Free Lunch to Free Lunch

“Why does your company give you free lunch when you’re the last person who needs it?”

I don’t know.

I answered, at the time my little brother asked, like I knew. We’re competing for talent, this is what everyone else does in the Bay Area, my time is worth so much, this prevents me from leaving the office and encourages collaboration with my peers...

His question is perfect. It makes no sense to live in a country who will denounce those who most need assistance — or worse, take it away — while throwing the same sustenance to those who need it the least, in the name of “meritocracy” or “market value”.

From elementary through high school I felt the shame of eating free lunch, and breakfast, paid for by the government. After so many years of receiving food as charity, with embarrassment, I’m still cautious of eating amongst my co-workers. I skip lunch or eat at my desk. I’m not comfortable wearing free food as a badge of pride, knowing so many others who would be proud to be able to afford it.

My brother works full time for little more than minimum wage, and his daughter will qualify for lunch paid for the government (with the hope that the free lunch program continues). We come from the same mother, the same humble beginnings with the same decks stacked against us because we are from the welfare class. Most people in the world have lives closer to his than mine.

What’s between him and me now, 17 years after I moved out of that house we shared? Mostly, I’ve become used to this life. The remarkable value the world puts in this tech industry feels to me like it will never end, and to him something of a dream.

One day we will be utility workers, but for now we enjoy the luxuries of kings and queens.

Things you do when you have more than others but don’t really know how to help: Volunteer at a food bank. Give money to charities. Tip well. Tell yourself you’re solving difficult problems in the world by keeping a website up. Try to figure out how you’re on this side when you were supposed to be on that side. Figure out how to pay it forward. Assume it will all end soon.

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