Pour Your Heart Out: Just Jennifer

About Jennifer of Just Jennifer: Life isn’t always easy, but I love the people in it! I blog for free therapy, social and neural stimulation, and to maintain a sense of self while tending to the needs of my family. It is also my hope that I might be able to shine a light into the world. My life is a roller coaster!

I recently saw something on Facebook about judging someone you see using food stamps for maybe not looking “poor enough”, and it sparked something in me.

I hate to talk about money and am pretty sure I have only mentioned anything about it on my blog in passing. But I’m here to say that my family could be judged similarly.

My husband and I both have legal disabilities, dialysis for him, bad eyes for me. Mark works LESS than part-time. I don’t work outside the home at all because my family needs me too much. I have blogging and do make a little money or receive free products because of it. It’s a very nice perk and I will never apologize for it.

Due to our disabilities we receive Social Security benefits, our children are on state medical and get free school lunches. My daughter receives financial assistance for her Girl Scout activities. My husband also receives assistance towards his medical bills. We live month to month, rarely have any savings and are always in some debt.

We have some nice things because they have been gifts from loved ones. My daughter wears some nice clothes because her Godmother sends hand-me-downs from her nieces. Mark drives a Volvo, but it’s 12 years old and in need of repairs. Indulging to me is Starbucks or a movie. I get to drink great wine once a month because I split the cost with three friends. I was able to order nice Christmas cards because of my blogging. I balk at the idea of spending $30 on a pair of shoes. I get my hair cut at the local beauty school.

I’m not here to complain about my financial circumstances. Mostly because I choose to focus on what I do have rather than what I don’t. What I’m trying to say, and what the post I saw on Facebook was trying to say is , don’t assume you know things about a person just by looking, just by seeing surfacey things. There is always more to the story.

Such as, my husband still works a little even though he has every reason not to due to his poor health. But he pushes himself for many reasons, one of which is being a contributing member of society. We may receive various forms of assistance, but we also still pay taxes. In fact, most people receiving assistance merely need some extra help to get by. It does NOT mean they are lazy, good-for-nothin’ slackers.

You wouldn’t have known any of this about me if I hadn’t chosen to talk about it because you cannot know these things about someone you only know online. Will you judge me based on this? I hope not. I ask that we all just try to hold our judgments for more important things, don’t assume and have some compassion.

Please leave some comment love here for Jennifer and then go visit her blog


  1. says

    I agree. My family revives assistance. I’m disabled now and even though my husband is missing 6 fingers from a work accident in 2000, he still works. But, the winter months can be hard since he works outside. This week, he got 18 hours. What do you do with that?

    My disability can’t be seen on the outside and most over-look my husband’s unless they shake his hand and I’ve seen that look in the grocery store line when I produced an EBT card. People don’t know how hard we struggle to have what we do, but they still judge.

    Thank you for speaking out!
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  2. says

    It’s hard not to judge based on appearances, but I find the new tendency for the world to be painted with an ever-growing brush (eg: If you are on welfare you are mooching off of society), to be disturbing at best and down right offensive at least. A friend recently posted a FB forward that was accusing the “liberal media” of withholding a story about how guns are good which happened 3 days after the tragic killings in Conn. It was wrong. The media covered it, it just didn’t get a lot of attention. That kind of stuff makes me downright mad. Thank you for sharing!
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  3. Cindi says

    As a checker it’s hard to keep my mouth shut on what I see daily but; can tell you there is a HUGE difference between assistance and abuse. For us (as checkers), it’s not so much image (looking poor enough) as much as it is attitude (entitlement). That’s usually where the judgement and anger comes from.

    • says

      I can understand feeling frustration with someone’s attitude. I feel that a lot, sometimes having very little patience for those who come off as ungrateful.

  4. says

    Exactly. I saw something recently as well and it angered me. How dare you make judgments on a family that you do not know, whose circumstances you haven’t lived? Great post.

    And no judgments here…
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  5. says

    I see things like that, and it makes me cringe. Money is such a private thing, and it’s unfair to make judgements about what we SEE. I try to remind myself that I have no idea when things were bought or by whom. Needing assistance is nothing to be ashamed about, and saying people don’t “look” poor enough just puts a stigma on something that doesn’t deserve that kind of judgement.
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  6. says

    I love Just Jennifer…so glad to see her here! So true about why we can never judge a book by its cover. We all do the best we can, and you and your husband are setting a wonderful example for your children on how to live.
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  7. says

    I can see both sides of the debate.  I know there are some people who abuse the system.  My old neighbor used to buy foodstamps from one of her friends.  She paid only $.25 per dollar and felt she was justified in doing so.    She felt that she didn’t make enough money and the government should help her, even though she didn’t qualify.    They got caught!

