“So much trouble in the world”- Bob Marley
These are indeed troubling times, bad news is a staple in our diets so it seems and for more and more people that trouble is personal. For a moment today, I hit the wall; my seemingly never-ending supply of hope was momentarily depleted. As I mentioned in my last post, this past week at work has been a killer, these are tough times for social service providers and I fear they will get worse. A friend shared yesterday that she is struggling with housing and another friend shared on her own blog her own struggle with scarcity, for so long I guess I have lived in this space where I knew people were struggling but seeing that struggle within my own circle might be even harder because it feels personal somehow. Personal in that my instinct is always to help, assist, be the sounding board, yet with friends it’s different than with clients because your friends don’t want your pity and you don’t want to jeopardize your relationships because you mean well and it’s not received in the right spirit.
I then remembered why I chose to leave a career that frankly was far more lucrative to be of service and help others, it’s because others, chiefly friends but many strangers helped me. As I have shared over the years, I wasn’t born into a financially secure family. Sure my mom came from a comfortably middle class family but at 8 and half months pregnant with me when she decided to marry my dad, she walked away from that comfort and into a life of struggle. Hell, I was born at the county hospital, which would be the free hospital for folks not familiar with such things. The way I heard the story, my parents didn’t even have supplies for me when I was born instead my dad’s co-workers took pity on the young couple and gave them what they needed.
As a child, most of our housing situations were tenuous at best, yet the one that has always stood out was when I was 10/11 and we lived in a transitional shelter ran by 2 nuns who were also social workers, Sisters Kathleen and Lois and their love of helping others planted some deep seeds in me.
Later in life when I was a young mother, just in my late teens and early 20’s, so many good people came across my path that helped me. There is my former mother in law who took me shopping for office attire when I landed my first office job. The bodega owner who would let me get milk and diapers on credit until payday and the neighbors behind me who would share the meat that fell off the back of the truck. So many good people who helped me and allowed me to become the person I am today.
Whenever I hear talk of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps a little part of me dies, see the truth is no one pulls themselves up by their own bootstraps. Instead we all stand on someone else’s shoulders and that helps us to reach higher. The only reason that I was able to go from being a high school dropout to a college graduate with an advanced degree is the help of others. I had a partner who earned enough money so I could focus primarily on going to school, that same partner as a trained journalist provided me with the extra assistance I needed with school work in my early years of college. One of the biggest reasons so many adults who attempt to get their education later in life struggle is work and family obligations. Even my son living with his dad allowed me to focus solely on school at the undergraduate level allowing me to graduate in 3 years.
I look at my own life and see all the help that I have received and there is nothing else for me to do but pay it forward. Clearly my pesky love of sex and wine and the fact that I am already married limit me from becoming a nun, but one does not need to be a Missionary of Charity to give of themselves freely. I truly believe that when we give, the universe rewards our work in some shape or form. We are all interconnected in this journey we call life, sometimes we give and sometimes we receive, it is a blessing to be on both ends. We get what we need at any given time and hopefully never lose sight of that and pay it forward the further we go on our own life journey. In my case I was on the receiving end for almost half my life, so it’s my time to give whenever possible.