Sometimes in today's world, beggars DO ride. This makes many people angry. There are so many people in our society that truly believe that if someone can't work hard, or keep a job, or just get along with other folks and stay employed, that they should not be entitled to anything, and it's not society's job to pay their bills, or to provide them medical care, or even a roof over their heads. I personally know many people who truly believe this, in fact, I know that I myself have said it from time to time in my life. If someone isn't willing to take care of him or herself, it's not my job to do it for them.
I have family that believes in this wholeheartedly. I must admit, the family members that say this in my family have worked hard to get what they have, and they really don't have a lot. I guess it wouldn't surprise you if I told you that they are Republicans. It seems that there are a great many of them (Republicans) that don't believe that the government is responsible for paying for welfare moms, and people who refuse to work and those that "live off the system". I've seen families that do "live off the system". They know every trick in the book to get every benefit that's out there. They know the waiting times for benefits, the income limits and every form you need to fill out to get a State or Federal check. Since birth, some of these people have been schooled on every rule in the book. There are some out there that actually earn a living by helping others to get benefits off of the government. Every word I'm saying is true, and you know it is.
Most of these people don't even vote. Sometimes I wonder why we let this system become so corrupted and why we let it go on. I, like many other people, get angry at seeing my taxes go to people making a living off of my labor. You can really get angry at the system that fosters this. That is, until you scratch the surface and really take a look at what we are talking about here. There's the rub... so to speak. People like Rush Limbaugh would rather sit behind his gate in his multi-million dollar home and chew oxycontins while he lambastes those that would take a check from the state or Federal government while he blames the Liberals for perpetuating a system that turns out these "welfare" families. He laughs as he signs his six figure checks for being on the radio for four hours a day complaining about everything that gets him angry and blaming it on the liberals. That's his life, and many people see nothing wrong with it. He has the right to say the things he believes in.
Until they scratch the surface and really look at what we are talking about here. People don't want to do that. We have a President who honestly believes that people who are poor are "lazy". I will bet that sometime in the lives of 90% of the people that are reading this article, you have said the same thing, or thought it at some time in your life. If you would be honest with yourself you would admit it. I have said it. I have bitched about it. I know I have and I admit it. I did it on more than one occasion until a little more than four years ago, when I was forced to scratch the surface and take a good look at life the way it really is.
I had just gotten a new job at a college in Florida, after traveling the country working for a chain of automotive repair shops. I was there at the college for about eight months. I got dental benefits and since the Army didn't have a dental plan for retirees, I went for a check up as soon as I was eligible. The Dentist, who had recently moved here from Columbia because of the violence there, noticed a white spot under my tongue. He suggested that I have an oral surgeon look at it. I went to the oral surgeon and he told me it was probably nothing, but that my insurance said I had to go to an Ear, nose and throat doctor, an ENT. So I did. The ENT said it was probably nothing, but I should have a biopsy and get it out. I was scheduled to have it taken out the next week The Doctor told me I would be out of work for about three days. No big deal, I told my supervisor at work and the next week I went to the same-day surgery outpatient facility and had them take it out.
The next week I was back at work. I came home from work one afternoon, and my light was blinking on my phone. I had a message. I listened to the message and it was a nurse from my ENT Doctor. She said to call the office. I didn't even think, I called the office. The receptionist answered and when I said I was returning the call from her office, she said to wait, she would put me through to the Doctor. At that moment I knew. I never get to talk to this Doctor on the telephone. I would have bet anyone a thousand dollars that I had cancer, and I would have won that bet. He got on the phone and told me that I had Squamous cell cancer and that the biopsy they had taken showed that the cancer cells were over the line of the biopsy and I would have to come back in and have more taken out. They told me that they would tell me more at my next appointment two days later. I picked my wife up from work and told her about the phone call. My wife, being an ex-RN, said that we should fight this aggressively, and I agreed.
I went to the Doctor and he explained over again to my wife what he told me on the phone. He said to get an oncologist and see the oncologist and they would call back with a date for the surgery. The girl behind the counter said we would need a referral to an oncologist and she asked me if I had a preference. I told her I wanted the best oncologist money could buy. She actually laughed at us and told me that I couldn't afford the best cancer doctor money could buy. I told her that I had Cigna Major Medical and Tricare from the Army and had dual insurance and I could get the best money could buy. I got the best money could buy.
