How a Government Shutdown Showed me Two Sides of Humanity
Recently I have had a rare look at two very different sides of humanity. As of today, the US Government has been under a partial shutdown for 5 weeks. This has left government workers across the country without pay and struggling to keep their heads above water. As my husband is an essential federal employee, I’ve had a unique window into this situation. Though he has worked his normal schedule this past month, we find ourselves presently living on my two part-time incomes.
Politics and Hateful Behavior
Many people in our country see this shutdown as nothing more than a political game of chicken, with two opposing sides refusing to back down. Social and news media is filled to the max with arguments for either side. Unfortunately for many, though, rather than having an intelligent conversation in favor of their particular viewpoint, it seems they would rather focus on tearing the other side down. There has been a definite increase in hateful rhetoric, mudslinging, and having fun at the expense of others.
Sadly, I have read a lot of comments directed at the federal workers themselves. I’ve seen people called cruel and vulgar names. Some comments claim federal workers are somehow getting what they deserve (for voting in President Trump). I’ve read that they should stop whining and go get another job. Others said they shouldn’t be getting help from food banks, because they should have had savings for this.
Whether or not any of these things are true, they are certainly uncalled for. You see, for federal workers, this isn’t about politics. To us, it’s a crisis, like any other crisis a family might experience that would prevent them from going about their normal life and providing for their family. Comments like that feel to us like telling a hurricane victim, “Well, that’s what you get for living near the coast,” or “You should have built a stronger house.”
What we need right now is love and support, not to be kicked when we are down.
A Personal Experience
A couple weeks ago, I had a personal experience with a “friend” posting some incredibly ignorant and insensitive things online. Though it wasn’t my first time reading such things, the fact that someone I knew personally was saying them made it feel a hundred times more hurtful. I called them on it and received a storm of backlash from this friend and others. It was the proverbial straw on the camel’s back for me.
I felt like we had sunk so low as a people, that I was ready to give up on society. Political views had become more important than friendship. Being right had become more important than being kind. I wanted to take down my social media profile, curl up in a ball, and never talk to people again. I was done.
Another Point of View
It seems at these low times, Divine Providence always steps in to remind me why I keep trying.
Earlier in the week, I had seen a Facebook post in a local for sale group about collecting donations for the local federal workers. Because we have a federal prison in our town, we have a large percentage of these workers. A group of friends had decided rather than get sucked in to all the negativity online, they would do something to help. So they started collecting donations.
I commented to say thank you, from a correctional officer’s wife. This led to conversations, which ultimately led to me volunteering to help distribute donations, since I had “connections”.
And the evening I was to go pick up what had already been gathered happened to be the same day I had reached my low point about humanity.
I don’t know what I was expecting—maybe a couple boxes of canned goods. I figured we’d pass them out to guys at work and call it good. My husband and I drove over to pick them up. I hadn’t even cleaned out my car.
As the front door opened at the house where the donations had been dropped off, I was overwhelmed. Boxes, bags, and stacks of food completely filled the entry and spilled into the hallway. I didn’t think we would be able to fit it all into one car load. And, she said, there was more coming later in the week.
After some strategic organizing, we were able to get it all in my car, just barely. The trunk could not have held one more can of food, and the back seat was piled to the ceiling. And I held some things in my lap. On the way home we decided we would unload everything at home and let people come “shop”. And we would open it up to other federal workers in the area. There was plenty, and we would help all we could.
I spent nearly 4 hours the next day unloading my car and organizing things in our motorhome where we live. It literally filled the main “living” area. It was beautiful! I knew this would be a blessing for many people, and a blessing for us. At least we wouldn’t go hungry!
Helping Ourselves by Helping Others
Over the last two weeks, we have found many families through social media and work that have come to our little food pantry. They are so thankful. Many are single parents or single-income families that have nothing coming in right now. Many had gone to the community food banks, only to find them already empty. Most are hesitant to accept help—they are used to caring for their own—but find they have no other way to feed their children.
More donations keep pouring in. A local bakery donated almost 200 loaves of bread, and another carload of groceries has been delivered to us. We have been given gift cards and money through Venmo to buy more things. Somehow the supply keeps up with the need, and we are able to help so many!
To say that my faith in humanity has been restored is an understatement. The goodness of people, in stark contrast to the hate-filled comments I experienced, is overwhelming. My husband and I consider ourselves extremely blessed to have stumbled upon this work that is happening amongst our neighbors and now friends. It is a privilege for us to be the go-between that brings donations together with those that desperately need them.
I have thanked God daily for this beautiful experience and have also contemplated my own presence on social media. I have decided that kindness and goodwill are things I want more of, and that negativity doesn’t convince anyone of anything. It only pushes us away from each other. Rather than leaving social media altogether, I am committing to make my presence more positive. And I’m committing to do more offline to make a positive difference in our world.
What can you do to be part of the solution?