Thanks to the people and rooms of 12-step recovery, this past April I celebrated 20 years of continuous sobriety. For years prior, I was a hopeless addict, homeless and prostituting to support my habit. My addiction lead me to incarceration, mental wards and the gates of hell. I have been beaten and raped and left to die. Transition from such a life has provided me experience that very few have. Many people may get sober and even stay sober, but very few utilize their ability to overcome adversity as a pathway to achievement. Early on I learned that you have to give it away to keep it.
For the last 15 years I have dedicated my life to helping disenfranchised people, seven of those year I operated a program for women who were transitioning from incarceration back to society, this included a residential home. One of the most difficult concepts to impart into the hearts and minds of these women and many others like them is self-preservation, responsibility and how to overcome a poverty mentality. Being without, under privileged or plain old poor leads to a mindset of feeling that you cannot take care of yourself and therefore entitlement creeps in. Let me explain:
A woman, who has absolutely nothing, gets out of prison. She enters into a program that provides a sundry of holistic support and options. In no time at all, the very things that she accepted as gifts with a grateful heart, become items of entitlement. First paycheck she gets herself a set of acrylic nails and cell phone. Why? All her basic necessities were being provided for.
Another example: Went as a representative of a wealthy philanthropist to review a new low income housing project that was requesting funding. Beautiful grounds, brand spankin’ new rent control apartment units. The director shared how the majority of the residents are on assistance or social security and that they utilize the local food bank and area food pantries. In almost each and every unit there was a TV whose screen was larger than any I had or currently have in my home, new computers and most units reeked of cigarette smoke.
A family came to our church for financial help. They couldn’t pay their electric bill; they had no food or milk to feed their children. Our pastor wanted to help and decided to take the money to this family personally, hoping he could also provide encouragement and direction. As he pulled around the corner, he witnessed the pizza delivery guy handing off three large pizzas, two liters of soda and breadsticks to the impoverished family.
Certainly I am not saying that every person who is has fallen on hard times, been evicted or homeless or low income falls into the above examples. However, I have worked with literally thousands of people over the last 15 years who want and feel as though they deserve a hand out.
Over the seven-year time frame that I directed the above-mentioned transitional program, 1.5 million dollars was raised from people who are in complete contrast to those mentioned above. These are people who have worked the majority of their life, some in recovery, some have been incarcerated themselves. Others are business owners, church pastors, single-moms and yes even one of the most wealthy philanthropists in the country; who by the way has given away 30 million dollars of her own money to support those in need. You know why these people give, because they know the value of hard work and a second chance and are willing to share it with others, not because they are made to, because they want to.
If income redistribution is the answer consider this: there will NEVER be enough money to take care of people who feel they deserve it. Also ask yourself, how has this concept worked for Spain, Greece & Italy? They are all bankrupt– if you need a police officer or a fireman forget it. They have run out of money because they spent it all on social programs that keep people in bondage to low living and basement thinking.
My suggestion is provide services with a cap – open health care clinics, monitor income of participants in social welfare programs, and yes drug test! Why on earth should I give my hard earned money to someone who is spending it on drugs? I know the argument, what about the children? The children of addicts suffer greatly and sometimes are better off in with protective services. We need independent private organizations monitoring our social programs, the last thing we need is allowing the government oversight over anything else, and they don’t know how to manage it …. Look at Fannie and Freddie, it was bi-partisan, all the politicians on the Hill supported it.
Still, I believe that everyone deserves many chances, but when the system is broken and those who have worked hard their whole lives are being penalized it isn’t going to get any better. There are people who are willing to go to any length to change their way of life. This isn’t a racial or social injustice; entitlement mentality is an equal opportunity employer. Fix the heart and mind of those in need and then things will change. Allow people self respect, to be responsible for themselves, having consequences for cheating the system and awards for honesty, self improvement and small strides of advancement. You change things – one person, one mind at a time.
If you really think America is all that bad, then I say pack up and move to Switzerland or Italy and find out what socialism does; it kills the human spirit and the ability for pride and achievement in oneself!