I had to take the bus downtown to turn in my “interim report,” to prove to Job and Family Services that I haven’t somehow gotten rich in the past six months. If it didn’t go downtown today, I wouldn’t be getting any more food assistance.
My name is on our forms, so I did it myself. I drank some coffee to help manage the fibro pain, and caught the 2:15 bus.
It wasn’t the time of day that his detestable comedy news shows are on– in the morning he likes to blast some horrendous local radio station where the sarcastic morning newscasters tell rape jokes. He’s triggered a mild flashback from his choice of radio shows before. But now it was afternoon, so Old Scratch was playing loud heavy metal music instead.
I tried to listen to the violent music and not Old Scratch. He’s always talking to the passengers about something or other, and the topic is always horrible. He likes to rant about how unsanitary Muslims are and how they trade their daughters for cattle; he praises police brutality and cruelty to immigrants. Today, he was lauding President Trump again. Old Scratch has been in love with Trump since last year. He was telling the sole other passenger how Trump was going to take everyone’s food stamps away and end the program forever– “It’s done, it’s already over, they’re sending out letters today, two months and then it’s gone, you’re out.”
I didn’t know what he was talking about. I still don’t. Such an order hasn’t been on the news at all. It wouldn’t be the first time that Old Scratch made up alternative facts to suit himself. But at that moment, cold terror gripped my stomach.
“They shoulda done it years ago when people got lazy,” crowed Old Scratch. ” I raised three kids, worked three jobs, never took welfare, never took WIC.”
I do work, as much as my sickness will allow, from home, as a writer, and so does my husband. I’m raising a child too. And, at our current income level, even counting the ways some family and friends have been able to help us, my child will die without food assistance.
I wondered at what a horror it would be to grow up the child of Old Scratch, listening to his rantings day and night. I’m always ready to lose my mind after a ten-minute ride downtown with him; God help someone who had to listen to him day and night from the time they were a baby.
The passenger chimed in with how he also worked and did not take Welfare; people who took Welfare were lazy. Taking away everyone’s food stamps was good for them.
“Those people shoulda though of this before they got lazy,” said Old Scratch. “They shoulda thought of this before they got on welfare. They shoulda thought of this before they had kids.”I wanted to get off the bus and walk the rest of the way downtown, but chronic fatigue doesn’t allow that luxury. I wanted to scream at Old Scratch that he was a filthy, trashy, Ohio Valley inbred; that I knew from the other drivers that he himself grew up in the projects, in government housing, and has nothing in the world to be proud of. But then I’d never be able to get on a bus again. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t work up tears. I stared out the window and focused on the angry Heavy Metal music. Old Scratch continued berating my laziness without knowing it was me he was berating, until we got downtown.
I prayed, but I prayed nastily. “Lord, that they might see,” I said over and over again. That’s not a bad prayer in itself, but I prayed it with terrible intention. “Lord, that they might see. Lord, that they might see what it’s like to live in this anxiety. Lord, that they might see what it’s like to depend for your sustenance on a government that doesn’t care about you. Lord, that they might see what it is to be considered a burden to society. Lord, that they might be so unfortunate as to lose the ability to provide for themselves through sickness and bad luck. Lord, that they might bear the humiliation of hearing smug ugly people call them lazy. Lord, if we die from this government’s madness, let them see what it is to die of want as well. Make them suffer what I suffer. Make them as humiliated as I am. Hurt them as they would hurt my daughter.”
That’s a very bad way to pray.
There are examples of such prayer in the psalms, but I don’t think you should pray that way if you can help it. I repented; I apologized to God. I forgave Old Scratch for the hundredth time. But I couldn’t stop muttering “Lord, that they might see” under my breath. I began trying to turn it into a real prayer, a real offering of love to Love. I found the meaning change as I prayed, as I went to Job and Family Services and turned in my papers, as I walked to the thrift store to see if they had clothes in my daughter’s size. Over and over I prayed. “Lord, that they might see. Lord, that they might see.”
Lord, that they might see the truth and be converted before it’s too late. Lord, that they might see the humanity of their sisters and brothers in need. Lord, that they might see that it was not a matter for pride, but for thanksgiving to You, that they never had to bear this particular cross. Lord, that they might see that their ability to work their way out of poverty was a mercy from You and not a merit of theirs. Lord, that they might see that I had no less dignity than they, and that my daughter is not worth less than their daughters. Lord, that we might be a generation that heeds your voice and turns away from our sin.
Lord, that we might see that this rotten, Satanic system depends on eliminating people instead of meeting need. Lord, that we might see that both political parties profit from brutality. Lord, that we might see that the poor cannot be humiliated or starved into prosperity. Lord, that we might see that every human person has a right to live, whether they have good fortune or not. Lord, that we might see that none of us is truly self-sufficient and that self-sufficiency has become an idol, an idol to which we’re willing to sacrifice poor people’s children.
And Lord, having seen, may we cast down our idols. May we repent, and turn to work for You.
Lord, that we might see.