Monday, September 24, 2012

Jill Gerard's Voice

Mr. Romney,

Years ago, I was one of the 47%.  First as a graduate student, later  as a teacher just starting to find my place in the world. I lived in student housing, studied English, and completed the necessary classes to gain certification.  I clipped coupons – I remember one time I managed to save $20.00 on a $25.00 order thanks to double coupons, buy-one-get-one offers, and store specials.  I had to do all I could to stretch my small stipend.

Once teaching, I left the apartment early and drove over the mountain to school.  I had ninth and eleventh grade classes. My group of freshman boys was barely passing, but they came to trust me and soon stayed after school for extra help.  All but one managed to pass ninth grade English.  I remember Sarah coming to me at the end of the day in tears, her parents had thrown her out of the house.  She thought she was pregnant.  I was just 22 and did not yet understand how hard the world could be.  My paycheck was just enough to pay the rent, buy groceries, and make the car payment.  I bought clothes at the second hand store more often than not.  I believed though that I was making a difference in the world, and I knew that things would change.

Of course, they did.  As my career options expanded, my salary increased.  Instead of a tax return that said I owed no taxes or very little tax, I found that I moved into the middle and then the highest tax bracket.  I continued to teach, believing that giving back to the world was important.  I’d never be rich, but I was comfortable.

Today, if I were not married, I’d be back to paying little to no taxes.  A move to North Carolina and a new life brought unexpected challenges.  Today, I patch together three part-time jobs.  My yearly salary is close to that amount I made over thirty years ago.  The former English department chair at university where I teach part-time
told me that there was little sense in applying for a full-time lectureship as those were for teachers just starting out.  He told me “your husband can take care of you.”  I’m lucky for he does.  I worry though about what might happen should something happen to him.

You see, Mr. Romney, what you fail to understand is this: for most of the people in the country – things can change in an instant.  If there are no trust funds – things can change in an instant.  If there are no off-shore accounts, no way to work they system – things can change in an instant.

What you don’t understand, Mr. Romney, is that so many of us work and work hard each day – trying to make our world a better place.  It’s not always a lucrative business, but it is work that fills up the spaces in one’s heart, knowing that we’ve made a positive contribution to the world we live in.  It’s not really about how much we pay in taxes after all, it’s about how much we care about our community. 

Jill Gerard

Jill Gerard is a writer and teacher, wife and mother, friend to many who are, have been, or will be in the 47%.  She supports equal rights for all who call this country home.  She believes in "of the people,by the people, for the people."