“That year was one of the poorest my family ever lived through. There was much excitement one day about a week before Christmas when three older men in suits showed up at our door carrying boxes and bags of food. I think they were either Shriners or Masons, but I can’t remember. I do remember my mother hugging them all and thanking them over and over while my sister and I ran around their legs like hungry cats, anxious to see what treats were in those sacks. My mother was crying uncontrollably and kept hugging those men. They didn’t say much, just told her she was welcome and left as quickly as they came. This was our Christmas dinner. We received gifts from such groups more than once. Most often it was the Salvation Army.
“My father was deeply ashamed for having to accept a handout. That’s something that gets drilled into the heads of white males in the South from the moment they can speak—never accept anything that you haven’t earned for yourself. Having to accept the handout deeply wounded my father in some way that pushed him close to the edge of an emotional cliff. I wasn’t old enough to really understand it; I just knew that my dad was acting strange, and that he was chewing his nails so viciously that sometimes it looked like he was going to put his whole hand in his mouth. Now I know it’s because a man who accepted a handout wasn’t really seen as being much of a man—especially by the man himself. Any man with two working arms and legs who signed up on welfare wasn’t seen very differently from a thief, a liar, or a rapist.” – Damien Echols, Life After Death