I’d rather be a bit naive than cruel.

Our country is the beast, not the government. Our country is a huge, hungry, complex beast. Taming it is not easy. Changing the system, centralizing the system is a monumental task, but not an impossible one. You say our society demands charity. I say our society demands solutions, personally and collectively. Sometimes we have to take a hand-out so we can give a hand-out in the future.

I have known many people who used or use public assistance of one sort or another. Nearly all were women with children — women who were abandoned by the men who helped create those children (my daughter is one), men who left these women destitute or near destitution. Most of these women were mortified to get public assistance, as was my daughter, but had no choice. All wanted to find a way to support themselves and their children. All wanted something better.

Yes, there are freeloaders — there will always be freeloaders. We need to stop talking about freeloaders and talk about those in need, talk about how to improve what is not working, talk about fixing what is broken.

My original comment was that we start educating and caring for those in the most vulnerable situations at a very young age to break the cycle. I know children from broken homes, children whose parent or parents don’t know how to break the cycle, how to climb out of the hole, or are incapable of doing so for a variety of reasons — instability, mental health or physical health issues, lack of education, abuse. These children want to escape, they want to achieve, they want to do better than their parents. If no one teaches them, if they don’t learn about and develop the necessary skills, it is unlikely they will escape. I know some of their parents and most are hardworking people, but at low-paying jobs. They are so overwhelmed with survival, they have neither the time, the knowledge nor the energy to escape their situations. And, as I said previously, our non-system of social aid is so disjointed, confusing, and inaccessible that many cannot navigate it. As I said in the story about my co-worker with a mentally-ill son, she had the education, access, connections, and insurance that most do not have, but still she struggled with the jig-saw puzzle of local, state, and federal agencies and the end result was only a small amount of assistance for her son. Again, that is why social assistance needs to be uniform and centralized.

For years, a local agency that provides the most information and assistance for low-income, unemployed and struggling people was located n the outskirts of town — outside the bus route. Poor people often don’t have cars and can’t afford cabs. They could not even take a bus to the agency! The agency provided classes on various subjects, but at night, at a location beyond the bus routes, and there were no provisions for childcare if someone with children could attend. Then legislators complained that those getting benefits were not attending the classes and cancelled them! The classes were essential to breaking the cycle, but they were inaccessible.

Many applications for aid, such as unemployment benefits in my state, must be applied for online now. How ridiculous is that? Not only do many of those needing assistance not have computers or if they do, they cannot afford internet services, but many are elderly and know nothing about computers or online applications. I firmly believe that my very red state makes it as difficult as possible for people to apply for assistance, hoping they will give up, and, sadly, many do. When people give up, they sink into depression, they turn to drugs or other methods of escape, they don’t take care of themselves or their children, and so the cycle continues. In actuality those who do no get aid, those who gave up trying to get aid who are the biggest drain on social services.

And, as far as assistance programs go, they often are a hand-out and nothing more. There needs to be education, mentoring, accountability, a network of help.

All or nearly all social services need to be centralized and standardized. All Americans no matter where they live should have access to the same services, and those services should lie on a bedrock of education and healthcare, including mental healthcare. And, those services should be accessible, not put out-of-reach for those who need them the most.

The beast can be tamed.

Larry, you like to hearken back to days gone by and I will do the same. What happened to our pioneer spirit, the spirit that built railroads, strung electric lines, constructed skyscrapers?

If we use that same spirit, we can tame the beast, or a least make him manageable, and in doing so, we help one another. A lofty goal, but one for which we should and must strive.

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I was always a writer but lived in a bookkeeper’s body before I found Medium and broke free — well, almost. Working to work less and write more.

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