Anxiously I lined up all of my groceries, nervously eying my surroundings, saying a silent prayer that no one I knew would walk in. I made sure everything was in order, hoping to speed up the process of getting through the check-out line. As the man in front of me gathered his bags into his cart, the checker glanced my direction and groaned, “Ugh. You’re one of those people.”
And I was. I was one of those people. And now everyone within earshot knew it.
To him, being one of those people meant that I was a bum. Worthless. Lazy. Dishonest. A cheater. Scum. A freeloader. Those people.
That day at the grocery store, I was lining up my WIC items. Humbly I gathered the milk, bread, and handful of other ingredients we were blessed to get, and attempted to hurry through the payment process, hoping not to be noticed or draw too much attention.
I was a mother in a situation I didn’t want to be in. I hadn’t asked for our family to lose half of our income. I wasn’t “working the system” or relishing the moment. Accepting help wasn’t any type of gravy train. Accepting help was the most humbling experience of my life.
The grocery checker and so many like him, seek out ways to shame those people. The thing is, those people aren’t bad people. But, for so many, the person in need is seen as “less than” and undeserving of grace.
Accepting help changed my life – but not in a financial way.
During those months of free cereal and government cheese, I learned things about humility and grace that rocked me to my core. The formula and peanut butter kept us alive. But grace kept us going.
A few months after my experience with the checker, I returned back to the store. A pit formed in my stomach as my turn to pay approached. The checker smiled at me warmly – no trace of judgement in her eyes. She met my eyes and said, “This does a lot of good for a lot of folks. Don’t you worry about it honey, I’ve been there too.”
If you are a mom who is struggling to make ends meet – know this. You are okay. You are worthwhile. You are loved. And honey, I’ve been there too.
Hold your head up. You are NOT alone. There is no reason to stare at the floor and avoid eye contact as you make your way through that check-out line or as you wait your turn at the food pantry. You are not the only mom carefully lining up her food “by the check” or swiping an EBT instead of a debit. You are doing what you have to do.
Those like the checker, who exist in a world without grace or compassion want you to believe that you are the problem. The real problem lies with those pointing the fingers – seeking out ways to publicly shame, belittle, and humiliate those in need. Shame is not the answer. Humiliation won’t meet a need. Judgement solves nothing.
But grace….grace can turn a rough phase of life into something bearable. Grace allows you to meet the eyes of those around you. It keeps your chin up and helps your smile to be that much less forced.
Food assistance for many is for a season. But grace? Grace is forever. Grace is transformative.
Grace turns an embarrassed and ashamed mother in line at the grocery store into a confident human who feels worthy of love and respect. Grace removes the stigma from need, and allows those who are truly struggling to accept the help that is available to them. Grace silences the lie that some are more deserving of love and kindness than others. Grace breaks down walls and opens doors.
Whatever you are facing, know this: you are worthy of compassion and love. Your worth as a person or as a mother is not dependent on the status of your bank account or who pays for your cereal. When faced with the choice between judgment and grace – always choose grace. Give grace to others, and to yourself. You are not alone. Honey, I’ve been there too.
*Chasing Supermom does NOT publish negative comments. Understanding that the mention of food assistance rouses strong feelings in many, I ask you to choose grace. Thank you.