There are people who come into our life for a season and they have a major impact on our life; they inspire us to use our talents for the greater good. A number of years ago when I was going through a turbulent time, I met such a person. Growing up working class with a toe in poor at times, but living in the middle class as an adult, I have struggled to own my messy roots around class and resources. Anyone who has ever moved up the class ladder as an adult understands this struggle; you never quite leave your baggage when it comes to class and economics.
Randee was the first person who I’ve met who allowed me to realize that shame around class is a wasted emotion. Randee was a social justice warrior, it wasn’t just talk to her, it was reality, and she lived it. She raised two daughters as a single mama with health issues and was a fierce advocate for justice and equality.
For a season Randee and I were in close contact but as usual, life got in the way and our connection was reduced to Facebook, where we often traded notes from the trenches. I always meant to catch up over coffee but never made the time. I assumed that we would always have time.
Sunday morning, I woke up the sad news that Randee had taken her own life. No one knows why she made that decision, but we do know that Randee was in pain and wanted that pain to end. Randee used to say that being poor amounted to doing the poverty shuffle; I suspect that the shuffle became too much for her and her legs just couldn’t handle that shuffle anymore.
Often when poverty is discussed and debated, rarely does one talk about the accumulative toll that scarcity can take on a soul. It is easy to offer platitudes about hope when your own needs are met. As the US government falls apart in front of our very eyes and more people move into the needy category, I wonder what it will take for us a nation to wage a real war on poverty? To acknowledge that poverty is a killer, it strips people of their dignity and leaves them hopeless in a world that increasingly says the poor don’t matter.
Randee, like many others I wish you had reached out to me, but I hope that wherever you are, you are doing a beautiful shuffle where your head is held high and your spirit is light and your body is whole.