Sunday, November 6, 2011

SOC Sunday - What Defines Being Rich?


Stream of Consciousness Sunday - A Five Minute Brain Dump

Today I saw something that made me so sad. I was at Food Lion, loading up on bagels two for one and their takeaway rolls that taste like homemade and stuff like lettuce for salads. I had over $55 worth of fresh stuff and bread in the cart ($45 after my bonus card) when I pulled up to the conveyor belt. As I waited for the guy in front of me, I noticed that his "haul" was pretty small and there were what looked like checks (remember those pieces of paper we used to use to pay the bills?) on three separate smalls stacks of food.

One stack had three boxes of the store brand rice krispies - the large size - and a loaf of wheat bread and a check.

One stack had two gallons of milk, a quart of orange juice (store brand), a bag of beans, and a check.

The last stack had a canteloupe and a banana and a check. The last one said in part "no more than $6 cash."

Do you ever look at what the person at the grocery in front of you is buying? Try to figure out if it's a single guy alone with his 12 pack of budweiser and bag of tortilla chips and dip on Saturday night or a woman with two kids hanging out of the kids cart in the front screaming while she piles packages of eggos and cartons of ice cream onto the belt, along with the vegetables she hopes they will eat. Or the woman in really high heels who is obviously just off from work and picking up dinner stuff.

This guy was a WIC client. As in women/infants/children.

My curiosity got the better of me and I think I was actually being rude, although what I was feeling was the desire to hand him my bagels and raspberries for his kids. WIC is for people who can't afford groceries.

And this was probably the groceries for the week. No meat. No eggs. No butter. No peanut butter. Bare essentials.

Justin said I have no way of knowing if that was all the dude was going to be able to buy for the week, but I came away from there horribly sad that people might actually have to live on that amount of food and try to feed their children with that amount of money. And that there are people who don't even have that and have no food at all. Or even necessarily homes in which to eat.

I came away incredibly grateful for all I had and thinking that I need to give more of my time and effort to paying attention to those around me. Because the people who need help aren't necessarily overseas and starving. Some of them are actually in my backyard and starving.


  1. Hi Chelle,
    did you consider, since he was paying separately for these purchases that he might just be a kindly person doing a grocery run for some old folks who didn't find it easy to get out and about. What you might have been watching is an act of kindness from someone just picking up a few random items that had run out between the big grocery day. I shop like that quite often, I have my big day on Sunday and then pick up the odd thing during the week if I go out for coffee with a friend.

    Don't be sad for him he may just be an angel in disguise.

  2. Hey Colleen,

    That's true, he might have been. But even so, it's still sad that people are living on these small amounts handed out by the state. We need more jobs and a better economy.

    And if he was an angel in disguise, then I should be following in his footsteps because what an awesome thing to do.


  3. It's true that you never know the details of someone's situation. I once saw someone in the store doing the same thing and she was decked out with manicure and cell phone and a brand new car. I try not to judge but sometimes it's hard.

  4. There are a lot of different reasons this could have happened the way that it did. I don't remember what the guy looked like specifically, but I do remember that he didn't look like he had much. He didn't have a cell phone, or at least one that he was using.

    I know that people sometimes play the system to their benefit, but there are a lot of people who depend on this system and would completely fall through the cracks of society if it wasn't in place.

    I would like to think I wasn't judging him, but feeling empathy. It's so hard to find a job where we live (or anywhere, for that matter) and I probably would be in a similar situation if my husband wasn't doing as well as he is through sheer, uncompromising determination and a total refusal to give up through multiple rounds of layoffs.

    Maybe that just says you need to work harder if you want to live well, but who's to say that whoever was getting those groceries hadn't tried as hard as they could? And if there were children involved, as there are supposed to be with the WIC program, then that's something to be truly empathetic about.

    I don't know what his story was, but I would bet that whether it was for himself or for someone he was shopping for, it was a situation where empathy is required.



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