The Common Good

SNAP / Food Stamp Challenge, Day 4: Piatt FAIL

I don’t mind failing as much as I do admitting I’ve failed. And technically, we haven’t blown the SNAP Challenge just yet, but I know for a fact we will by the end of the week.

I went to the store last night for another loaf of bread and a frozen pizza for dinner, which I had promised my kids if they’d make it to mid-week without freaking out. This brought us down to eighteen bucks and change left in the till, which theoretically was going to be enough to fill in the gaps for other items we’d need to do our meals through the weekend.

And then reality hit.

Amy had a 7:30 meeting at church this morning and, in her haste and bleary state, she forgot breakfast. Again. Her meeting was with a parishioner who insisted on buying her a yogurt parfait ($3), knocking us down to $15. I was left in charge of getting both kids off to their respective places since Amy went in early, and in my state of distractedness, I got to church without lunch for either of us. I’d go home and get it, but we don’t have time before our next meetings. I’d skip the meal, but my blood sugar issues don’t allow for that. So we’re going to have to buy something.

That will bring us down to close to nothing left to spend. The good news is I have some things for a day or two more of breakfast, some lunches, and at least dinner for tonight. But there’s no way I have enough to stretch through Sunday for all four of us. We’ve screwed up.

And there’s more. The man who Amy met with this morning offered her some tickets to an event this weekend. It’s incredibly generous, and my son in particular will freak out when he finds out what we’re going to do. But it’s a day-long event, and outside food isn’t allowed. The good news is that the tickets he gave us include free food, but if you’ve been following my posts, food you don’t pay for still has to be counted, or else you can game the system so that you call on friends and family to help you fudge your way through the week without any real sacrifices. And finally, we have a youth and young adult cookout Sunday afternoon, and the hosts of the party are providing the meal for all of us. Incredibly generous, once again, but we’ve left no wiggle room in the week’s budget even for a meal at a friend’s house.

So I’m here to confess that, in spite of my planning, despite living in a household that boasts two master’s degrees and all of the necessary tools to pull this off, we’re going to blow it.

Right about now is when I need to remind myself about the piece I wrote very recently on the awesomeness of failure. And I recognize that we can learn just as much (maybe more) from failing at the challenge as we can from succeeding. If my graduate schooling taught me anything, it’s that a controlled study yields valuable information, regardless of the final outcome and whether it meets your expectations. But I wanted to do it. My ego told me I could make it work, that I could hold our privilege and our creature comforts at arm’s-length.

To paraphrase an old song, I fought privilege and privilege won.

I guess this further answers the reporter’s questions from yesterday about why we would consider doing the challenge again next year. Clearly we need more practice at learning how to live on less.

Previous posts during the Challenge:

Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004. Christian is the creator and editor of "Banned Questions About The Bible" and "Banned Questions About Jesus." His new memoir on faith, family and parenting is called "PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date."

Rubber ink 'Failed' stamp, Dimitrios Kaisaris / Shutterstock.com

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