Identify what is most important )0( Eliminate everything else
The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world. Dr. Paul Farmer
The suffering of others is not alleviated when no one knows about it.
There is no one right way to live. Daniel Quinn Ishmael
The only thing that you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right sort of people.
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. Kurt Vonnegut

Monday, February 24, 2014


I am sitting here, trying to avoid housework by doing work work.  Because I like to avoid housework be being involved in a couple of things at the same time, the television was just turned on and I caught, sort of half-listening, the end of a program.  My attention was caught by Queen Latifa (one of my few celebrity favorites) saying something about a woman who helps people in need to have reliable transportation.

Her goal is to provide cars for working people who are struggling to get to their jobs and take care of themselves and their families.  She is located in Florida and in her first year helped three/3 families have cars, and to-date, her organization had provided 555 vehicles.  Holey-moley!!!  I was, still am, awestruck by the work that she does.  I was feeling so emotional, hearing this woman speak about her work, something that grew from her own previous needs.  I like that because my own current work is based on my experiences of my past experiences.

When Queen Latifa made a comment about how there might be someone in her audience that would be interested in donating a car, a man stood up, keys offered in his raised hand, and said, "I do!"  And, I started to cry and then a woman did the same and then more people stood and made the same declarations and I just completely lost it.  This speaks to me more than I can express. 

Having a car, even a supremely crappy car, can make the difference between finding and keeping a job more than any other factor.  I have lost count of my clients who are limited by transportation difficulties in seeking and keeping employment.  Our city is small and the public transportation system is bus routes that run at limited times in the early morning and late evenings, and on weekends.  Several of my clients have lost jobs because they could not get to work on time because the bus was severely late or out of commission.  I have clients that have been stranded at work due to bus routes that are not able to keep to the schedule because of weather or mechanical reasons.

It is an imperfect system, but it is all that we have.  When I was out on Friday, on my way home from work, I saw a taxi cab behind me.  As far as I knew, we have not had cab service for years and years.  Even so, now that one seems to be back, most people could not afford the fees to use it.  I could not, not even in an emergency, much less on a regular basis.

And, even fully employed (whatever form that takes) people often cannot afford to buy, insure and maintain a car of any kind.  But, the largest expense is finding a decent car and buying it.  A crappy car, the most available kind, will eat up your money like a sister who asked to stay for a week, or so, and is still, six months later, sleeping on the sofa, eating all the food, using utilities to watch non-stop television, messing up your CDs, leaving a stinking mess wherever she wanders and complaining about how you need to get cable so that there is something decent to watch.  That situation was years ago, but it still stings when I think about it.

Car insurance is determined by how good a driver you are, and I understand that not everyone can find the low rates that I have, but even $600 to $700 insurance fees each year are doable if it means that you can keep your freaking job.  Avoid having an crash, and regular maintenance is also something that can be managed.  I struggle with that myself.

But, as much as I worry about being able to keep my car, and even though my work is all volunteer, I know that finding a way to hang on to it means so much.  I can get to work, I can be able to see my daughter and all of the marvelous boys, and even see my friends once in a while, something I hope to do this coming weekend.  Losing the ability to keep the car would be oh-so-sad, but it would not destroy my life the same that it would if I needed it to keep my job and take care of my family.

So, I just cried at the joy and love of that Susan person.  She is the kind of force that insures that our lives and our world make sense.  I admire her so much, and that she walked away from Queen's program with 16 more cars is just so wonderful.  That she was on that program for her good work and that now so many more people know about her work and will help her, tell others about it and they might help and maybe inspire even more people to do the same thing in their communities is just plain wonderful.

She vets the people she helps, and that helps to ensure that her efforts and resources are less likely to be wasted, and the participants need to be referred by agencies, churches and employers.  They are required to do a list of things to actually receive a car.  I think this is important, essential to keep the recipients accountable. 

Her list is nearly perfect in what she requires of the recipients, and is making me think of some things to establish for my own clients.  This is her list:

  • Must sign contract giving their verbal commitment to remain employed/or notification of termination (with reason).
  • Must agree to pay it forward a monthly set amount, based on income and 3 service hours per month
  • Must provide valid Florida driver's license
  • Must provide proof of insurance (if applicable)
  • Agree to provide public testimonial (optional)
  • Must complete exit survey about the impact of participation in the program
  • Must attend car care class prior to receipt of vehicle
This is important to me because my core work is with people who are unemployed or underemployed.  I and my Library provide this help for at least 15 hours each week.  It is not enough, but it has been impossible to find other people willing to volunteer to help, and we are stuck, blocked from further time to help clients by my schedule.

