Following Friday's tragedy - another school shooting - I wanted to share some thoughts, but first I'm going to address the raging online discussion over last week's One Man's Perspective.
The column raised a great deal of discussion and debate. It centered around my friend's claim to have personally witnessed someone in Texas use their subsidized government food payment to buy a pair of grapes then collect $100 back in cash.
Those on our website have questioned my integrity and my desire to attack those who use welfare services provided in this nation.
I too have read the "urban legend" about the two grapes story. I had seen the SNOPES report on the story long before receiving my friend's e-mail, but he presented the information to me as something he personally witnessed.
After all of the hoopla broke out online, I contacted my friend once again to verify that he personally witnessed what he claimed to have seen. I wanted to make sure he wasn't just passing along a "story." He assured me that he witnessed the transaction first hand, discussed what he was watching with the guy behind him in line and even shared his displeasure with the young man who collected the cash. The young man, according to my friend's account, responded with an obscenity. My friend, J.J., was also familiar with the "urban legend" and told me he wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes.
I have known the source of this story for more than 20 years. He and I have been friends since I lived in California. He would have had no reason to make this up for my benefit, and is the kind of person who values his word above all else. He had no idea I was going to share what he told me, so he would really have no reason to lie about it to begin with.
Recognizing, both in Iowa and Texas, these types of SNAP cards are not designed to provide cash back to users, I would entertain the possibility he witnessed some other form of payment option.
I wasn't standing by his side during the aforementioned incident, so I can't speak as to exactly what he saw, but I have no reason to believe he suggested any intentional misinformation with regard to the information he shared.
And while this incident was cited as an "example" linked to a bigger issue, the bigger issue still remains.
I was accused of attacking those in need of assistance. That is not true.
My "attack," if you choose to call it that, is on people who abuse a very lax system.
The system is meant to be a safety net for people who fall on hard times and need food and a roof over their head. It is meant to protect families who find their income cut off when a parent loses a job. It is meant to provide for a single mom doing her best to raise her kids. It is meant to care for the elderly and those who are unable to otherwise care for themselves.
I get it. It's more fun to sit around watching TV and hanging out with friends than it is to work. I wouldn't argue that point. And when the government continues to feed and shelter those who are more than capable of working but select not to, there are plenty who will take advantage.
It is not meant for the lazy and shiftless. They know who they are. They're the ones laughing all the way to the bank.
I know my friend did not deliberately mislead me. I can't guarantee what he saw. But that doesn't change the fact that thousands upon thousands of government dollars are landing in the hands of people who are more than capable of working and contributing, but instead chose not to.
It's not an attack; it's a statement of fact.
Now, I would ask those of you who are willing to take a moment and pray for the families of those impacted by the school shooting in Connecticut.
With as many as 30 people dead, possibly more, 20 of whom have been identified as children, I can't imagine the pain loved ones are experiencing as we celebrate the season of God's ultimate love.
Such a hateful event, there are no words to answer the questions or explain the actions, but we will look for them because that's what we do. We need to know why. We need to try and find some rationalization. There's none to be found. I would suggest we all just look to the heavens, wrap your arms around those you love and pray for healing.