Some People are Not Worthy

Some people are not worthy of our help. Or at least, that’s what we profess with our actions and attitudes. Let me throw out some hard words for you. Registered Sex Offender. Mentally ill. Homeless. Drug addicts.

Registered sex offenders deserve the death penalty. The mentally ill need to be in some kind of institution. Homeless, well, they’re homeless because they won’t work and be productive. Drug addicts? No help for them, they just want a handout so they can get more drugs.

Believe it or not, I am not going to stand on some higher moral ground and point fingers at everyone below me. These are sentiments that I subconsciously hold. Sentiments that stare me in the face every once in a while and challenge me.

I’m going to tell you a story. .

Several years ago my husband’s company moved their workshop into a new location. It happened to be in a rougher part of town. One of the first problems my husband ran into was homeless people camping out behind his shop. Somehow, in the way my husband has, he got to know one of the couples that were camping out there. He was an exconvict, a registered sex offender, his girlfriend was ex-military and was pregnant with twins. She was somewhere around the age of forty and was having difficulty with her pregnancy. They were sleeping in a tent.

Andy gave him some work and he proved to be a decent worker. Housing was a much bigger problem. As a registered sex offender he could not live anywhere near children. There was not any cheap housing that fit into the requirements and so they ended up moving into a hotel room. $200 a week. No stoves allowed.

They got married. She lost the babies in a miscarriage. I met them a couple times. She was not mentally stable and I felt very uncomfortable and unsafe around her. Registered Sex Offender, nope, you can’t come near my family. All outreaches to this couple were through my husband.

The man spent the next couple years going in and out of jail. My husband tried to help Her when he could. Some grocery money. Help with rent on occasion. He would talk to me about their problems and I would commiserate, but I really didn’t feel like there was much I could do. My ministry to people is always done in the context of my family, and this couple was not family-friendly.

While He has been in jail, Her health went downhill. She had a stroke. Had some kind of surgery. She was renting a room in a house with lots of roommates. My husband visited her and said she could hardly get around, he didn’t know how she was going to take care of herself. He had asked and she said she was working with a social worker to get help.

We found out today that at the age of forty-two, she has died. Possibly on Wednesday. People noticed they hadn’t seen her. Called the police. Her body was found on Friday. The end.

And now I analyze. Could I have done more? Should I have done more? Are there people that you just simply can’t help? Their choices have led them down a path of no return? I possibly could have helped Her, but she had married Him and so I felt like that door was closed. I have to protect my family first.

But she was a fellow human being. Once upon a time she was an adorable little baby, and perhaps people cooed over her and said, how lovely! You’re going to grow up to be a wonderful woman! And perhaps she never had that. Perhaps right now there are people who would mourn if they knew she had died. And perhaps not. What I do know is that no matter what choices she made, God loved her. I don’t know where her relationship with God was, but I do know that he loved her.

I want to share with you all the tiny sliver of her story that I know. I want to say to the world at large, this woman lived. And now she has died. Let us at least give her a moment of contemplation in honor of her life. It is all I can do for her now.

And perhaps I can issue a challenge to myself and my readers to just think about this issue for a moment…how do you help the “unworthy” ?  What can we, as a society, do to help this segment of our population that we are reluctant to interact with? Do we have any responsibility towards them? How do we be responsible and safe but still have charity for those in need?

 

 

Fat Fridays: Week 25 Failure

Hey Everyone. Here we are, a new week. I have pondered whether I should even be writing a weight loss “weekly” when there doesn’t seem to be any weight loss happening. I set goals and then the goals get thrown out the window. I feel a bit like a fake at this point. Of course, in one sense, I’m holding true to the purpose of this post, which is to blog about my journey to weight loss. A big part of my journey is failure.

I think when I started this post, I imagined myself sailing along, posting pictures of myself as I lost inches. Writing glowing reports about how disciplined I was, and look how I great I am to finally conquer this weight problem. Everyone can read along and enjoy the show. And it is inspiring to read how people overcome all obstacles and manage to get healthy again. I want to be that person. And I’m not. I seem to be stuck in my same old pattern. I diet. I exercise. Life gets stressful. I stop.

While it might not be enjoyable to read all the ways that I’m messing up, I will say that writing this weekly post is still keeping me accountable. I have not sunk to the very bottom, mostly because I don’t want to have to write about it. And I keep focused on my diet/health/weightlossattempts at least once a week as I write this post.

