Over at Huff Po, I read about the Fox News host who wants to live off food stamps "as a dieting technique". Read the whole article, watch if you have the stomach for it.
I was spitting mad: let me share a story below the orange squiggle.
Her name is Flower. Most of her family was destroyed in the Vietnam war. She and a few of her family members made it to the U.S. and settled in California. She worked day and night to send money to Vietnam to her old mother and children who still live there. My sister met her at the Vietnamese nail salon where she did people's nails and gave them massages. My sister and Flower became friends, but then the economic downturn came and Flower was let go from work.
My sister asked her to start coming to her home once a week for pedicures/manicures for her family. She also talked to several friends, and they also started inviting Flower to come to their homes. That is how I met Flower: visiting my sister, getting a pedicure from this beautiful, poised, gentle, dignified lady.
My sister would always ask Flower to eat dinner with her. Flower would always say "no" at first, but would be persuaded to eat with the family. My sister noticed how much she welcomed the food, and started suspecting that all was not right. Upon prodding, Flower revealed that she was now homeless: lived in her car, but spent most nights at friends homes when a couch or a bed was available. My sister tried to help as much as she could, always packing food for Flower to take with her. But Flower would never accept money: she always said "pay me for my work, that is all I want."
Then one day while I was visiting my sister again (my consulting work takes me to Silicon Valley often, and instead of an impersonal hotel room, I stay with my sister when this happens), it was raining and cold and Flower came in to do pedicures. She was wet and shivering a bit, but as always smiling and happy. We asked why she was wet, and she told us that one of her car windows was busted. We went outside to look at her car, and it was in such bad shape. There was a bucket with soap/toiletries in the back seat, and her clothes in the trunk. She said that often, the car would not start. My sister and I persuaded her that the car was not safe: we spent the weekend looking for a used car for Flower, over her loud protests that she did not need a new car, she could not accept one from us, and if we bought her a new car, she would have to spend the rest of her life paying it off. We overrode her objections, and my sister and I split the cost of a cheap/used/somewhat reliable car for Flower. She was so thankful: her car was in such bad shape that the dealer said he was doing us a favor by not asking her to pay him to get the car to the junkyard.
This was a couple of years ago. Every few months, Flower shows up with fruit or gifts or some money to repay my sister. My sister always refuses the money: Flower says she is collecting the money and will pay us back no matter what.
Fast forward to this summer: I was again in CA, my sister asked Flower to come over. As I was getting my pedicure, I noticed that Flower was thinner than ever, and looked tired. Her hands are arthritic from all the massages over all these years; she is in her late 50s. I don't know why, but I asked Flower "have you applied for Food Stamps?" She said she did not know what that was. When I explained to her, she could not believe such a program existed. I immediately went online and found all the information I needed: she indeed qualified (she had no regular work, and was still essentially homeless except for the kindness of friends). I delayed my flight home for a day, made an appointment at the local office, and Flower and I went to the office the next day. I was worried about Flower's immigration status, but she brought all her papers with her, including her citizenship papers.
During the interview with the social worker, Flower told her things that had me sobbing in that cubicle: how many times she had to go to bed hungry, how she saved money from her meager earnings to send to her mother in Vietnam who had no other means of support. Flower told her story with the simple dignity that is so much a part of her.
She qualified for food stamps: slightly less than $200 per month. She immediately got a card. And the cell phone that was held together with duct tape (and was the only way for her clients to call her for pedicure appts) was to be replaced.
As we left the office, she hugged me, and thanked me, and said she had no idea how she would ever spend two hundred dollars on food and maybe if I told her something I really wanted to eat, she could purchase that for me.
And then she looked at me with a bright smile and said: "I am so happy! I feel like I just won the lottery."
Shame on you, Fox news lady. Flower is worth a hundred of you.
Tweet (and responses) from the Fox News Lady
@andreatantaros No... they suggest food stamps for people who are suffering from malnutrition thanks to starvation, not as a diet technique.— Jasun Mark (@jasunmark) November 22, 2012
@andreatantaros "Crickets" are what people hear when they hold a microphone to your head, turd brain.— Jasun Mark (@jasunmark) November 22, 2012
Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 8:51 AM PT: Wow! I was busy with Thanksgiving yesterday and did not check in. Close to 650 recs for Flower's story! I have forwarded this link to my sister so she can share this with Flower to show her how much people admire her and were touched by her story. Thanks everyone!
Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 9:39 AM PT: Now I am overwhelmed...I just received a private message from a fellow Kossak who lives in San Jose, and has asked to meet with Flower and maybe offer their spare room to her. I just cannot get over how compassionate and caring this community is.