In every person's life there are defining moments. In these moments we can change our lives forever for good or ill. In my life, my family and I have encountered two such moments that were both painful, and liberating.
When I graduated from college in 2008, I secured my first job at a local television station. I wasn't making a whole lot doing the audio for the early morning newscast, so my wife got a job as a substitute teacher for one of the local school districts. I would get up at 2 AM and drive to the news station, then when my shift ended at 7 AM, my wife and I would trade cars so she could go to work, and I could watch our two young sons. We were living in a house that my parents owned, and we made just enough to cover our heating and travel expenses. We were on Food Stamps and WIC, and between everything were able to stay fed and warm. The economy took a major downturn in the fall of 2008, so further employment options did not look good.
I eventually ended up as the weekend director and master control operator, which had admittedly better hours, but the pay was still not enough to cover our expenses. Around this time we decided to stop participating in WIC, and just stick to Food Stamps. One day while she was substituting at one of the local high schools my wife came across a small advertisement in the want ads for a web developer. There was only the minimum contact information listed and no details about the company. I had worked as a web developer to get us through college, and she urged me to apply.
Several interviews followed, accompanied by prayers and fasting. Eventually I was given the good news that I had landed the job, which effectively tripled our income. Three months later as we were going through the renewal process, we were informed that we no longer qualified for Food Stamps.
I will be the first to admit mixed feelings about this. On one hand we were no longer getting "free" food. On the other we were (for the first time in our marriage) a self sustaining household. At this point we had a choice: figure out how to buck the system and stay on Food Stamps, or grab this new found potential by the horns and make the most of it. Thankfully we chose the latter. We started house hunting and with the help of one of my cousins in real estate, were able to find a modest home and got approval for an FHA loan.
Three years later, after a long and trying time in our lives, we were blessed with a baby girl. My wife again looked into applying for WIC. She picked up a pamphlet from the local library and was flooded with the memories of the paperwork, and the classes, and the examinations, all of which were required to be part of the program. After a few short minutes of deliberation we decided not to participate in WIC with this child. We qualified, but really we didn't need to be part of the program. We were eliminating debt, and I had gotten a raise just a few months before.
At this point we had officially left the welfare state. We qualified for a government program and had said, "No."
Freedom, true freedom, is having your affairs in order in such a way that you can say, "no" to a handout and be okay with it. Just because we qualify for a program doesn't mean we have to participate in it, and that brings peace which cannot be defined by your last two paychecks, or what your Adjusted Gross Income was last year. This peace is spiritual, and can only come from fulfilling one's god-given duty to provide for your spouse and your children.