This past week I did not go grain-free as promised. But I did eat a lot less grain. I did make some better choices. This week I was also dealing with some heavy stress as our situation with the homeless family we are helping escalated. Some hard choices had to be made. But God was merciful and my husband had enough grace and wisdom to come up with a Plan that should get them into housing and a relatively stable life if they stick to the plan. Dealing with this level of crisis is tough on me. This week has been about trying to be purposeful about not letting other people’s drama harmfully affect my own mental health. I have been carving out a private space for myself. Making a routine that involves quiet, devotions, music, doing hobbies I enjoy, and of course, caring for my family. I have been trying to make smart choices for food, but haven’t yet achieved the “super disciplined” level I was at several weeks ago.

I did have something happen this week that was at first annoying and then I realized it was a blessing in disguise. I’m signed up with this health-food-shake-supplements-etc company. I buy shakes from them every once in a while. They have this annoying system where you are automatically signed up for “autoship”. They automatically charge your bank and ship you products unless you sign in and change it. I’m presuming there is a way to change this, but I haven’t figured it out yet. I had been simply logging in once a month and changing the dates so at to postpone the order. Well, I forgot this month. This week I received not only a box of shakes, but a bottle of Cleanse which had been on my wishlist. Yikes. My bank account could not really afford that. I was complaining to my husband about it and he surprised me by saying, “It’s good! Drink your shakes!” Oh. Ok. Well… that makes sense. So, this morning I drank my Cleanse stuff and had a shake for breakfast. A much healthier breakfast than I’ve had in a while. Hurray for mistakes.

So, I feel like I’m a bit of a disappointment because I am not being Superwoman with this weight loss thing. But, I’m going to keep on persevering.

I’ll see you all next week.

 

Fat Fridays: Week 23 In Which I Climb Up On My Soapbox

I have been a bit at a loss at to what to write for this Friday. Since I’m trying to make an honest journal of this weight loss journey, I finally decided I would just have to stick to honesty. I promise that the following really does have to do with my weight loss journey!

 

I have always had a hard time when people make disparaging remarks about poor people. People on welfare. People on food stamps. People on government assistance. Homeless people. Everyone seems to know some lady on welfare who’s got a boatload of children and is just racking in the bucks, fancy phone, nails done perfectly, designer clothing. She is the person people always bring up when they are explaining why all this government assistance is actually just a big swindle. The poor people are living off our tax dollars and laughing behind our backs at our gullibility. For each one of you that has mentioned this woman before on your Face Book pages or blogs, or in conversation…What’s her name? Have you actually met this woman? Do you know her story? Or is she simply someone that is a friend of a friend of someone you met the other day who happened to mention knowing her. Maybe one of you actually does know her name, knows her story personally, and is disgusted at the way she has manipulated the system…but I’m going to guess that most of you don’t actually know this woman personally. I do not disagree with the notion that people take advantage of the system. It’s true. People are sinful and there is always going to be someone trying to get something for nothing. But these welfare systems are a lot more than those occasional individuals. It has been my experience that people who speak harshly against a group of people usually have no personal contact with that group and get all of their information second hand. It’s been my experience that when I get to know people personally, get to know their problems, their background, I have a lot more sympathy and compassion. So, today I want to share a story with you.

Over the last fifteen years we have had quite a few families and individuals that we have reached out to and tried to help. Many times we have had people living with us as they tried to get their feet under themselves. I’ve heard a lot of stories. I’ve gotten to know these people pretty well as we have done life together.  One woman in particular has been involved with our family for at least eight years now. She and her children have lived with our family on a couple different occasions. I haven’t seen a lot of her lately, as the last four years has been pretty stable for her. Then, about a month ago I got a call from her. She had been evicted. She was in the process of applying for government housing, but in the mean time she had nowhere else to go. Could I help?

I feel like middle class America does not understand how difficult it is to be poor. There is a pervading attitude that poor people just walk up to a building and are instantly handed food stamps, assistance with childcare, housing, and anything else their hearts desire. It doesn’t work that way. Yes, there is government assistance, but it is not easy to get. It involves getting to appointments and usually transportation is very difficult. It involves filling out endless amounts of paperwork and providing papers like birth certificates and social security cards. And when you live in a state of homelessness, or are trying to escape abusive situations, it’s really hard to keep track of those important documents. And getting them replaced is quite a hassle.

