As America’s birthday draws near, I am thinking about why I am grateful to belong to this country. We have freedom of speech and many other privileges that humans in history have never experienced, too numerous to mention. Specifically on this Fourth of July, I am grateful for my country’s generosity, humanity, and wisdom. Here are my thanks to my fellow Americans and this great country:
- Thank you for keeping my family together when I was shell-shocked from an abusive marriage with two small boys who were also traumatized and needed me.
- Thank you for making it possible for my children to be with me and not go into foster care or have to live full-time with their abusive father. Thank you for Head Start, which nurtured our family; without it, I cannot imagine progress or health.
- Thank you for food stamps as I worked whatever jobs I could find that were simple enough for me to handle while I dealt with recurring depression and anxiety.
- Thank you for helping me get back on my feet during the two times that the stress overwhelmed me and I lost my job.
- Thank you for the health care, including mental health care, that was critical to our survival.
- Thank you for the hope, the time to develop confidence and learn skills, and the sense of worth that eventually allowed me to crawl out of poverty by my fingernails. It took me more than 10 years.
Was it easy being on assistance? No. I had to give away my car because I could not afford insurance or gas. Jobs I could walk or bus to were the only options. But I had a roof over my head, food, and medical care. And my kids.
I have been on welfare three times in my life. Through Aid to Families with Dependent Children, you gave me a hand up. I became a child care provider, working with many parents in difficult financial and psychological straits who received food stamps and welfare. Then I became a teacher, a job which I love and am proud to be doing. I now teach high school and college.
I know that there are those who worry about people who “abuse the system.” But I can truthfully say that in all my years of living in poverty alongside many, many others in my situation, I only encountered those people earnestly struggling to survive and thrive. It has been my privilege to watch many of them blossom. Out of my profound gratitude, I am happy to pay my taxes and consider myself to be fortunate.
Thank you for helping me become a fully taxpaying, supportive citizen of this beloved country. It is my duty to work to keep this safety net for all the others who are still struggling and who will be better citizens for it. Thank you, America, from the bottom of my heart. I love you.
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