Dan and I had no illusions when he started graduate school a year after our wedding. We knew there were no savings accounts in our immediate future, no
working fancy cars, and certainly no cushions of wealth to fall on if things grew tight. However, we were excited for his opportunity to get a degree in a field he loved, and his stipend provided for our few needs. There were only two things we could not purchase on our own: a house (mortgage payments would be far more affordable than rent, plus they would be an investment rather than a complete loss) and health insurance. I even took various jobs I hated to help out, but it wasn’t enough. That time was very frightening for us; a new baby was quickly on her way, and we lived in a moldy one-bedroom apartment without the thousands of dollars needed for health insurance.
I cringed the first time I walked into the social services building down the street. Waiting rooms were crowded with regular people, all looking carefully down at their shoes, and I felt embarrassed by my decent clothes. At the same time, I wanted to shout to everyone in the building that I didn’t belong there. Dan and I weren’t poor; we just didn’t have any money. I wanted everyone to know that we both worked, very hard. We weren’t like everyone else in the building.
But of course we were. The more I looked around, the more I noticed young mothers struggling against tears as they asked for food stamps to feed their children. I saw impoverished elderly couples applying for help to pay their outrageous prescription bills. I ran into our next-door neighbor wearing his best suit, hoping to find a better job than his one-car taxi business so he could work his way out of bankruptcy. Not one of us was sitting around thinking Ahh, this is the life; the government takes care of me, and I don’t have to do a thing! We were struggling, all.
The day Natalie was born, she had to have surgery, and the initial bill was $80,000 (not counting the next eleven days she spent in the NICU). Because of Medicare, we did not have to pay a penny of the bill that would have derailed our entire lives. Several months later, we were able to purchase a little three-bedroom house with a closing costs loan from the government (which we have since paid off) and start saving on mortgage, utilities, and transportation. We survived those few years because we were not alone in the world; we received enough help to get us on our feet, and with his graduate degree, my husband is able to have a good job that he enjoys.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard family and friends say that Democratic policy will just lead to rampant laziness and teach people that they can get away with sitting at home all day, mooching off the government. They are outraged that Obama wants to raise taxes on the rich to provide health coverage and better education for the poor. Where did your kindness go? I want to ask them. We used to be some of those poor, and our lives are immensely better for the help we got. Poor does not mean lazy. It does not mean criminal. It simply means “needy,” and why would anyone want to deny help to the ones who need it most? Would you really horde your $250,000 salary if it meant that babies would starve whose parents couldn’t afford college educations to then get good jobs? Would you prevent “socialism” if it meant that people could not pay for emergency room visits or medicine? Would you deny help to “the least of these” in order to teach them an irrelevant lesson about responsibility?
I voted with my conscience this election, and I’m deeply grateful that our future president and his lovely wife understand the power of kindness. Wealth and foreign control pale in comparison to the worth of people, and the hope this election has brought is not to be taken lightly. Even on the blazing-hot abortion issue, I am supporting Obama, who not only has a plan to decrease abortions by 95% but (more importantly) will be increasing the government’s humanitarian work to prevent countless unwanted pregnancies in the first place.
People matter more than money. Kindness matters more than fairness. Opportunity matters more than tradition. This is what I believe with all my heart as a mother, a friend, a citizen, a Bible-reader, and an unaffiliated voter, and this is why I am awed by gratefulness for the next president of the United States.