Connecting with Community

Monday, July 23, 2012


I woke up with no desire to run and I have felt guilty all day. So I begin my work day by
running to pick up a donation way across town,
only to find that I am not quiet dressed for the occasion.
I return to my office empty handed but not before I get a lunch meeting in.

My next appointment is a conference call. I serve on a Peer Learning Group
and today is our first visit on what we are each doing to help young adults
earn a post secondary education. I dial in and sit quietly as the others chime in.
I listen and share as we speak of engagement and effectiveness.
We talk of sustainability and multisector initiatives.
An hour into the phone call I begin to day dream. I am not good at sitting I am better at
doing. I don't want to talk about things I want to do things, although I understand
dialogue is necessary especially if we wish to create lasting change.

I am ready to receive my first face to face for the day. She is eager to live in
her own place. She is eager to be self sufficient and I am eager to help her.
We go over her plan. She has an Associates in Business but working in
a warehouse because she can not seem to find a job in her field.
We begin by going over the many barriers we must overcome in order to get us to our destination.
Just talking about it makes me feel overwhelmed. 
Not her she is focused she has 5 little reasons that keep her that way.

I am interrupted by someone handing me a note. It reads "Jane Doe is waiting in the lobby."
I ask the family in front of me if I can have a few moments with the lady in the lobby.
They graciously agree. I escort the family I am working with to the lobby and call the other family in.

I greet and ask them to come in. As they sit I ask who referred them. The mom replies
" We went to a church for help and they sent us here." I smile and quickly begin filling out my form.
I ask for her needs. She states she is in need of help paying her rent.
I ask what has caused her to fall behind. She tells me "I was sick and so was my three year old. I
wanted to go to work but the daycare wouldn't let my baby stay because he was sick."
I ask her "Will you be able to pay your bills next month if we help you this month?"
She replies "yes."

I ask for her income just to make sure she will make it. She makes 900 and her bills are 1000
and that does not include food or hygiene.
I tell her she is still going to be short and she replies "No I sell my plasma,
I just couldn't sell my plasma last month because I was sick."
I then ask "Can you pay your bills without selling your plasma?"
She softly answers "No."
I tell her "I am sorry." I'm stunned I don't know what else to say.
She sees my sadness and responds with "no that's ok, I'm ok." 
I tell her "no that's not ok. It's not ok with me."  Through broken words she speaks again
 "It's ok, my head hurts for only two hours but then I am fine."

I gasp for breath and tell her "Together we will figure out a way. A way where you and
your baby can eat with out you selling your plasma." I get up to hug her and she is
shocked that I would care. Why would she be shocked that a person in "Social Service" would care?
She pats me on the back and tells me "thank you." I will never forget that gratitude.

I've only been doing this for a very short three years and I don't know that I will ever be okay with people suffering.
When it no longer breaks my heart to see people suffer I will find something else to do.
I want to be driven to help each person as if they belonged to me.

We are never so defensless against suffering as when we love.
Sigmund Freud

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My heart hurts

 I arrive to a stack of folders, emails and messages. All from people seeking a better way of life. All searching for an opportunity to earn a living wage. Education is what they are in search of but they just can't verbalize it yet.

 Later that day I have lunch with a new friend. I met her when she started contributing to our cause. I arrive late and she doesn't seem to mind. While enjoying our meal we begin to converse. I notice that she seems uncomfortable. I would even say embarrassed. We continue our conversation and I sense she is becoming more uneasy by the minute. My heart takes hold and I begin to understand what it is, I have seen this many times.

 I change the conversation by sharing my story. I speak of the times I was in need and she begins to cry. I know it is not my story that brings those tears. I am certain now that need is present. I ask how I can help. She begins to tell me that she is a proud college graduate and she is certain that no one else has gone through what she is facing. I assure her she is wrong.With much shame she speaks of her need and I assure her that there is other proud college graduates that have been through the same thing. I tell her those other proud college graduates will answer her cry for help.

 On my way back to my office I make a quick stop at one of our local Life Changing churches. They truly practice what they preach, "to do unto the least of these". I stop to thank them for funds and like always take the time to share a story. I tell them of our single mother of three. I explain that she was abandoned by her husband. I mention how well she is doing in school and I thank them for providing the funds that will reinstate her electricity and water. Before I leave I assure them that they are building capacity for those in need.

 I arrive at my office and another Neighbor is waiting for me. I inform her that a Life Changer has gifted her funds to have her utilities reinstated. She is overwhelmed and so am I. The thought of good Samaritans in this day and age caring for someone they don't know. Through her tears she says she wishes she could do something to repay us. I tell her she can. I tell her to graduate and someday she will be able to help someone like she has been helped. She assures me she will.

My heart is full. She leaves and I begin to go through my emails. I open one and immediately wish that I had not. As I read I feel as if a dagger has pierced my heart. This email is different it hurts in a different kind of way.

You have to remember most of the time I live in a fairytale. A place where people don't say no when asked to help others. A place where people care about each other just because they are people. A place where everyone I am surrounded with gives of there excess so others can succeed. A place where the elderly are honored and respected.
A place where children are feed when they are hungry. A place where "every child has the right to be prepared to go to college". A place where the battle on Poverty is being won.

Sometimes I forget that not everyone wants to be good and decent to each other. Well this email reminded me that not everyone lives in my fairytale. This gentlemen wanted me to know that not everyone wanted to help "Lazy people".

I sit with my face in my hands and I think of what I should reply. Ugliness is beginning to take over. My fingers swoosh across the keyboard and on the screen a clever reply is forming. A reply that will not only pierce this gentleman's heart but it will make him feel as if I am twisting  the dagger as I insert it.  And just when he thinks I am done I would add another small line in my reply. One that would allow him to feel as if I jerked the dagger back out only to pierce it again. Almost instantly I am reminded of grace and mercy, that is granted to me daily. I am moved to hit delete.

I try to explain to God that I merely want to share with this fellow.
I want to share with him the story of my big blue eyed curly haired three year old little girl.
I want to invite him to spend the day with me. Just one day and while in the mist of these
"Lazy People". I will ask him to pick one, just one child that he would refuse food to.
I want to invite him to go meet "Lazy Joe" a Neighbor that would wake at midnight 6 days a week to walk two hours to catch a bus to work. I will explain how on "Lazy Joes" day off he would get up early to stand at man labor to find more work. I will also mention that for two of those months "Lazy Joe" did all this with a broken foot.

I am certain that "I will do all the good I can. By all the means I can. In all the ways I can. At all the times I can. To all the people I can. As long as I can".