    A few years ago my hubby went back to school and left an ok paying job.  He had a new one lined up so that we would be ok financially.    Not even a month into school and the new job, things changed.   The employer decided that he didn’t want to pay him a salary, so hubby was put on comission.     When he didn’t sell anything he was let go.    He was only a month into school which we were in debt for and had 3 kids to take care of.      I was having some health issues at the time so working wasn’t an option for me.    We ended up receiving some assistance to help up through that period while hubby tried to find a job.    We had nice things because they had all been bought before hand or had been gifts.   
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    • says

      Yes, of course some people do abuse assistance. They ruin it for those who do not and it sickens me. I’m glad your neighbor got caught because it really is wrong.

  8. says

    Wonderfully said. I think so many people are quick to judge but most people who receive assistance need a little bit of help like you. I wish more people knew this and understood it. I always think that at any point in life I may need some help and I hope that these programs are there to help.
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  9. says

    I don’t doubt that there are abusers out there, but I had a very wise friend (an older woman in my faith sharing group) advise us in this way:

    It might look like abuse when a mom is buying filet mignon with food stamps–but perhaps the meal that she is making is to celebrate her sons straight A’s on his report card.  We don’t know for sure the circumstances around what looks like “abuse” of the system. Why do we begrudge the poor of any happiness? 

    There are a lot of people with money who act entitled and view themselves superior based on circumstances that they were born into–their access to education, the “good” neighborhood they grow up in, the family they are brought up by, their good health–all things we take for granted and judge others for and have little control over when we are children that paves the way for our future success.  
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  10. says

    I got into it on Facebook over this issue recently too – and the judgement goes both ways. We’re not rich, but we’re doing ok. DH has a well-paying job, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to contribute to our income while staying home and homeschooling our kids. And I’ll be the first to admit, our circumstances have much more to do with luck and blessings than with any virtue of ours! But I don’t necessarily dress the way people expect someone in my circumstances to dress. I choose to spend money on other things, rather than clothes or salon appointments, and I’ve had doctors reluctant to prescribe medications for my kids because they didn’t think we could afford them. I’ve had to argue with therapists when I didn’t apply for financial aid because that money should go to families who need it more than we do. It’s frustrating on both sides! 
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  11. says

    I LOVE this post. I don’t think it could’ve been written any better. People think you’re “abusing” the system or you think you’re “entitled” to get assistance when you’re of a certain race, age group, if you still drive a nice vehicle, live in a nice home or still possess some of your nicer things, from back when you were living good.
    I feel like I’m being judged every single time that I go to the grocery store and whenever I take my children to their doctor appointments. There used to be a time when I was well off. When I paid cash for my groceries and when my children had private insurance. Due to unforeseen circumstances, things changed drastically for me and my four children. I’ve started a new venture and I’m bouncing back, in the mean time I still need to feed my children and make sure they have health coverage. Yes! I still drive my nice looking SUV and live in a nice home, but not because it’s easy! I WORK hard every single day. Not to mention, I’m indebted to my parents for life. They didn’t want me to have to start completely over AND have bad credit on top of it! I don’t think anyone would choose to depend on assistance versus making their own “more productive” way in this world. Thanks again for this post. So glad I got to add my two cents!
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  12. says

    I applaud you for speaking out. I know exactly how you feel. I once was bullied online for planning a wedding while receiving medicaid and temporary financial assistance as a single mom while unable to work due to an illness that required surgery. Needing a helping hand shouldn’t mean you can’t have nice things.

  13. says

    Thank you for sharing this!  And yes you truly never do know what is happening in someone’s life.  I used to work for DCFS as a permanency worker and have seen the good and the bad of the system and the good and the bad of people using the system.   Families like yours are exactly why it is needed and it is good it is there.  
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  14. Caitlynne M says

    Thank you so much for sharing this! This is something that I see a lot on fb and it bothers me every time. One of my good friends is on WIC and has been harassed when she pulls her WIC folder out of her Coach diaper bag. The bag was purchased before she lost her job but she is still made to feel guilty for carrying it!

    I know that like your family and my friend’s family the majority of people who receive assistance are still hardworking and good members of society. Thanks for helping more people realize this.

  15. says

    Judging is so stupid. We never know what is going on behind closed doors. We never know what people go through. We both lost jobs in 2012 because of the economy. We already had semi-nice things. Now we’ve been working hard to keep them. I imagine a lot of people are in the same boat. Thanks for the wise words!!!
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  16. says

    Thank you for sharing this. So many of us have had to rely on public assistance one time or another because without it we simply could not survive…. and I am one of them. I worked but couldn’t make ends meet and I was always worried about what other people thought about me…. I know I shouldn’t have but it is so hard. 
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  17. says

    I wrote about something similar a few months ago, a friend of mine who is a cashier at a large store was appalled that a woman who was buying both food and a few ‘splurges’ and paid for the food with food stamps.  She felt that because the woman was buying some pampering products, had ‘nice’ clothes and had a lexus key fob that she did not deserve the food stamps.  After getting into a heated debate about how my husband and I provide nice things for our son (we aren’t on assistance but until he was promoted last month we were on a ‘can’t spend a penny without knowing where it’s going’ budget), the woman may have saved to get those pampering things, maybe it was her birthday gift to herself, maybe the lexus was 10 years old…her and I stopped talking and I vented in a blog post.  No one should have to justify these things to strangers or explain why they are on assistance, it’s their business.  Her implication that someone on assistance wasn’t allowed the luxury of a chocolate bar or a body wash really offended me and I told her so!  

