Margaret Marquardt, Day 6

This is my second reflection on being on the Welfare Challenge of living on $26.00 for the week between (October 14-October 23. This is part of the work of Raise the Rates for those on Social Assistance in BC. Please see the link below in how you or your community could respond. Taking the Challenge meant that we could not use any food we had at home or take charity. It has meant only living on the $26.00

As I wrote in my first reflection, my $26.00 bought me small amounts of rice, lentils, carrots, 1 can pineapple, cottage cheese, milk, and a loaf of bread (and I got myself coffee so I could brew 2 cups a day knowing I would get a headache without!). It is not much. There are no snacks and no extra money to buy anything else. There isn’t enough of the balance of nutritious food that our bodies need as well as enjoy. I could only afford fresh carrots on this amount and no other vegetables or fruit. There isn’t anything to look forward to of favourite foods. There just isn’t the money.

I am aware keenly that I am off this soon. I know that I do not have to endure this without an end in sight. My experience of this challenge is more of one of a fast. In the Christian tradition as well as other religious traditions, fasts are part of religious discipline and insight. Because I know that this is a set time period, the Challenge is within this framework for me. The experience of having less, of being hungry, of knowing that there isn’t any money to drop into a shop and get a scone or take a friend out…it has deepened compassion within me. I have been close to those on Social Assistance for years and am fully committed to having justice in our society. There is nothing glamorous about being hungry. The hidden poor are indeed hidden struggling on their own. This experience has allowed me to pay more attention to all those who are hidden and who end up struggling on their own.

What this Challenge has meant to me is that the experience itself has led me, pulled me, more closely to the humanity of those caught in the web of poverty. There is so much shame heaped upon those who have lost their job or other things have happened in their lives that have led to the need to be on Social Assistance. And people internalize the shame.  We as a community of neighbours (which is how I see our need to be as a society), need to support those caught in the web of poverty providing the kind of financial and social support needed so that there can be stability in lives.

This support includes raising the rates on Social Assistance, training programs, education upgrade, increase in the minimum wage, working towards a Living Wage… these are all the kinds of supports that end up treating any caught in poverty with the humanity deserving a neighbour. It is also economically sound as people get a strong foundation to go forth into new possibilities for their future. See the link above for specific action.

It all comes down to seeing one another as neighbour. What we ask for ourselves, we ask for all. Social Assistance as it presently exits is punitive. It provides such a bare minimum catching people in an impossible situation of not being able to climb out. I support the kind of Social Assistance in our Province of British Columbia that gives people a foundation that they live in dignity and able to plan for their future. I support us being neighbours in having the kind of policies in our Province that support people to get out of poverty.

The Rev. Margaret Marquardt, St. Thomas Anglican Church, Vancouver, October 20, 2013

See the Letter from 40 members of St Thomas parish to Premier Clark.

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