What do we owe them?

I have been unusually quiet in this space even by my own standards, I wish I could say it was strictly because it’s hot as hell (global warming is real, we had tornadoes in Maine last night!!!) but truth is I am bogged down with family issues. This is one of those times when maybe I am about to share too much of myself in this space, but the truth is for me letting things out is often healthy. So here goes.

Right now as I type this, my remaining parental unit stands on the brink of homelessness. I am talking the odds are high that tonight he will sleep on a bench or in a shelter. I wish I could say it was because he is a super asshole but really he is not. No, he is just an aging hippy turned preacher turned widower yet a man who instead of planning chooses to live on faith. Long story short when the feds decided to play games with the extended unemployment benefits, my Pops got caught up in that mess. It’s been a month since he last received an unemployment check and living in a rooming house where rent is due weekly this is real bad. Regular laws governing eviction processes don’t apply to him and while I have been able to ensure he isn’t starving, there is no way I can pay my bills and his damn near $200 a week room rent.

My father is a prideful man, so rather than go to his family and by my last count he has at least 9 siblings still alive, he waited a couple of weeks before sharing this news with my brother and I, neither who are in a position to do much. Like I said we are keeping him from starving and I have extended an offer that he is welcome out in my neck of the woods and I can probably pony up the cash for a bus ticket to get him out here but really that is the best I can do.

Having worked with the homeless in Chicago I am quite familiar with every shelter or source of help for folks in Chicago yet he has not wanted to discuss those options, though he did call 311 the city’s homeless prevention helpline though without a guaranteed source of income he was pretty much shit out of luck.

My heart is heavy this morning, but at the same time feelings of anger are creeping up. See, to some degree we have been here before. When my Mom was at the late stages of her battle with cancer I helped my folks out, spending thousands on rent and her insurance. When my Mom passed, I helped out even more. None of that money was ever repaid back and really it wasn’t my money I spent it was money I owed to the IRS. This is one of the reasons I have that pesky tax problem.

See, my natural instinct is to help folks but the older I get, and as my own responsibilities mount its pretty clear that I can no longer dive in head first to help loved ones because in my mind I owe it to my kids and husband to make sure their needs are met. Yet I am struggling with the very idea of what do we owe our parents? Presuming they were decent folks who loved us and raised us, do we owe them anything? Two old friends of mine admit they have always admired the lengths I have gone to, to help family but also admit they would not sacrifice their own financial futures to do so. On the surface that pains me yet deep down I am starting to think it’s true. Part of me feels like due to past help, perhaps I have set a bad precedent in helping. I have family members who assume based on silly superficial shit that I must be well off financially…um, no. I still struggle with money like many I suppose but I also know that I try to stay one step ahead and plan for shit and deep down it bugs me that others don’t.

Anyway that’s what’s up with me. Is there anyone out there that is struggling with family in need especially parents? If so I would love to hear from you.

Don’t touch me

It’s another hot day up here (when will they end?) and I have a long day since I will be taking part in a community forum as part of my job this evening. So I suggested to the Spousal Unit and son, that we have lunch at Pizza Hut since I am in no mood to cook, thanks to a summer cold, oppressive heat and work. So the family came to pick me up from the office and we hit the local Pizza Hut.

It was a good time despite the lousy food, when I suddenly feel someone touching my hair. I look up and see an elderly white woman muttering something about nice, beautiful and I just wanted to touch your hair. Wait! What the fuck are you doing? I start trying to avoid her gnarled hands like I was Neo in the Matrix, moving closer to my daughter in the booth and even putting my hand up saying “PLEASE DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR

It’s not the first time in my 8 years in Maine I have had a white person reach out and attempt to touch my hair, after all I did have dreadlocks for 5 years but this was the first time I have ever encountered someone who did not respect my desire to stop trying to touch me. For a millisecond I felt reduced to less than human status and even my husband who is a laid back man told the woman “Please don’t touch my wife’s hair” There was a second when I thought he was about to lay hands on Granny. Eventually she and her party mosey’d on with her no doubt wondering what the issue was, but damn it, don’t touch my hair.

Look, I realize seeing a Black woman with braids may be a novelty  but reaching out to touch one is just a bad idea and frankly the only thing that stopped Granny from getting her fingers broke was the fact that she was elderly.  I am still not sure if that was a great idea but hey, I was raised to treat folks with respect even when its questionable if they deserve it.

So to my fellow humans of the white hue, don’t ever reach out and try to touch a Black woman’s hair…it could be hazardous to your health.

Whose responsibility is it?

Due to the fact that I am no longer an anonymous blogger, after all in Maine it’s not as if there is a plethora of Black women working as Executive Directors of small non-profit agencies. I am about to share a story but won’t be able to fill in the back story since while I like to talk much shit, I am rather fond of the paycheck I collect a couple times a month. So I apologize that I can not get too juicy with this story but it’s a story that needs to be shared.

I run a small agency that works primarily with low income youth and their families through a variety of services that we offer. The economic downturn has increased our workload at a time when frankly the money to fund such operations especially in smaller communities is drying up. I spend my days plotting to keep the doors open so not only do the area youth have a safe space to come to but so that I can make sure that the college boy will be able to attend college in the fall and that rice and beans don’t become a staple in our house. (Nothing wrong with them, I’d just rather eat them a couple times a week and not daily)

To be honest it’s a hard time to be in the non-profit sector, it’s never been a cakewalk but in the past several years it’s gotten even harder. Which is why I was stunned to find myself in a conversation with someone who is very knowledgeable about the field tell me point blank, they just don’t understand why people cannot provide for themselves. In a nutshell this person told me they think that most poor folks are lazy bums who are coddled. Furthermore that while the work that folks like me do is good; it bugs them how much bureaucratic waste goes on at agencies. To further elaborate this person felt that too many times folks like me (but not me) get hooked on good salaries and don’t do jack. ….Ummmm, wow! I could go on but the takeaway is that there is too much governmental waste supporting bums and maybe if we stopped helping folks they would pick up their own slack.

Like I said, I’d love to give you more details but I can’t. On the other hand this conversation made me wonder what would happen if social services simply did not exist? I wish I had faith that people would suddenly do the right thing and provide for their own families but in many cases, I see people daily who lack the means to do that. Of course there are scammers, over the years I have met many people who burn out of the helping professions because frankly it gets hard to do your job when you see people work the system. But I truly feel that at the end of the day the folks who do that are in the minority, most folks who use government and social services would probably rather not use them.

In a society such as ours whose responsibility is it to take care of the less fortunate among us? Once upon a time family connections were tighter and people could rely on family for help but as our connections to family have shifted often the help is not there. Either people physically are not able to assist or in these tight times cannot afford the monetary assistance.

Should we even have safety nets (are they really that safe) in place to catch our less fortunate?

Let’s talk about it. I am not even going to discuss the assumption that folks in social services are paid too much. I can count the number of coworkers I have had in almost 15 years in this field who were only a hair above the clients financially speaking. I am convinced that no one does direct social services without it being a calling, low pay, paltry benefits for jobs that require a certain level of experience and suck the life out of you. Yeah that’s the high life baby!