There's a woman in front of you in the grocery store check out line. She has 4 children with her and through listening to her talk, you realize she has at least a handful of others at home. She has her naturally curly hair smoothed into a short bob, her makeup is neatly done highlighting her high cheek bones on her dark brown face, and her sophisticated dress and shoes make you assume she's fairly well off.
One of her youngest children begins throwing a fit about her older sibling getting her favorite chips while she didn't get her favorite cereal. You watch carefully to see if this mom responds the way you think she should. Instead, she shows the child a bag of m & m's and throws them in the cart to placate the behavior.
The cart is already quite full with all types of food including some bags of chips, 2 liters of soda, and boxes of cookies.
You try to reign in the look on your face as she goes to check out and pulls her food stamp card out of her expensive handbag.
You shake your head. Another welfare queen. If only she wouldn't keep having so many kids and spending her money on junk food; not to mention her over-spending on her clothes and accessories maybe she could afford to feed her own kids without using your tax payer money.
What you don't know is her name. Or her story.
She's a single mom because after the birth of her 10th child her husband suddenly and tragically passed away. He supported the family well and was a devoted father and partner for 20 years. He loved to make sure his wife had nice clothes and pretty handbags because he saw how much she labored to take care of their children. After his death she was left floundering trying to manage their minimal life insurance that didn't stretch past the mortgage and utilities.
So she did what she had to do. She picked up part time work to help cover the rest of the bills and applied for assistance for anything she could so that she could be home when her kids got off the school bus.
She continued to wear the clothes her husband had purchased before his death and took meticulous care of them knowing they may have to last many more years. While it often made her feel out of place and embarrassed when she had to wear them to the welfare office, she simply couldn't afford to purchase other items of clothing that would fit society's image of what a woman in need of assistance should look like.
The junk food in her cart was for her child's birthday party in the upcoming weekend. She cried over the cookies because given her work schedule and family demands, she simply wouldn't be able to make an elaborate cake this year. It broke her heart. Little reminders of how much their life had changed in the last year.
I'm thankful for her sake that she doesn't have time to check in to Facebook. It's a war zone for those in need with regular posting of memes that decry her abuse of the system and tell her that she should have to prove her worthiness of being able to feed her children with drug tests or be given only rice and beans.
This is just one woman's story, and it's not nearly every welfare recipient's story. But they each do have a story. One that you most likely don't know, or don't know in it's entirety.
So chose grace. Choose to show those in need true grace, not acceptance based on criteria you've set up in your mind. Not skepticism that maybe they are one of "those" who are abusing a safety net. Unless you are their social worker or the one in charge of deciding their need, just choose grace.