extracurricular activities. They have new school supplies and backpacks each year. She has internet access. If she chooses, she has job training and retraining available to her and when her children are college age, she won't have to cover most if any of their expenses.
Because my friend lives off the American government and the generosity of her neighbors. Her only "cash" income is child support and that ended when her ex lost his job. In other words, you and I support her.
Now before you react, understand that I acknowledge that my friend has experienced illness and injury. There are legitimate physical reasons why she can't work certain jobs. Her ankles are a mess and surgery exacerbated the problem. Her children have been sick and it is probably best that my friend be home after school. I get that and am sympathetic toward her situation.
At the same time, though, it seems to me that she could work some. She is home the hours her children are at school. When she has been offered some employment which would provide her a few hundred dollars in pocket money, she feels she must reject it because any record of earnings would make it impossible for her to keep her home and the other benefits. She has chosen to not accept the job training because then she would have to get a job. So what works best for her is to do nothing. NOTHING. And the government is okay with that.
I do love my friend. She is bright and laughs readily and her heart is preciously tender to others. She is kind to my kids and they like her and her children. She is woman of great ability.
But she has also learned to accept her lifestyle with ease. No, I wish her no embarrassment for her poverty. I do, however, wish that her lifetime of being provided for hadn't left her so willing to always look for the free road. My friend has no problem asking people if she can have household items she believes they are no longer using. She gets angry because one church does more to decorate her house than another church. Over the years, she has learned to drop subtle hints about which families are most generous to her at the holidays. My friend seems to have moved beyond the belief that this is a temporary station. She now seems to embrace the notion that because she is poor, she deserves all the help that can come her way.
I think about her often as Checkered and I each go to work and then come home to juggle bills. I think about that when my child is sick and we delay visiting the doctor because the $100 dollar fee for the office visit will arrive when our money is running way low. I think about that when we look at our decade(s) old furniture and know we can't replace it or cancel a trip to see family because gas would eat through the money we had saved for the trip. I think about it when I pay $100's for school supplies and sports and extra-curriculars. I think about it when I look at our kids' horribly embarrassing college savings accounts. And I think about it when my friend calls (on her free phone) to complain that she is poor.
And I was thinking about it when I heard an interview with Mr. Obama's chief economic advisor last week.
To be continued.