Pie Fight

“There, but for the grace of God, go I." ~ John Bradford

I’m really now just starting to understand the meaning of John Bradford’s quote. For a long time I dismissed it as not relevant to my life since I had no real religious beliefs and I got hung up on the God part until I realized that the phrase could just as well read: There, but for circumstances, go I.

Then it all kind of clicked. The meaning, to me, is a call to expanded empathy; an understanding of life and its vagaries. A prayer, offered quickly, to the gods of circumstance and uncertainty to pass you by. A gentle reminder to me that kindness and compassion are actions, not words. That there are so many that are less fortunate and in more desperate straits than me. A hope that should I ever need to depend on the safety net that I won’t be subjected to scorn and ridicule and have my integrity questioned by welfare vigilantes. That I’ll be able to retain that most mundane of parental responsibility: what to feed my children.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

It's a shame that so many people are willing to see those in need as criminals; scum that are just waiting to take advantage of hardworking decent folks. Living large on lobster and driving Cadillac’s to their crack parties. Like the poor and underemployed are wayward children who need to be chastised and embarrassed by everyone they encounter for their own good since “that’s my money they’re using!”

Taxes are necessary. They are not evil. They are the price of admission to civilization. They do many things. They pave roads, they build and staff schools, they plow streets, they keep order, and they fund wars. They also provide a safety net should any member of our society – for whatever reason – stumble. They are there to provide some relief. That’s what taxes do.

We, as a society, pay them. The government administers them. We reap the benefit of schools and roads and police and firemen and a safety net. More gets done with the pooled resources than we could achieve alone. We have a voice in how they are administrated. We invoke that voice at every election. That is how we are heard. We do not, individually, get to walk up to those who utilize these services and berate them and scold them.

Because if that’s how we’re going to do things now I have a whole lot of stuff I don’t want my taxes purchasing.

I'm shocked and saddened to see how much support the baker from the Braintree Farmer’s Market is getting. Honestly, I'm sad for our future when this type of public shaming is not only encouraged but applauded. I'm not even going to argue the merits of whether pie is a necessity or a treat. This is bigger than pie; this is about dignity and who is allowed to have it. It’s about compassion and kindness. It's about a hand-up, that we - as a society - offer to those less fortunate. It's about reaching down, with a smile, and saying "Here, let me help you."

All while thinking, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

My intent while writing this was to highlight the fact that the majority of those who require assistance are not "gaming the system" that they are, in fact, our neighbors and friends and deserve basic human kindness.