The oncologist told me I had a rapid spreading cancer that had to be taken out right away. The Surgeons office told me I had a hospital room reserved for the next month. My wife got on the phone and raised hell, and two days later I was under the knife again. When I awoke a day later, I thought I was going to die. I looked like Frankenstein. I stayed there for less than a week and went home. My oncologist said I had to have radiation and have all my pearly whites taken out. So much for my new Dental Insurance. Oh by the way, I was out of work for two weeks and when I went back they wrote me up for missing too much time off of work. In fact, the day I came home from the hospital, my supervisor demanded that my wife put me on the phone. I couldn't talk because my tongue was so swollen, I thought that was terrible, little did I know that the best was yet to come.
So I went to the Hospital again and got all 32 teeth out. They sent me home that night with some more narcotics. I missed some more work; I got another bad letter for missing more work. I told them I had to have radiation. They told me I had no sick days left and that I didn't qualify for Family Medical Leave because I hadn't been there a year. So here I was, toothless and frustrated, and went to radiation that was supposed to last for eight weeks. On the ride home from the first visit at my first session, My wife and I smelled something burning in the car. We pulled the Crown Vic over on I-95 and looked under the dash for something burning. My wife got close to me and said "Honey, You're what's burning". Yup It was me. I stared at her and we laughed, it was so preposterous.
A few days of radiation on my mouth and neck caused me to develop sunburn that really hurt. I started to fall asleep on the job. I lost my taste buds on the second week and my tongue was as smooth as a baby's ass. I couldn't eat, I didn't drink, and I lost weight. The doctor told me I had to maintain my weight or he would put a peg in my belly and a feeding tube in it. I got pretty weak and started to turn gray. I started calling off from work. Finally, I couldn't go at all. I didn't have the energy to get off the couch. My wife lost her job, as a waitress because she couldn't fill in for the girls that didn't show up. She had to make time to care for me. I started to fall back on my bills. My savings were gone. The next week of radiation I wasn't working, either was my wife. We were broke. The money my wife brought into the house on a daily basis wasn't there anymore. We hocked her jewelry and wedding ring. Mine too. After a few weeks we could only pay half the rent. My wife called "First call for Help" out of the phone book. They told us where some food banks were. My wife and I drove over thee. Since I was claiming no income, I had to be there.
We got by for a few weeks eating peanut butter and government American cheese and canned beans. Now we were two months behind on our rent. My wife found another waitress job around the corner. I stopped going to radiation because my throat was bleeding and I couldn't keep anything down. On one of the days she was at work, I was home. No cable TV, no air conditioning, no food in the fridge, just lying in the heat by myself, trying to make due. My landlord came over. During this time I had asked Army Emergency Relief to give me a grant to pay my bills. I had heard that they were paying $34,000.00 for new fireman in Baghdad, so maybe they could spare a few bucks for me. I didn't know at the time that my cancer was directly related to working on the radars. It was a good thing. They made me fax different papers every day. I had over 18 days of faxes to a Sergeant Major in Washington and about 50 pages of medical records and bills I was late on that I had to fax. My landlord, who had emigrated from Poland about five years earlier, who used to be a good friend (I had lived at the apartment for almost four years), was yelling at me at my kitchen table. He wanted to know why the Army or the government wasn't helping me out financially. He was telling me that he wasn't my father, that he had kids to take care of and he couldn't support me too. He told me that I had to come up with some rent money, the two months I paid in advance were used up and this and that. He was in a rage. Then he just stopped and looked at me. I must have looked pretty bad, because stopped yelling and he started crying. He told me he was sorry and got up and left the house.
