I had an experience a few days ago that I want to share with you. I think it is probably pretty typical of “American thinking” these days, but I’d like to hear your feedback too.
I was in line at a StuffMart, putting my carefully planned tax-free purchases on the conveyor belt while two 20-ish aged ladies in front of me checked out.
Once everything was rung up, the cashier told them their total and they pulled out a card to swipe through the machine. The card they used was the welfare card our state issues- one I see customers in front of me use more and more.
Once swiped, the sweet grandmotherly cashier politely told them that they only had $7 and change left and it would not cover their purchases. (Note- in most places, benefits are reloaded onto the card on the 1st day of the month and this was the 5th).
The ladies then said, “Well, never mind about the stuff in the bags. We’ll just get these.” They held up 2 large soft drinks.
I imagine that my mouth was hanging open, though I’m not sure. I was stunned.
I know I have to remind myself periodically that I am NOT typical- that denying oneself impulse buys, planning ahead, budgeting, and making long-term goals are no longer the “American way,” but still I couldn’t believe they made the choice they did.
Several things were swirling through my brain at once:
- They have $7 left and they bought sodas?!
- How did they not have any idea what the balance was?
- What will they eat for dinner tonight? And tomorrow? And the rest of the month?
- If meals for the rest of the month aren’t really a concern, why do they qualify for the welfare card?
- Will a child go hungry now?
(Let me insert at this point that I do not mean to say that all welfare recipients waste the benefits provided them or that there is never a valid reason to receive them. They very well may be the difference between eating or not eating for thousands if not millions, especially right now. I think this issue- questionable use of resources- applies across the board, regardless of income. I think it is indicative of a bigger cultural problem).
I was so surprised that they bought those drinks that I asked the cashier after they left if the benefits card pays for things like that. She said, “Oh Honey, it will buy nearly any junk food you can think of, but don’t try to buy a bar of soap with it.” What?! What kind of program is this?!
For the past few days, I have been mulling this over in my head. I’m not sure how typical this kind of behavior is in the general population, but I suspect it’s not uncommon. As a whole, we are far removed from the hard-working, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality that used to characterize Americans.
All this has gotten me to thinking about its relation to preparedness. A few things have come back to me several times.
- Are we using our resources to the best of our abilities? How much do we squander on things of no real or lasting value (like soft drinks)?
- How often are we checking things off our long-range goals? Are we identifying an important item and actively working towards its acquisition (maybe a water filter or quality pressure canner or root cellar)?
- Do we just shrug off the hard stuff (like budgeting) for the immediate gratification?
- If what I witnessed was typical, how quickly will society unravel under the slightest hardship?
So, what do you think?