I was behind a young father with a daughter, perhaps three or so, asleep on his shoulder standing in the express line at the grocery the other day. He looked worn and worse for wear and I realized some of that must come from living on the knife's edge as he separated the few things he's purchasing into a 'cash' and an 'EBT' pile.
I've had days and weeks, and so have you probably, where I was short on money and you have a distraction routine that run on yourself to keep you occupied as you decide just how much food or whatever it is you're buying that you can actually afford. But having said that, I know I have never needed to live day to day for months on end and since my grocery store encounter the other day, I've spent a lot of time looking up and around to see more and more people doing just that.
The danger of hand to mouth living is eventually you start chewing on your fingers and when that happens you're not able to seize an opportunity to lift yourself up and out of the trough you've become surrounded by. As a culture, we've gotten better and better at inoculating ourselves against feeling very much at all when times for those around us get bad.
We have news sources of all shapes and sizes to tell us the weekly and monthly unemployment and underemployment numbers but the root word there is numb. Which is what all this information seems to make us. I watch TV reports about state and federal funding shortfalls that have the potential to leave tens of millions of people in even more worse shape than they are already in and I feel nothing.
No sadness, no regret, no remorse and no revulsion that any of this is going on around me. In the land of unlimited opportunities, we have winners and losers from birth and perhaps even before which is just so much horseshit. We are the most powerful nation on earth, and in the history of our entire existence as a species. And we have citizens who have no place to call home or no way to get well if they get sick, get fed if they are hungry, and so on and so forth. And they were born into it. No place in paradise for the preterite.
And as I stand behind this man at the grocery, I watch his child sleep and know that whatever she's dreaming (if she is indeed dreaming), no matter how awful it may seem to her, it is far better than the nightmare life she will awaken to because of decisions people she will never meet have made impacting lives of those whom they will never know.