“I don’t run with my glasses,” Carol said. “I paid for them, and they might get messed up when I’m running.” She continued, “I paid for them,” she said again, emphasizing the “I,” “not no government program. They were $300.”
Carol is a resident at Dallas Life, a shelter for the homeless in Dallas. We had just started our morning run with Back on My Feet, an organization that uses running as a way to help shelter residents obtain the skills and confidence they need to get out on their own again. My heart sank a little when Carol clarified for all of us that she had paid for her glasses on her own, with no help from anyone or anything. I felt a bit sad that she felt the need to make sure that we knew “no government program” had helped her obtain the glasses she needed to see, because it didn’t matter to me who paid for the glasses. We were running as one, as members of the Back on My Feet team, and, frankly, it was none of my business how she got her glasses.
By now, we are all aware of some words Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for President, uttered at a fundraising event in Florida. To a crowd made up of some of the wealthiest people in this country, Romney talked about the 47 percent of the population who would vote for President Obama for reelection. These are people “who believe they are victims, who believe the government has the responsibility to care for them,” who believe they are “entitled” to medical care, housing and food - things I take for granted every day. He can’t worry about these Americans, he told the people who had just paid hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to eat a plate of food together and hear him speak. He couldn’t care about them because he’d never be able to convince them to take “personal responsibility” for their lives. They were not worthy of his time or his campaign.
I wondered if Romney’s words were what made Carol so adamant about explaining who paid for her glasses. How they must have cut her. While she may have paid for her own glasses, she was likely receiving other forms of public benefits and would likely need to rely on some public benefits once she was out of the shelter and getting settled into a new life. At a time when she was working to build herself up, came a man wanting to be her leader, yet describing people like her as the mooches of our society. They could not be helped.
I don’t know why Carol is in the shelter, but I do not think it’s because she believes she’s entitled to free housing, or because she sees herself as a victim, or because she never did and never will take personal responsibility for her life. I think it’s because, for whatever reason, her life path lead her there. Perhaps it was because she lost her job; perhaps it was because someone became ill in her family and she had to spend everything she had to take care of that person; perhaps it was because of addiction or mental illness; perhaps her husband beat her and she had to leave; perhaps it was because a series of events added up to her having nothing and nowhere else to go. It doesn’t matter. She is up and out by 5:45 a.m. to run with the team every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and she is the most energetic of our group. Her voice is always the loudest when we circle up and say our cheer.
When I see Carol, I don’t see a moocher or a person who goes through life as a victim. I see only a human who brings something to the table every morning I see her. I don’t think any glasses would ever be strong enough for people like Mitt Romney to see the value and worth of people like Carol. He’d never be able to see that these are our neighbors; that we are all on the same team; and that, sometimes, we have to help each other out if we are going to win.
*Note: Carol’s name has been changed for this post.
(Source: , via explore-blog)