I worry about this especially with our members of Congress, many of whom are quite wealthy and enjoy privileged lives. They may not be able to draw upon life experiences to help relate in situations like this. I can.
Let me tell you a story: It was the summer right after my first year of teaching. I just got married and secured a job teaching at Leto High School in Tampa.
My husband had a fellowship at the University of South Florida—fellowships didn't pay much back then either—so my teacher's salary was our primary source of income. I didn't know how we could afford to get by until the next school year began. It was a constant stress on us. In the back of my mind, there was a voice that kept saying "how are we going to make it?" My saving grace came from a local youth hostel. I found work helping run the place. It didn't pay much, but my husband and I were able to stay in one of the rooms. We couldn't afford much comfort, but we had security for the summer. The room had a hot plate, which was fine enough for cooking on a budget.
What was the biggest staple of my weekly meals? Beanee Weenees. Lots of Beanee Weenees. Now, I refer to that time as the "Summer of Beanee Weenees."
It wasn't the only time I've struggled to get by. Living off a teacher's salary for three decades was far from comfortable, but I loved making a difference for my students. Financial instability was a constant in my life, like the Beanee Weenees were that summer. I can't eat them without thinking of it—thinking of how hard it was to find a way to persevere through the bad times. I know that's what a lot of us are feeling right now.
That bad time ended for me, and this one will end soon enough for some. But for others, ending soon is not in the cards. I assure you I see you, know you and will continue to pour my heart into creating a good life for you—for all of us. Please, don't feel like you're alone in this. It may not seem like it, but there are policymakers and public servants who understand what you're going through. I'll never forget how I overcame adversity. It's made me a better legislator, a better public servant.
I want to continue serving you in Congress. It's so important that our representatives in Washington have this perspective.