    I really liked this post and I’m going to stop typing before I end up writing my own post in Shell’s comments haha
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  18. says

    I am so proud of you for being brave enough to share this. I think that in this society money is such a taboo topic, and it’s strange that people try to group themselves based on income. 
    We have been a one income family the entire time we’ve been married. My husband was a medical student, and I was a teacher, and then when we had our son I decided to stay at home and my husband started residency, which is paid just slightly more than a teacher salary, but not much. There was a brief time during the transition when we had to go on Medicaid for my son’s baby insurance and baby check ups. 
    The plan in that one day my husband will make a doctor’s salary, but it has been and continues to be a long road for us to get there. In the meantime, we have been struggling financially. It is at times frustrating but I think we’ve always had everything we’ve needed. 
    I always want to remember and know where we are and where we’ve come from, because there is no shame in needing help. 
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  19. says

    Here’s another angle–My husband and I were successful, white-collar workers for about 15 years, bringing in more than $100,000 a year until I decided to stay home with our second child. Shortly thereafter, he lost his job, suddenly and unexpectedly. We had a brand new, big house, nice cars, a new baby, and no income. Because my husband’s field is specialized, getting a new job wasn’t going to be easy. After a couple of weeks, I applied for and got food stamps, and I used them with my head held high; we paid into the Welfare system and were using it for what it was intended for–We weren’t taking on a new Welfare lifestyle (like the people who abuse the system–not talking about you, obviously). A month later, we were back on our feet and off the system.  You’re right; you just never know….Thanks for sharing this.
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  20. says

    Recently my daughter and I witnessed a woman parking in a handicapped space at the mall.  She DID have a card in her dash for handicapped parking, but yet when she got out of the car she walked briskly into the mall. My daughter said, “Mom.  That lady took that spot and she’s not even handicapped!”  and I said, “Well, it’s true that she doesn’t look to have any sort of disability…but maybe she has a condition where it’s not healthy for her to walk a long distance?  You know, like perhaps she just had heart surgery or something like that.  We just never know what’s going on with people, so it’s best not to make judgements.”
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  21. Norelle says

    Thanks for the great post. I never have and never will judge anyone who uses food stamps or needs assistance of any kind. As you said, there is always a story we don’t know. I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 four years ago and since it is an unseen illness, I have really learned that my not judging people upbringing was right on track. There is always, always a story you don’t know about the person standing near you. We all need to learn not to judge anyone. What a wonderful world it would be if we could all feel more compassion and love for each other.

  22. says

    Jennifer, I have always admired your candidness  – and this post is no different.  What a wonderful world this would be if we could all put our judgement on the shelf and embrace each other for our differences – because in the end, there really aren’t many differences! Well said, lady. 
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  23. says

    Beautifully said! I just wish there weren’t people who abuse the system…like everything in life, there are those that have justified circumstance and those that abuse and are neglectful and self indulgent. It goes with humanity. BUT it’s not ours to judge. You can see stereotypes in every organization, religion, situation etc. This is all around us… and it is not fair to those who are genuine and honest.
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  24. says

    I’m glad you chose to share your story. Often, we only hear about the people who flout the system and many people who receive assistance don’t want to broadcast that information so we rarely hear about the ones who need help and don’t abuse the system. That makes it easier for people to judge. I’m no longer a practicing social worker but the majority of the time I helped people with stories like yours. I hope people will keep speaking up so that needed programs won’t get cut.
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  25. says

    Ugh, this is one of my pet peeves.. and i’ve had a few of my close friends post on FB complaining about someone using foodstamps at the store, without knowing a thing about the family. It’s so easy to judge from the outside without knowing the truth. I also HATE all of the comments people make about others who just “sit on their ass and collect welfare”.. if they honestly knew ANYTHING about how the welfare system is run NOW, they would know that the govt does not allow anyone to sit on their ass and just collect a check every month. If you don’t work or go to their job find program, you don’t get shit!.. I’ve written a few posts about this same topic!
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  26. says

    Thank you for sharing this and for your transparency.  It must be so hard so many times and I’m sure the weight of judgement can weigh so heavily.  I admire your frugality and commitment to perseverance.  Making the most of what we have, whatever it is, takes wisdom.
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  27. says

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