When my family was on Welfare

Tuesday, March 27th. The 35th day of Lent.

Okay, technically it wasn’t Welfare, but it was government assistance so let’s not split hairs.

In November of 2007 Jeanene quit her job because Shelby was in a crisis and we needed an adult at home. Like many Americans we had health insurance through her job, but we thought we’d just call up some insurance company and get different insurance. I was working three jobs at the time to make the money we needed. Pastor, writer for the High Calling, and I was working for the Christian Century setting up their blog network. I’m not counting Real Live Preacher as a job, but I was doing that too.

So I don’t want to hear anyone say that this stuff only happens to lazy people. I’m a hard working guy. Always have been.

But then a series of bad things happened.

  1. We couldn’t get health insurance because of the depression medication I took a few years before. I had no idea that was going to happen.
  2. I was laid off from the Christian Century job.
  3. I no longer felt right about being a pastor. And it’s one of those jobs you can’t do if you don’t feel right about it without being a liar. So I waited until I had another job lined up and then resigned. That’s not the bad thing. I thought resigning was the right thing to do. But then the job I thought I had didn’t pan out.

I tried finding a job through an employment agency, only to discover that my strange skill set (preaching, writing, web design, technical graphics skills, social media dude) was not in demand in the exact combination that I possessed. To be sure, lots of companies were hiring people with deep skills in those individual areas. But my wide array of self-taught skills with no corporate experience did not lead to any job offers.

So in April of 2010, we found ourselves with one small job, mounting debt, and a daughter who announced that she was pregnant.

No health insurance to cover the pregnancy. No credit cards. Nowhere to turn.

I’ve faced some dark times now and then. But I was looking into an abyss. My daughter and the child within her were going to need immediate and expensive medical care. Right away. We had no idea what to do. I called the Methodist Mission Home and received the first good news we had heard in a long time.

“Gordon, don’t worry. If a young woman gets pregnant and doesn’t have insurance, Medicaid takes over. We’ll have her signed up in a week. All of her medical expenses and those of her child will be covered.”

Here is how I heard it:

“Gordon, I know times have been tough. But the American people care about your daughter and her child. So we’ve set aside some money to help people in your situation. We can help you get through this. Your daughter and her child are important to us as a society.”

I sobbed when I hung up the phone. Such a weight was lifted from my shoulders. And every time we took Shelby to the doctor, I said a prayer of thanks for YOU. Because regular, tax-paying Americans helped my family get through that hard time.

By the end of 2010 Jeanene and I formed my own business. Nine months after that our business was making enough money to pay for health insurance for my family. We’re covered now. We’re doing fine. And I’m damn proud of my wife and I for building our own business in these hard times. I don’t think we have to apologize to anyone for having a rough patch in 2010.

But we wouldn’t have made it without help. So I will never forget the generosity of the American people and how you got us through. And right now in Sequin Texas, a little girl is happy and healthy with her adoptive parents because YOU thought enough about a poor family to help with medical expenses.

I’ll never forget what you did for us.

Thank you.

Gordon