So why don’t they just go get a job?? I hear that a lot. Are they too proud to work at McDonalds? No. Actually, the people I have gotten to know are not too proud to work at McDonalds or any other fast food restaurant. But did you know that most of these fast food restaurants will not hire full time? It’s all part time. And it is usually not a set schedule, you get moved around to what suits them best, not what suits you best. So. Part time hours at low wages. Not enough to live on. Yet, they are mocked for getting on food stamps. I am curious as to how many middle class people could sustain their lifestyle at $9 an hour? And you are only given 20 to 24 hours a week. My friend would really like to get into a family assistance program that could help with childcare, but they require that she works at least 25 hours, and her job at a well-known pizza franchise will only give her up to 24 hours of work a week. So, she needs another job. But she has three children. Someone has to watch them. School just got out, she can’t afford any kind of childcare. What should she do?

People ask, why doesn’t she get a better job? Get some higher education? Surely there are programs that would help her? Well, she is a product of the foster care system herself. She was living in a group home and got pregnant at sixteen. Since then she has devoted herself to taking care of her child, now children. She didn’t finish high school. In order to get her GED she would need to do some serious studying. She has tried off and on to pursue that, but you see, she still has to live. She still has children to take care of and house and feed and clothe. She has no family support system (remember: foster care, group home). Her short marriage to the father of her children was a disaster and while she now has a long-term boyfriend, he comes with baggage of his own: child support that he pays from a past marriage, bills and debts he has to pay on.

Well, she should get into public housing. Ok. She’s trying. She had an interview, she’s waiting to hear. But you see, there’s this little problem of her past utilities bill. She still has a big bill that hasn’t been paid. She can’t turn on new utilities until she takes care of this past bill. She has asked around at many different agencies who say they will help with this kind of thing. But, she doesn’t fit into any of their narrow parameters of assistance that they can offer. Her recent eviction was the final step in a financial downhill slide that was connected to a necessary job change (with a pay cut) and unexpected events coming up with her children that made her miss work. This family’s tenuous existence quickly snowballed into a crisis which left them homeless.

And here we are. Her family of five moved into my bedroom about two and half weeks ago. My husband and I moved upstairs and are sleeping on the floor of our little boy’s bedroom (which they think is awesome, mom and dad right there, available all night long!). I hung a sheet around my bed so I can have at least the semblance of privacy.

It’s been good and bad. We’ve lived together before. She was a nanny for my kids one summer when I was bedridden with morning sickness. She helped potty train one of my boys. She has been the one person I have no embarrassment hiring to help me clean my house because she’s lived with me. She knows how messy things can get, and she’s always been willing to pitch in and help. Neither of us have any qualms about parenting each other’s children. The negative side is mostly just a lack of privacy. And the tightrope walk of setting boundaries and sticking to them. Trying to know when to be compassionate and when to be hard-nosed.

What does this have to do with Fat Fridays? Well, you all. My diet has gone on hold. Pause. I’m the juggler trying to keep a bunch of balls up in the air. This particular ball kind of knocked a bunch of the other ones out of pattern. I’m back to sticking to the basics. God, husband, children… everything else is shifting around. I’ve felt quite a bit of guilt and condemnation about it. Way to go Esther, soon as things get tough you just quit. Mess up. Fail. But, I’m trying to stop listening to that voice and be realistic. This is hard. I’ve taken on a lot and I’m not superwoman. I’m not giving up. I’m not going to wallow in my lack of discipline. I’m still fighting to get back on track. But, I’m going to give myself grace as I figure this out.

For those of you wondering why on earth we did this, it kind of falls into Love your neighbor as yourself… Do unto others as you would have them do unto you… Whatever you do for the least of these, you do unto me… And once upon a time, my husband and I were homeless and we knocked on a friend’s door and they let us in.

Goals: do some journaling and thinking…Why do I always revert to bad eating habits when life gets crazy stressful? Especially since bad eating habits just make it harder to deal with the stress????

See you all next week.

 

Sacred Moments at the Annual Work Christmas Party

The Annual Work Christmas Party. Most people are familiar with this tradition. I do not actually have a “workplace”, but every year I dutifully trot out with my husband to his work party. For me, it is a foray into a strange world that I rarely interact with. Honestly, I’m usually a bit tense when I go. I am pretty sure that I am the only stay-at-home mom who attends these things and I admit to feeling a bit insecure. Especially the time, 2 years ago, when I attended and was 9 months pregnant. I endured all kinds of comments (because everyone knows that we have a large family). OH MY GOD! ….YOU ARE SO BIG!… I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU GOT PREGNANT AGAIN!… WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO STOP?? ..It was so much fun…Not. That, combined with the fact that they set up the party space with stand up tables and a dance floor and no chairs in sight, made it a rather long evening.