Even those who struggle to make ends meet do not often understand how significant the unemployment problem is in our small city, much less the impact it is having nationwide.  Maybe world-wide, but that is beyond my abilities to address or have much of an opinion.  I provide glasses and, on very rare occasions, eye exams for those who do not have access to any kind of health care, including vision care.  I mostly spend my extra money on buying readers in all of the diopters.  I started with my own clients, by giving them my own readers and then buying more for myself when I could.  I now keep a good supply at one of the social service agencies that serves the homeless in our community.  I buy, they administer.

Oh, and readers are inexpensive reading glasses that do not require an appointment or prescription.  They can be found in drug/pharmacy stores, discount stores and I buy most of mine through the dollar stores, because, well, they are under two dollars to buy.

But, this is not about me all that much, because whilst what I do is important to me, it really is little, just a drop in the universe of need that every single community experiences.  I am not the only person in my city who does stuff like this.  I simply have found a niche that is important to me because I have a rare visual disorder.  We have people, agencies and individual who offer material support to many of our local needs. 

Clothing and other needed supplies, especially laundry detergents and toiletries, at the women's shelters.  The women's shelters here are not shelters with a few helpful programs and services, they are Programs and services that just happen to have a shelter attached.

Food for the shelters (homeless, domestic abuse, mental health), from donations of foodstuffs from individuals and groups, restaurants, bakeries and food purveyors of all kinds.  There are community meal programs, provided by private social service agencies and groups, churches and one private group of people.  We have food pantries and similar programs here, too.  There is a round-robin resource to provide mid-day meals and social contact for our elderly citizens.  There have been times when I considered using them to help with my own nutrition, but have managed to not use them yet. 

There is a hospitality center run by and in a church.  They provide social contact and context for people with all manner of issues, mid-day meals for those who live in one of the shelters where the residents are required to out looking for jobs during eight hours each day.  {{The truth is that it is impossible to search for jobs and make applications for that amount of time, which is forty hours weekly, in a place where there are fewer and fewer jobs.  I understand the shelter's requirements; I hold many of the same for my clients.}} The church also offers shelter during severe weather, including overnights.  They also gather food for visitors to take home, clothing (recently presented one of my clients with job interview clothes and shoes), blankets and more.  I try to donate large food items as often as possible, such as meat and cheese for sandwiches and staples (like peanut butter) that the people who are there can take home.  I like a lot of what they do and have attended services there a few time.  I think, if I can find a way, that this may be the church community for which I have been searching.

Furniture and other household stuff for those who manage to find housing, is offered by churches and other agencies. 

Speaking of housing, there is a small organization that helps with utility bills, and an agency that helps with rent until the person finds employment.  There is also a religious group that funds two-year stays in an apartment building to help women and their children get back on their feet.  I was offered housing there when I was homeless, but I knew that there were other women with greater need than I had, especially those with children, and I thought that I would eventually manage to find housing on my own, without financial aid.  I did, by the way.

Health care is provided by another religious organization, all nuns, who use some of their meager resources to afford medications and doctor visits.  Most of the doctor's who are involved with this offer hugely discounted fees, or no fees at all, although that number is fewer.  These same nuns are the forerunners in helping those who suffer from mental illness and life-long health conditions and diseases, fight for state assistance that is constantly being chopped to bits.  This is important.  The governing state agencies determine who receives help, how much and for how long.  Their most recent policies have determined that if someone finally achieves an effective medicine level, that it means that they are successfully treated and then denies further medicine assistance.  What the totally and unrelenting fuck!  It is a huge job and thank goodness they have stepped up to fight for these patients.

These needs are everywhere.  Despite the official figures, and the fact that our county has the highest unemployment rates in our state and most of the surrounding states, those without jobs are vastly underrepresented and helped.  My best guess, from my work and other agencies with which I connect, the true unemployment rate is often at least 50%, not only here in areas of the city, but in parts of our rural areas, as well.  

Every community has these needs.  If you are not already involved in whatever way you are able, please consider doing something.  Anything. 

Give a case of peanut butter jars to a food pantry (along with a few plastic knives and some bread, if you can), or to a hospitality center, like I do. 
Save, clean and donate clothing that you no longer need. 
Pass on unused appliances, both large and small, to organizations or neighbors in need. 
Help with lawn care or snow removal for your elderly or disabled neighbors. 
When you grocery shop, buy an extra, non-perishable item for the donation bin at the front of the store.  You will never notice the extra cost.  I swear.
Mentor in your schools, even if you do not have any children of your own.
Help with a community meal program.
Monetary donations are truly important, but they are not the only thing you can do.

Exert yourself.  Get out there.  So something for someone else who does not blessed with your resources, or your loving family and friends.

Get involved, just please get involved.

Most Americans both middle and slightly upper income levels, are only one or two pay periods away from being without sufficient financial resources to meet their needs.  That could be you.

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