Can you write about other stuff besides homelessness?
I was recently asked this and once again I knew it was somebody else’s expression of being uncomfortable with the subject. My answer to this question is: Of course I can but what other subject is so pertinent right now?
I could care less who was at your dinner party or what kind of car you drive. I don’t care what you do for a living and what tax bracket you’re in. I don’t need to know what exotic place you went to on vacation. Who cares what private school you sent your kids to or how big your house is.
Here’s what I want to know: What did you do today to make someone’s life a little more bearable? What words of comfort did you offer to someone who is in a lot of pain? How much of your time is spent volunteering to be a good Samaritan? Do you really need that expensive cup of coffee when there’s a mother standing nearby with a cardboard sign begging for money to feed her kids? Do you really need that designer pair of heels when there are kids out there who need warm clothes for the winter?
Do you think complaining about your day compares to families out on the street looking for a safe place to sleep at night? Does bitching about what you don’t have the same as knowing that without health insurance and a safe place to rest, you will die of cancer in your car because there is no place else to go? How come you’re not helping that family member by offering to babysit so they can keep their job when all you’re doing is hanging out at the golf course for hours on end?
You see there is a disease that is so common in the world yet its victims aren’t even aware that they’re infected. It’s called Ass-ism and it’s symptoms are ass-like. Here’s some examples:
“It’s not my problem you’re homeless.”
”They didn’t manage their money right.”
“I got my own problems to worry about.”
“Somebody else will take care of it.”
“I just don’t have the money to help anybody” – Then you see this person buying a $5.00 latte and getting into a new car
“Well, the best thing for homeless people to do is to give up their kids until they get their lives straight.”
“I don’t feel sorry for the bums I see out in the street. If they’re a drug addict or a drunk, they deserve to be there.”
“I don’t want those tent cities in my backyard. My kids don’t need to see that.”
If you run across people displaying ass-like symptoms, be careful around them so that you too won’t be infected. It is highly contagious and difficult to cure. Most are in denial of the disease but it is rapidly on the rise.
Gone are the days that I allow careless comments about my situation to go unanswered. Gone is the time wasted on pretending to everyone that we’re not in hell. Gone is my attitude that I am to blame for this. Gone is the attitude yours will be after I educate you on the facts of how I got here. Gone will be your excuses for turning a blind eye to your responsibility to us for letting us fall through the cracks.
We are all around you and homelessness recruits new members every day. It is time you see us. It is time you heard us. It is time to stop criminalizing us. It is time for YOU to get involved.
With so many people out there who need help, I wonder about things. I wonder how hard it would be to find good Samaritans in every community that would be interested in helping out people who just need a little help to make things easier to get by. I’d call it “Little things mean a lot” or something like that. For people working a non-living wage job, sometimes having a ride to work now and then will save them from spending money on public transportation or stretch gas money until the next payday. Local food banks are falling short of being able to feed the hungry and one thing they are lacking is fresh produce items like fruits and vegetables. Maybe you have a large garden or enough space around you to start a pea-patch. Whatever is grown would be a great donation. I can’t tell you all how many times I’ve walked through neighborhoods full of trees with fruit rotting on the ground all around them.
For single parents like myself, not having a place for my kids to go to before and after school determined how long I’d be able to keep a job. In Seattle, for $15.00 my teen could get an annual pass to drop in after school at the local Boys & Girls Club. When I was living out of an r.v. and spending days at a local park, some folks there amazed me with their ingenuity. There were a couple of young families with kids and both parents worked but could not afford daycare. There were a few retirees nearby that “volunteered” during the summer to be in the park all day to watch over the kids by making sure they were safe from predators and bullies. Somehow picnics just happened to be a daily activity at the park especially in the summer. Some of these kids wouldn’t have eaten that day if those picnics weren’t so coincidental. I deliberately made a point of having barbecues there since hamburgers and hotdogs don’t cost much. Although it was never talked about out loud, many parents were thankful that their kids were being watched while they were at work. During bad weather, two struggling mom’s living in apartment complexes nearby took turns reserving the cabana rooms to hold pizza parties so that the kids would be warm and dry and if the cabana wasn’t available, they would divide the kids up and let them hang out at their places until the parents got home. One of the mom’s had a van and she would also drive the kids down the hill to the local library. All of this and yet not one person complained about being inconvenienced.
