I am writing today about a legislative update from our 14th district delegate that appeared in the March 3 Point Pleasant Register. I read his update and appreciate much of what he appears to have done. I am not challenging any of the politics or legislation that he has proposed and will let him know my views in another way. I do have a problem with how he chose to articulate his views to his constituents on HB4001 concerning SNAP benefits.
I have dealt with underprivileged people my entire career. Being in the health profession as I have been for over 40 years, it’s something that goes with the job. I am not writing this for people to say what a great guy I am because I have taken care of people that are less fortunate than I am because that is the furthest thing from my mind. I do have a strong tendency to see good in people regardless of their circumstances.
My main reason when I ran for Board of Education in the 90’s was to fight for kids who had no one to fight for them. I helped start the first alternative school where we could place kids instead of sending them home or suspending them. I have tried to help many of those who are less fortunate.
I am proud of those people that I may have helped make a difference in their lives and their obvious outcome. I also feel it in my heart. I have “loaned” people who had no money to pay for their prescriptions and things I felt were necessary and on occasion maybe not so necessary. On one such occasion I got a call from someone asking for my help. A friend of mine took the call originally and said “They don’t need money. I heard the cartoon network in the background. If they can afford that then they shouldn’t need you.” I didn’t judge. I asked no questions and continued to help them.
I know people (some are teachers) that get food stamps (SNAP benefits). They shop late at night, so they don’t get ridiculed by people behind them snickering and saying things like “I wish I didn’t have to work and got welfare like you.” Or “there’s where all my taxes go, to you welfare people.” The worst is “why don’t you get a job and work like I do for a living.”
I have never been in their position in my life, but I do understand it. I have been in the medical field my entire life and a high percentage of my patients fall into the low-income group. It’s pretty much a given in West Virginia where sadly even many of our teachers fall under this category.
I have been very successful in my career and received numerous awards over the years. I treat everyone the same regardless of which “side of the tracks” people live on. I never questioned their ability to pay or not to pay, their insurance from their good job or their insurance coming from government programs. There was only one line in my pharmacy and they all stood in the same one.
I delivered to low income areas throughout my career. I had a girl who used to walk to my store when she had a prescription to pick it up (she had no car). One day she didn’t have the dollar to pay for it. I told her not to worry about it, just pay me the next time if she had it. I knew she lived several miles away and would never accept a ride or let us deliver to her. Two hours later she walks in and hands me a dollar. Many people would have laughed. That day I cried.
I have helped many people over the years and have no regrets. One such kid, now a man, saw me recently and told me about his life. He has a wife and kids and a good job. This is a kid who got kicked out of school and I took under my wing and got him and his sister back in school. When the school had no textbooks for him, I made sure I found one for him. I made him play football and get a purpose in life and stay in school. Unfortunately, he did get kicked off the team, ironically because the coach said he was too mean. But I stayed after him and he finished school. I loaned his mom some money and never expected repayment. His mom passed away several years back. Although her son never paid me with money, he repaid me with kind words that day. He was so proud that day to tell me he became something. Again, I think I cried. It must be the heart thing.
Why did I write this story today? Two reasons: The first being that teachers see this every day and try to make a difference in kids lives. They do this for a living and without much pay. Their reward is the pride in knowing that they can make a difference. They probably understand better than I do, because some of the teachers with struggles of their own, exist through programs like the less fortunate they seek to help. They don’t judge kids, just like I don’t judge people. Most only get repaid like I do, not with money but with pride in a job well done. They may run into that former student who beams with their accomplishments and sometimes may say thank you. I am sure they cry a little then too. The next time you run into that teacher who made a difference in your life, stop for a minute and say thank you. Trust me it makes the heart feel good both ways.
My second reason is my main reason for today’s rant. I read an article in the Point Pleasant Register where our 14th District Delegate referred to programs for unfortunate people as “welfare.” Welfare to an unfortunate person is like saying the “N” word. I read HB 4001 and could not find this word (welfare) used anywhere within it. I am not sure why this delegate chooses this word when many years ago this was dropped for the more preferred non-derogatory words such as Medicaid or Public Assistance as was evident in HB 4001. I did advise this person of my feelings and got no response. Apparently, he only deals on one side of the tracks and never ventures over to the other side and maybe has no idea what I am talking about. If it was you talking to “your base” which seems popular now a day, then shame on you. If it was ignorance, then shame on you again. People from both sides of the tracks vote. If you really want to represent all the people then walk across the “tracks” sometime, it might do your heart some good.
J. David Morgan, of Point Pleasant, is a former member of the Mason County Board of Education.
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