So, here we go again. It’s the one time of the year when I have to find something dressier than blue jeans and a sweater. I actually think I would enjoy the party a lot more if it was just my husband’s construction company. But, Andy’s boss, a well-to-do Englishman who develops property for the fun of it, as he is well past retirement age, is married to an equally successful business woman, Ms Patricia Nash, and the two of them decided some time back to combine their businesses Christmas Parties into one Big Party. So, we have a bunch of construction guys and then we have a bunch of fashion designers. It makes for an interesting party. Mostly the construction guys all hang out on one side of the room while the fashion designers hang out on the other side of the room and the bosses and managers try to circulate among everyone and break the ice.

The bosses are actually very nice people, very down to earth. Mr. Nash has no problem chatting it up  with Ronnie, a homeless guy my husband employed 5 years ago who has managed to keep his job and achieve some stability all this time, and Ms Patricia walks around dispensing hugs and air kisses to all and sundry. There is an open bar, a raffle, good food, and lots of dancing. Mr and Mrs Nash always make a point to get out on the dance floor, looking very cute together, and then try their best to entice the wallflowers to come join them. I try to make the wives and dates of the construction guys feel welcome and we stand and talk about kids, and teens, and work, and getting ready for Christmas.

So, last night proceeded as usual. Several people got amazingly drunk very early on in the party. As I watched the secretary being dragged out on the dance floor by her friends, and watched as the combination of drunkenness, spike heels, and attempting to dance, made her fall not once but twice, I couldn’t help thinking that she might do with some better friends. I watched as the young couples from the fashion design section got out and danced, some of them really good dancers, and then watched as the younger ones would video themselves dancing and then stand off to the side to watch a rerun of their dance, and then quickly upload it to social media. The music was so loud that the only way you could have a conversation was if you were speaking into someone’s ear.

Frankly I felt very out of place and wondered how long we had to stay. Andy and I had found one little bench pushed off to the side and we were sitting there watching the dancing when Ms. Nash came and sat down beside us. She started saying how much she admired me and the fact that I was raising 10 kids and how amazing it was that Andy and I were able to have a good marriage and work together in raising our family. And then she asked if we would share why we had decided to have so many kids. So I told her about how we had decided to let God be in charge of our family size and how, as we had more kids, we realized that we really enjoyed having a large family. It was a bizarre conversation to be having in this setting, shouting over the music. The Nashes finally took their leave of us, expressing genuine fondness for my husband and I. One of Andy’s coworkers finally persuaded us to take the dance floor for a while. We eventually checked the time and decided we had done our duty and could leave.

As we drove home I thought about the party. Definitely not my style. Not my comfort zone either. But it had been a good party. Even now, I am trying to pinpoint what made it good? A bunch of people who had very little in common all got together in one space and made an effort to be friendly to each other. People from a very wide range of social and economic statuses all joined together in one room to celebrate together. In this crazy world where we, as Christians, tend to compartmentalize our lives into “sacred” and “secular”, I can’t help thinking that sacred seems to have a way of showing up in the most secular settings. I think about my husband’s crew. Ronnie who got a second chance and has been succeeding. Then there’s the young man who somehow managed to get through a court-appointed rehab program and not only stuck it out, but has managed to stay clean for 3 plus years. He and his wife won the raffle and walked away with a nice Christmas bonus and I was so happy they won, knowing it was going to make their Christmas a lot more cheerful for them and their kids. Then there was the young couple who moved down to Knoxville together. She’s working, he’s in law school. They were talking about how they would be traveling around trying to see all their extended families for the holidays. There was my husband’s assistant showing pictures of his newest grandbaby on his phone. And the wife of one of the crew leaders telling me about her challenges with her teenage boy, same age as my boy. People. It was an evening of seeing people, getting glimpses into their lives. “Who is my neighbor?” These people. They are my neighbor. For some reason God said that loving him and then loving these people, that was the most important thing. And really, any time we have an opportunity to get a peek into someone’s life, it’s a sacred moment. Because as we peek into their lives, they become more real to us, less strangers, more neighbors, and it becomes easier to care about them, to feel an interest in their life. To pray for them, reach out to them. Share love. Yes. The Annual Work Christmas Party, a sacred moment.