When my wife came home I told her what happened. We decided to go to the community center the next day and try to get some rent money. We went there and waited for about two hours. We had all our bills, all my military documents, and my medical records. We finally got called into the office and social worker, a harried looking African American man of about 30, I believe his name was Mr. Leonard, took our papers and asked us questions. When he finished with his calculations he turned to me and told me that I made too much on my $12,000.00 a year Army pension to qualify for anything. At that time, I was clearing $947.00 a month after taxes. I told him that I wasn't leaving until he came up with some help. I told him that after spending almost 21 years in the Army, I wasn't going to end up sleeping under a bridge with my wife and my dog and cat because I got cancer. I told him I had never even drawn an unemployment check from the government and that he was going to give me something. He said he would do some "creative financing" and came up with $700.00 dollars towards out $850.00 rent.
The Army came through with an $800.00 loan that I would have to pay back out of my retirement check. At that moment I envied the firemen in Iraq. I went to the food bank a few more times and my wife started to bring home some money. I remember going to the food bank so weak I could hardly drive, and slapping my face to stay awake. I should not have been driving. I remember some of the people at the food bank bringing the bags of food to my car for me and holding me up as I walked. These were other poor people that were there to get food like me, helping me, and holding me up. I was in the middle of the ghetto in the worst area in Fort Lauderdale and never felt so cared for.
I refused to go back to radiation and about three weeks later, I started to feel a little better. Not once did my family or co-workers call to see how I was. With my family, I guess all the time I spent away from them in the Army just got them used to me being out of touch. One of my old Army Sergeants from NY sent me a $500.00 check when he found out I was sick. When I went back to work, I got another letter of reprimand for missing too many days from work. So there I was, a retired army sergeant, I had a State job, insurance, a small apartment and no bad habits, and in two months I found myself on the balls of my ass begging for a handout. If I could have worked, I would have.
Eventually I beat the cancer. It's been four years now. I'll never forget what happened to me, and what I had to go through. I came inches from living under a bridge in Broward County. I was fortunate. During the time I was sick, I met a lady named Kitty that had cervical cancer. She could have beaten it if she could have had it treated in time. We went through cancer together. She had it for awhile and she used to tell me to never give up. Kitty didn't make it. By the time she got social services to take care of her, she was too far-gone. She was only 43 years old. Until the day she died, she blamed the county for not treating her when she was first diagnosed. Like me, she made a little too much from her job to qualify for Medicaid.
I agree with some of my family. I understand that the government doesn't have a bottomless well of money to dole out to everyone who needs it. The United States Government, like a corporation, has to be run with an eye toward the bottom line. Like a family or a business, you can't spend more than you take in. Thus in that respect, we should watch where the taxpayer's dollar goes. The politicians and we, the people have an obligation to see that our national income isn't wasted.
I have some strong views, I know that. I don't like it when people tell me that poor people deserve what they get. I don't like it when they say that they are not their brother's keepers. I don't like it when they use God and religion as a political tool and at the same time turn their backs on their fellow man in direct violation of everything that Jesus, their savior taught them. That's what I mean when I talk about scratching the surface and not liking what you will find. The reason I'm writing this is because I took a ride yesterday through Union County South Carolina. I saw people living in homes that were no better than shacks. I didn't see any shopping centers, businesses or factories. There was nothing there and certainly no where to work. Still, people lived there. I just drove though; I'm not that familiar with the area, maybe it was just the spot I was in. I don't want to slur anyone's home. All I'm trying to say is that this nation is not a corporation, it's a community, and a country made up of citizens. A Corporation is formed to provide a service or to manufacture something or to sell things, basically to make money. A community, unlike a corporation, is obligated to take care of it's own. It seems that somewhere along the way, people have forgotten that. Corporations today don't take very good care of their workers. Those at the top still make those multi-million dollar salaries and have those golden parachutes, but the workers could get pink-slipped tomorrow without even a "thank you". Still, there are those that are working just as hard as they can to turn our nation into a corporate state. I don't believe that is a very good idea. Corporations are , in most cases, heartless entities that care more for profit than for people.
I'm not saying that everyone that doesn't want to work should just expect a hand out. All I'm saying is that we really don't know what the real story is. I've been there, and it's only through luck and divine providence that I managed to keep most I what I had and survive. Try to remember that the next time you see somebody down on his or her luck. But for the grace of god go I. It's not a very long fall to the bottom.