earn your wages

I have been wanting to write this for a while. I still am not sure I have all the words ready, but it’s time to try.

I watched this video tonight about how no one working a full time minimum wage job can afford a two-bedroom apartment. Anywhere in America. And, of course, the video thinks that’s unfair.

To me, this is a black and white issue. Hard work deserves a payoff. I’m not asking for luxuries… In fact, over the past year, I’ve learned how to get by on a little and save a little. A lot of people live on a lot less. That doesn’t make it fair. This is reality. Poverty exists. This isn’t really my point, so let me keep going and stop rambling. Okay.

I’ve gotta stop reading the comments. Never read the comments.

Because the comments say…

Easy fix. Don’t be a single parent and you can afford an apartment.

Easy fix. Get an education and get a better job.

Easy fix. Leave the minimum wage jobs to the kids still living with mom and dad.

Easy fix. Find a skill people want to pay you more money for.

Easy fix. Try harder.

Honestly, if my heart could boil over in anger and frustration, it would.

I have a Bachelor’s degree from a top public university with a 3.6 GPA. I speak two languages. Look, I’m smart and I know that. I have a lot of skills. I work an hourly job and make a little bit more than minimum wage, but not that much. Getting by and paying rent and being able to afford the occasional meal out means I track my spending very carefully. And I get mad at my husband when he doesn’t remember to put the $1 bag of chips into our spending tracker app. This isn’t a sob story about me; I chose this job. I like being a barista and I am not currently seeking a high paying office job because, quite frankly, I don’t really know what I want.

What I’m saying, however, is I have the perspective. I have the perspective of working my ass off for low wages. I have the perspective of working in service despite having a quality education. Of working 40 hours a week on my feet, rarely getting a sit down lunch break longer than 10 minutes. Of going days without actually talking to my husband because our schedules are opposite. Of working 12+ hours in one day because I babysit in addition to working full time. Of being completely unappreciated. Not by my company. My company is great.

I’m talking about you. Yes, you. The public.

You all suck. You straight up suck. You think you don’t, but you do. I know I do too. I can be a real crap person sometimes and can be incredibly impatient and rude (though maybe not out loud). But dang it, I’m so sick of people thinking they are better than me and my coworkers and my friends because we work in service jobs.

We work in service jobs so that YOU can be provided a service that you would be lost without. I’ve been a barista for a year now and I worked half a year in a daycare before that. Both roles make minimum wage (or low hourly wages) across the country.

You would be lost without your morning latte. You would be lost without your daycare or babysitter. Honestly. These are people that work to make your life better daily and you don’t think they should be able to… afford rent? Is that a joke? (Here’s a short list of other minimum wage jobs that probably directly affect you)

I turned down a daycare position in New York because I literally could not pay my rent on the salary. These are the people spending all day with your children and you think they should have to live like this. Examine that.

I am thankful for the opportunity to work in service and be exposed to the entitlement running rampant in the hearts of men. Myself included. I know this. I work in a tourist food market; believe me when I say my own sins are exposed daily…

One of my fellow marketmen (not a real thing; using it anyway) works in one of the most demanding food locations in the market and he’s there full time, on top of acquiring a PhD. There goes your education argument, I guess.

In addition, OH MY GOSH THE DON’T BE A SINGLE PARENT COMMENT.

Situations that lead to single parenting are real and it doesn’t matter if you don’t approve of those situations. It is real and it happens and I dare you to say that to a single parent’s face. I dare you. I honest to God dare you to look in the eyes of a parent trying to raise a child alone and tell them they aren’t trying hard enough.

I also hate to break it to you, but there are SO MANY office jobs that still pay an hourly wage. Believe me. I have looked at a ridiculous amount of job postings over the past year.

I have spent so much time trying not to be angry. Because I believe that people are image bearers of God and should be valued. But… Even Jesus got angry in the face of injustice and I’m ashamed that it took me so long to be a loud voice against it. I mean, God himself is ANGRY in the face of sin and badness. And justice needs to prevail!

The American dream is a myth. Hard work does not pay off for most people in this country. If you’re fighting against raising the minimum wage because you (living comfortably in middle class or higher) might have to pay more taxes, I think you’re wrong and I’m angry about it.

There are so many homeless people in my neighborhood on my block alone, I can see their faces in my mind right now. I recognize them and I know where they sleep every single night at the bottom of the subway entrance stairs. If my higher taxes meant giving them a real place to live and health care to aid their mental illnesses (because many are suffering), so be it. It is WORTH IT. The people living in poverty in this country are WORTH the extra effort and I am so angry that is not common belief. I am so angry.

This is not an uneducated, snowflake liberal agenda, for those of you thinking that exact phrase. I know who you are and I can see your faces in my mind, not joking. This is being decent and realizing you are being selfish and that’s no way to live.

Make the minimum wage a living wage. Fight against poverty and systematic practices that do nothing to remedy injustice. I almost ended with “don’t be a jerk,” but I take it back.

Be a jerk, but be one when it matters. This is one of those moments.

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