Kate Walsh August 22, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Beautifully said BM-W. It saddens me too that so many have forgotten the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have done unto to you. Regardless of religious beliefs, politics, or background, most of us know it. Words to live by. Whether that stupid 'pie' was for children of a working mom, or a vet, an elderly person, the disabled, or an unemployed person, someone struggling - yes indeed, she made her point: 'I judge YOU'. 'Shame on you for being poor'. That's the only point she made. Years ago, many ppl I know would have done & thought the same. Now THEY are in those shoes. World looks a lil' different from down there. If ppl want to be angry or righteous, think first. Who- what- why am I really angry/ frustrated? Better yet-what can I do to help make this world a better place? Poverty is rarely a choice. So keep your pies ma'am. Hope you're proud of 'taking a stand' at your stand. But you better start praying now that you too don't end up on the other side of that table. Will people have understanding & kindness for YOU? Or will many judge your situation just as cruelly & righteously as you have? The shame is on you, not the impoverished. It's on those who lack compassion. But I sure do appreciate the metaphor in this issue... Thx QB
Jonathan Scott August 22, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Barbara - a well written piece, as usual. I agree with you on a certain level but part with you in other ways. The problem, for many, is that the system is broken. I'm not sure that many on either side communicate their feelings well when it comes to that. We use too small an example (the woman in Providence who was selling drugs, had a garage full of motorcycles and Porsches, and was on full welfare for instance) and we extrapolate it out too far (we need to get rid of welfare and let everyone fend for themselves). Reality is that the answer - as all answers do - lies somewhere in the middle. I have to say that the pie woman should have a right to accept only those forms of payment that she deems sufficient. The rest of us then should have the right to patronize her establishment or boycott her as we see fit. The rest is a bigger argument that takes a great deal of space for me to expound upon. 1500 characters won't do. It will have to suffice, for now, to say that my disappointment is that the system seems to encourage dependency. I fully believe that there should be a safety net. It should be there for everyone (including single men without kids who currently get nothing) but it should be measured and provide far more support in transitioning folks back into the working world. Not all taxes are necessary and some, in fact, are evil. There is no sense of responsible spending in Washington or in the states and that's what gets people fired up. JPS
Barbara Mulvey-Welsh August 22, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Thank you Kate.
Barbara Mulvey-Welsh August 22, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Jon, Thank you for your thoughtful words. I don't disagree, in theory, with your points but I have a limit (500 words) and could not cover every aspect of the system and what's wrong and what works. Perhaps it's something that can develop into a series of articles. I also agree that the baker can make a decision on what she wants to accept as payment as well. However, she made it about something more than that with her statements which I still find incredibly rude and dismissive of those who rely on state assistance. I simply wanted to remind people that for everything that's wrong with the system, people we know rely on it and we should never forget that they do deserve basic human kindness and compassion. BMW
ovaltine0827 August 22, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Barbara, I'm on the fence with your article. While I agree with the Do Unto Others aspect, I think the meat of the argument lies within the "merits of whether pie is a necessity or a treat." I am in favor of the baker being able to select the currency that she accepts, in my mind (whether correct or not) she's making a choice as a business owner to deem her product a novelty item. A decision which narrows her client base - not always an easy decision for a small business owner. As a taxpayer I appreciate her decision as I agree that her item is a novelty item. However, that is not to say that I think that EBT card should not be used for a store brand box of chocolate cake mix or a store brand pie at the local supermarket. As you say in jest, a portion of that money credited to that EBT card was mine, I'd like to see it spent responsibly.
Michael Muggeridge August 22, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Barbara, the over the top rhetoric and opportunistic religiosity (albeit a godless religiosity) of your piece, throws all heat , no light. The woman at the Braintree Farmers Market expressed outrage at the lack of controls over a publicly funded transfer program. Would a taxpayer be an ogre if they objected to student loan subsidies going to non-accredited educational programs, or Section 8 housing subsidies that went to substandard housing? I'm sure you, like I, welcome sensible controls placed on the issuance of these funds. There is no "pubic shaming" taking place when an EBT card is restricted so as to insure it's effective, and cost efficient utilization. The pie woman shamed no-one. She did call for restrictions that would maximize expenditures on necessities that are nourishing and cost effective. I'm afraid you're looking for witch-hunters and scapegoaters under every bed.
Barbara Mulvey-Welsh August 22, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I don't disagree with her choice to not accept EBT for payment, I disagree with how she handled it. As to the rest, we can agree to disagree.
Barbara Mulvey-Welsh August 22, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Thanks for reading. I can see from your comment that you completely missed my point.
Michael Muggeridge August 22, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Barbara, I did get your point. I understand that you are apoplectic about the reactions of a mob, stirred up about public welfare programs. I'm less concerned about the mob (though I had a similar reaction to some of the antics of OWS), and more concerned about the merits of the controls that should be in place with an efficient, effective EBT program. Since we differ on the larger agenda, we pass as two ships in the night.
Barbara Mulvey-Welsh August 22, 2012 at 10:37 PM
I'm upset, not quite apoplectic, about the lack of civility and compassion in public discourse especially when you throw in the anonymous factor of the internet. I purposely left out the "larger agenda" since it wasn't the main focus of what was on my mind. As always I enjoy your comments and appreciate your courtesy.
Cynthia Rosenfeld August 22, 2012 at 11:28 PM
What if the pie were for her child's birthday, or some other small family celebration. If you have fallen on hard times, are you automatically robbed of the right to a small bit of brightness or change of pace in your life? How many times have we gone out to dinner to celebrate something small like a good grade to something larger like a birthday or promotion. Celebration is part of life. I agree with Barbara. Another great quote to apply to this may be "Don't judge another until you have walked a mile in their shoes."
Teresa Hasu August 22, 2012 at 11:44 PM
As always Barb, you shed light on a subject or topic that pushes past the haze and reveals the humanity that we should all strive for. We are fortunate that you have this wisdom and common sense to share with us.
maria castelli August 23, 2012 at 01:17 AM
keep em comming
Kathleen DeWitt August 30, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I have to agree on this one with Barbara and Cynthia. Yes the system needs to be fixed, but let's not shame ANYONE in this case. Like someone before me said. "Don't judge me until you walk in my shoes. Thanks, Nanakate


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