“That’s Not Fair: Learning Generosity and Grace” Matthew 20:1-16 Rev. Sean Weston
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
March 17, 2019
When I lived in New York City for a year of seminary, I was eligible for SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funded by the federal government often referred to as “food stamps.” I got a restricted debit card, and on the first of the month it was loaded with $194 which was what a formula decided a single person in NYC needed for food. Because of the SNAP assistance I received I was able to take out about $2,000 less in loans than I otherwise would’ve needed.
I remember a few things about being on SNAP.
The first is that it was incredibly difficult to get enrolled in the first place. I couldn’t figure out the online system – and I know online systems pretty well. So I went to the office in Harlem and got in a line that snaked down blocks. I was the only white person in line and it was clear to me from start to finish that the process was designed to be as difficult and dehumanizing as possible.
The second is that I felt so much shame about needing help. I’ve always believed that everybody deserves to eat, and that part of what a society does is make sure that everybody can eat. But since I could listen I’ve also heard the sorts of things our society tends to say about people on “food stamps.” I felt ashamed that I needed help, especially when I would go to pay and everyone saw how I was paying. I felt the eyes on me and my shopping cart, eyes that seemed to ask how I had a nice coat if I needed food stamps, or whether I worked (I did, in addition to full time studies), or why I was getting meat or ice cream. Continue reading