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During my travels last week, I had two conversations with two vastly different people.

The first was with a young woman who has just entered the job force. She is pursuing her American dream. A dream that takes her from the desperate circumstances of birth and, through education and a small business employer, allows her to pursue a better life.

2 handsFrom my vantage I can clearly see the steep hill she is climbing. Not unlike the one my great grandfather walked up behind a flock of sheep on the way to homestead land. It took our family four generations to achieve the Great American Dream. I do not think any of us regret the struggle. It has made us who we are, hard working and grateful and not in need of government assistance. This young woman is at the beginning, considering her options. She has a job. She has college debt. She also has government assistance for rent. We had a conversation about the forgiveness of student loans. From her viewpoint this would be a huge help. It would improve her credit rating and put her closer to being able to purchase her own home.


3 money bagThe second conversation was with a mature woman who works in the mental health industry She has watched friends who are farmers take advantage of the agricultural subsidies offered by our government to enrich themselves while watching the capacity of the mental health givers crumble around her. This woman has pursued her Great American Dream as a single mom with a good foundational education and has been successful in raising her daughters to be independent women. She knows it is wrong for our society to enrich others with handouts. She knows the value of work and perseverance and she abhors her tax dollars squandered when she sees those who are in true need suffer every day.

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The dilemma of government payouts, subsidies, loan forgiveness, relief…. given freely, with a broad brush. There are those among us who will take government assistance and turn their lives around and positively impact the future for all of us. There are those among us who will take government assistance and selfishly squander it on self-indulgence. There are those who fall through the cracks and do not receive the help they need.

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The third conversation I had with my mother over 25 years ago. She commented that she saw how government safety nets were helpful. But there was something missing. In the 1930’s there were no safety nets. We relied on our families, friends, or charity. Each of these groups came with faces. Someone to thank, someone to be grateful for, someone who showed the way to help others, someone whose heart healed by giving, and someone who held those in need to be accountable to be honestly in need of the help they would receive.

6 safety netIt was not an anonymous check in the mail, there were real people holding that net.

7 old photoBoth of my families worked in agriculture during the 1930’s. As on farms and ranches across the country, my mom’s family ranch was a place of refuge for their city relatives and friends who had lost their jobs due to the depression. As you might imagine this was a time of reconnection. The cousins played together as if they were siblings. The aunts and uncles worked together to make ends meet. It was also a time of stress as the necessity of finding another job somewhere was preeminent. The bonds created at this time have lasted in our family for two generations no matter the distance these newfound jobs placed between them. The connection we all received from this group of people, the givers, and the receivers, has been priceless. I can close my eyes and see the faces of those who have passed on and of my generation and the next still reaching for their American dreams.

8 hobo trainMy Dad’s farm was near a railroad. His mother provided food for the “hobos” who hopped trains looking for employment during the 1930’s. My grandmother shared her wonderful cooking with tramps who knocked at her back door. What an education this was to see what true charity is. The giving of something personal to those in need with no return expected.

My mother speculated that government safety nets rob us of these human-to-human connections. A government hand out is a crapshoot. It may help or it may not, depends on who gets it, and some will miss out completely. It is an impersonal action from the taxpayer who supports it and those who receive it the charitable action. There are no faces.

Who are you in today’s government safety net handouts?

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Have you become a taker? 

Will you take the government check and waste it because it has no more value to you than the piece of paper on which it was written? Will you spend it on the trappings of worldly wealth or frivolous tattoos, or life ending drugs and alcohol?

My father once told me, only take government money if you will build something with it for a better future.

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Will you support giving the government payouts because it is easier and the face behind the giving takes no personal involvement? Your taxes used for charity are nice, but are they effective? Would you rather be pursuing your American dream than take the time or finances or both to become personally involved?

No need for family, no need for friends, no chances for human charitable connections; just a faceless government check.

Could this be our modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge moment, when we turn from personal involvement to impersonal hand outs and believe that is enough?

My mother’s concern was: “We might be losing more than we have rescued.”

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Her comment haunts me to this day, may it haunt you also as we move forward together down the road of opportunity, the path to liberty, called “Liberty Road.”

`Lorraine Newman