One way I kept kids busy at the park was to teach them things. I taught a lot of girls how to knit or crochet and basic sewing. One boy surprised me because he took to crocheting better than most of the girls! Most of the boys were fascinated when I showed them native survival skills. They wanted to know what plants could be foraged, how to find clean water out in the woods, how to whittle or fashion emergency items from whatever was lying around. By the time their parents got back, they didn’t want to leave. Telling these kids stories amused me more than anything just by watching the expressions on their faces.
Senior citizens need help too. Sometimes they can’t afford their heating bill in the summer or need someone to come out and mow their lawns. I used to help a man with Alzheimer’s clean his house because he was having a difficult time doing basic things. Eventually his daughter brought him to live with her but she was thankful that I kept an eye on him until she was able to move him.
I’m sure there’s other things that can be done as each community has its own needs and I wonder at how much of a logistical nightmare it would be to create such a network of helping hands but in these times, can any of us really afford not to help?
“How do I tell you, all the things I have felt for you? I have felt your sorrow, your anguish, your frustration and your joy. I have stood in the shadows, watching. Every struggle you’ve had, every triumph you’ve won, I was a spectator to. When you felt the world was too heavy to bear, I stood by you. When you felt alone the most, I carried you. Who am I you ask? I am you…..” Indy
Today I write because I must not allow myself to sink into depression. I decided a long time ago that I must focus my energy into other things, positive things. Why should I fear tomorrow when tomorrow isn’t here yet? I still have things to be thankful for, even though my present situation may not seem like it. Most of my fears have nothing to do with me but everything to do with my girls.
You see there is a memory I have that won’t stop haunting me. Before I became homeless, there were these two girls that lived in my neighborhood. They were 11 and 12. They suffered constant homelessness because of the choices their parents made and unfortunately, no one seemed to care. I tried to call social services to see what could be done for them and they were well aware of the family I was asking about. While working a second job on the graveyard shift at the 7-11 on the corner of my block, I saw these two girls out past midnight hanging out with their aunt who was a known drug addict and prostitute. They wore way too much make-up and I had a sinking feeling about what they were up to. During the day these same kids would walk around the neighborhood begging for food to eat as their aunt had several children that looked awfully neglected. I did what I could but I was angry at this aunt and she knew I was. I started making sandwiches for those kids because if no one else would step up to help, I would.
One night I didn’t see the girls and assumed that they might have moved on to another motel for a while. They had relatives that lived in nearby apartments but I didn’t see any of the kids there. Call it intuition but something about not seeing them gave me a bad feeling. A few days later while picking up my daughter from the babysitter’s, I found out that the bodies of those two girls were found near Bothell in shallow graves. I felt like someone had punched me in the chest. I blamed myself for not doing more to prevent this and the anger and frustration I have felt at what happened to those girls has been with me ever since. This is not where I want to see my kids headed.
People who have never experienced homeless often think the worst of those who do. We’re just like you. Some of us have self-induced problems that led us into homelessness, others landed on the street because they have no safety net. Here in Washington, there is a shelter crisis because families that lost their homes and jobs are filling them up. None of that however, compares to lack of help from family members.
So while you’re sitting there reading this or watching some tragic news on television, please don’t say “Somebody ought to do something”, because really, you are that somebody.
Oh thank god! My financial aid went through and the notices about repaying my student loans have stopped! That’s one less thing I have to stress over! Now I just have to get a regular income going so I don’t feel like such a loser…..
I think Caly went back to work today but she also has dialysis right after. I just hope it doesn’t wear her down too much but we’ll see.
The mini-van needs a tune up badly but until I get paid, I’m stuck. The storage unit rental is due on the first and that’s only a few days away. Once again I find myself juggling to pay bills without a job! I hope the financial award is here before October because I really need to pay that storage unit. I’m working on downsizing it but I still have to pay for gas to and from it even if I dump everything at a thrift store. I just hope the van doesn’t break down in the middle of nowhere not for myself but because it will interfere with getting stuff to Nickelsville.
I am starting to get annoyed with my mother as she seems to feel the need to keep asking on my Facebook page who else is donating besides herself, Caly and I. Really? You have to know you’re not the only one because what, somehow you don’t have the compassion to help out on your own?? I don’t share much with her because there’s never been a mother/daughter relationship between us, something I won’t repeat with my own girls. When I feel myself getting annoyed or frustrated with people, I step back, breathe deeply and meditate. It is no wonder things ar harder than they need to be. People are their own worst enemy because they tend to walk around with blinders on. Why is it we tend to see the world only through our perspective instead of trying to see another’s?
