Food Stamp Challenge: Day 6: The Silent 15%


Please click to donate to the JFS Food Assistance program. Thank you very much.




Jonathan Garfinkle

Executive Director, Jewish Family Service

November 19, 2012             5:00 pm


As we’d hoped, from Day 1 those of us participating in the FSC and blogging about our experiences have received a great deal of attention from folks from all over the community (some of whom I didn’t even know that I knew!).  Of course, that was the intention – to make a bit more tangible for people the harsh realities of what it’s like to get by trying to feed oneself (let alone one’s family, too) on a skin-tight, unrealistic budget.

People have been incredibly supportive, encouraging, and well intentioned, some even offering me some of their own food out of compassion or concern or maybe a little guilt (tempted, though I may have been, I have not succumbed).  The attention is really kind of nice; it makes me feel like people respect what we’re trying to do, which makes me feel like there is purpose and meaning in what we’re trying to accomplish – a “method to our madness.”

But that’s the stark difference between the millions and millions of real life sufferers and the pretenders, like us, trying to simulate the part for a handful of days.  We’re high profile and noble in pursuit of a social cause; they’re invisible and ignored, or worse, denigrated and blamed.  Where’s the compassion for them - the families and children who really deserve some acknowledgement and caring and just need some help?  Of course, there are helpers and do-gooders all around us; and they do heroic work in support of the downtrodden, the vulnerable, the poor.  But why are so many unaware of or impervious to the pain and hardship of our neighbors?  Why aren’t we all fighting for economic justice and human rights on behalf of this silent 15%?

I don’t think it’s because people generally are callous or uncaring or disdainful of others, or because they believe that “those people should just get a job, stop being lazy, and stop relying on handouts.” I think it’s because most of us, naturally, just don’t want to see unpleasantness around us.  Because we do care, and real life can be ugly and disquieting and difficult to face.  It’s not easy to acknowledge that although we live in a proud democracy that upholds the pillar American values of equality, human dignity, and opportunity for all, those ideals are nothing but an illusion for those silent, invisible, disadvantaged “others.”

But of course, there is no “other.”  They are us.  We are them.  Just look in the mirror.  Could that ever happen to me?  But for a tough patch here or there, any one of us…

Please click to donate to the JFS Food Assistance program. Thank you very much.



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