The U.S. Capitol. (Credit: Toni Smith, USGS. Public domain
By John Livesay
I am a 64-year-old, life-long Virginian, and I’m proud of my work ethic. In fact, I remember receiving my first work permit in 1970 at age 13. I worked as a grocery store stock boy after school. And I’ve been working ever since, until my disabilities caught up with me.
Today, I want to work, but — because of my medical conditions — I can’t. Believe me, I’d rather stand on my own two feet. But my body won’t let me.
For 25 years, between 1977 and 2002, I was a route salesman for the food service industry, handling supplies for vending machines. I often had to haul heavy loads of food supplies up stairways and all the heavy labor eventually caused a life-long back injury.
I remember what a nurse practitioner at the VCU School of Medicine said when I was diagnosed with a pinched spine: “It always happens to the ones who are working and trying to better themselves.”
I didn’t let that get me down, though. I found work as a trucker between 2005 and 2019. I only drove a total of eight years during that period, because many trucking companies were going under. Today, my disabilities prevent me from ever driving a truck again.
Although I’m currently on disability and can’t work, I still want to contribute to society, so I volunteer at my church’s food pantry twice a week. I love being involved, but it’s not lost on me that I can’t afford to buy enough food for myself.
I’m not asking for anything besides the bare necessities, but these days I don’t even have enough for that. I’m thankful for my church community, the Petersburg Seventh Day Adventist Church, which helped me pay rent one month. And thanks to Lift the Burden Fund in Richmond, some of my utilities were also covered.
But there’s something wrong with this picture. I’m so grateful for this support, but I’m a hard-working Virginian. I shouldn’t have to depend on donations to get by.
That’s why I recently joined an organization called WorkMoney that’s calling on Washington to focus on the needs of people like me, because I know my story is not unique. These days, politicians seem to have no idea about the way everyday Americans are living.
I’m a voter, and I voted for Donald Trump. Now, with a new president and a new Congress in place, here’s my message to Washington: People who have worked hard all their lives deserve better. Put yourself in our shoes, and deliver the support we need.
It’s simple: Virginians need jobs that pay more and things that cost less. Affordable housing, utilities and broadband access are not luxuries, and they should not be making us bankrupt. Funding for these things, as well as a permanent Child Tax Credit and a serious investment in infrastructure to create jobs would be game-changers for myself, and so many people I know.
I don’t see this as complicated — it’s just the right thing to do. Everyone I know is hardworking and dedicated to their community, and we could do so much more with just a bit of support.
I’m calling on my senators and representatives to have the backs of Virginians like me and pass President Biden’s jobs and families plans. It’s long past due.
John Livesay lives in Petersburg and is a member of the nonprofit advocacy group, WorkMoney.
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