Today I really observed and interacted with the folks on Twitter thanks to Mr. Horvath. I have to admit that I didn’t know what to think when Josie from change.org sent me an introduction email about him. Yes, I saw posts on the site with his name on it and read his story but never did I think I’d actually talk to him or chat with him over the internet. I felt intimidated by him because I saw all this stuff he was doing to help others but now I see he has the same worrys as the rest of us. I hope (like the rest of us) he doesn’t stress out too much about the next project or what he’s going to do after his road trip is done. They say where one door closes, another one opens.There is a fire inside his soul that most don’t have. I see in him a compassion many fear to embrace and that is a rarity among men I think. The world needs more like him and for his sake, our sakes, I hope his compassion never burns out.
“The hero is the one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light.”
P.S. – Thanks to my sense of humor, it won’t be long before Mr. Horvath regrets showing me how to get on Twitter!
I spent the day collecting donations for Nickelsville. I was able to get cases of instant noodles, cup o’soup, oatmeal, coffee, tea, bananas, hotdogs, hotdog buns, cans of soup and peaches along with non food items such as laundry detergent, paper plates, plastic spoons and forks. My step dad even donates a roll of construction plastic which surprised me but was thankful for it as I’m sure the resourceful folks at Nickelsville will put it to good use.
Caly ended up volunteering to drive down there with her car because on the way back from my mother’s place, my van started acting funny. I think it would be a good idea not to drive it too far until I can get it tuned up and have the transmission looked at. We got down to the University District around 9 pm and the folks there looked surprised to what we had brought them. I cannot put into words what it felt like to see that look. I honestly believe that they were not expecting anyone to go out of their way to help. I may be homeless but that doesn’t mean I can live without honor. I cannot look the other way when so many need help and it seems to me that the only people willing to help are those of us fighting in the same war.
I am surprised that my mother bothered to help donate because this is not a normal activity for her but the fact that she did will help people she may never take the time to meet. Caly said she wished she could do more. I figure a little eventually adds up to a lot.
I was proud of my teen for helping unload the back of Caly’s car. I’m not sure what she’s thinking just yet but I hope that seeing Nickelsville for herself will show her that she’s not the only homeless young person out there. She did wonder why we decided to show up at night. I told her that for one thing, there’s less traffic. The other thing is that I don’t need to make a public display of helping others out. Just knowing those folks will wake up to a pleasant surprise is enough for me.
My youngest got off the bus without her coat. I told her she better not get off the bus tomorrow without it because we don’t have the money to get another coat for her. That was a fairly expensive coat I was lucky enough to get at a 60% off the last marked price sale. I will send an email to her teacher to see if it is somewhere in the classroom. I got an email today from Mrs. D asking if what she sees in class everyday is typical. I sent an email asking what she meant by that and it would seem that my daughter is not doing her work when asked, something she pulled last year when Mr. Z called her on it. She’s been fighting me after school in doing her homework and that’s a habit I’m going to break.
I saw in the local paper a family event being held in the next city over which is Buckley. This weekend is National Alpaca Day and there will be all kinds of activities for the kids. I told little hard head that unless she straightens up her act, the rest of us will be going to the little fair. Hopefully this will give her an incentive to get her homework done and pay attention in class.
It would seem that my teenager has finally made a friend at school and wants to spend the weekend over at this girl’s house. I of course said that I want to meet this kid’s mother first. At least they only live a few blocks from Caly’s place so I know where they’ll be.
On a rather disappointing note, I asked folks I know if they could spare three bucks to buy a box or case of top ramen noodles that I could donate to Nickelsville. Not one person bothered to respond back to me. I will scrape up three dollars for a case of instant noodles because they need the food more than I do at the moment. I guess I should’ve known because outside of Caly, nobody bothered to help prevent me from becoming homeless by helping out with childcare when I worked two jobs.
I’m still waiting for financial aid to process my application for next year because my stomach is still in knots over the $88.00 a month I have to pay back for student loans. I checked child support and as I expected, nothing. While waiting, I will continue making clothes for the kids. As long as they don’t get sick all the time, it will help. They just got over some kind of flu-like bug and can’t afford to miss days from school.