Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dogs will eat crumbs that fall from the table

The announcement recently by Gov. Schwarzenegger that he plans on cutting welfare to help balance the budget reminded me of a couple of personal stories.

First, I have been a recipient of California welfare in the past. Our daughter was born premature and the hospital bills exceeded our insurance coverage. I was in graduate school with limited income. Humbled, I went to the welfare office for help. I thought, "I don't belong here!". I told the case worker that I was embarrassed to be asking for a handout. She gave me great encouragement by telling me that it the system was designed for people like me and that I would most likely contribute more back to the system than I ever took.

The second story shows the other side of welfare. I had a home teaching assignment to visit a married couple from church. They lived in a humble house. The husband's hobby was toy trains and had an entire room dedicated to his trains and tracks. The wife's hobby was her dog Rachel. During one visit, they told me that things were tight financially. I said that I would talk to the Bishop, who has resources available (funds, food orders, etc.). I spoke to our Bishop and he told me he was aware of their need, but until the husband stopped spending money on trains, he wouldn't be helping.

A few months later, I visited and the husband was fuming mad! They were going to get evicted from their house. I was shocked to find out why. For the last 8-10 years, her father (his father-in-law) had been paying their rent and now refused to pay it anymore. They were being denied benefits that they had grown accustomed to. I did the math and figured that this rent subsidy was about $70,000. I tried to explain that he really should be thankful for the help that they had received. Not a easy message for an angry man.

After they were evicted, I got a phone call from the wife. She was now living with her dad and her husband was living with his mom. I commented that it must be hard to be separated from your spouse and asked why it wasn't possible for them to be together. Her comment floored me! There wasn't room for her husband and Rachel (remember, Rachel was her dog). I'm sure Rachel appreciated free housing.

The title of this blog refers to the story of the "woman of Canaan" in Matthew 15:21-28. Her humble reply to Jesus impressed him.

As services provided by the state of California are cut, there will surely be many who suffer, people that truly could have benefited like my family did. I hope and pray that those who are left helpless can find relief.

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