For the Love of Money

I don’t really love money, but I need it to live. I like the way dollars smell and the weight of coins in my pocket. When dollars and cents are regularly deposited into my bank account, bills get paid, food fills the refrigerator, and I might get a new pair of shoes.

The money appears silently with the magic of technology. I go to sleep broke on Wednesday and awake rich on Thursday, all without ever touching a single cent. I especially love to wake up on Thursday morning, flick open my banking app, and confirm the magic happened overnight, again. The experience is kind of tooth-fairy-ish in the way I expectantly go to sleep the night before, almost certain what awaits me in the morning.

The ease and convenience are incredible but there is a trade-off for satisfaction. There was sense of completion after working for a week or two and then picking up a check or tidy little pile of bills. A paycheck was something to hold and tuck away until it could be cashed or saved. I used to take a special trip just to drive to the bank with my paycheck, gossip with the banker, and make my deposit. I could leave with a few crisp bills in my hand and save the rest for a rainy day.

Now, I work all day at a job with nothing to show at the end of the day, aside from a pile of papers and a gaggle of needy clients. At the end of the week, the money appears electronically, and still I have nothing to show. There isn’t even the option to receive a paper check at my current work place. My well-being is based on the communication of machines, sending numbers from one imaginary place to another. I could go to the bank for cash, but what’s the point when I can pay for everything with a debit or credit card?

What used to be tangible is now locked away in a digital world without much of a chance to return. I’m not complaining about the convenience of the e-transfers, but I can’t say that I have wisely used any time saved from the elimination of physical banking. Instead, I find more ways to save time with technology and further withdraw from the real world and find myself deeper in the digital abyss.

That’s it for today. Good-bye WordPress, hello Facebook. We’ve got some newsfeed to review.

Editing life

Life is just a story we tell ourselves and the world. 
 
It’s based on our own perceptions and convenient omissions. Each experience should be liberally coated in sugar in its retelling.  Why not, it’s your story.  Every day, the story gets revised and edited.  Words and sentences change and sometimes entire chapters get cut.  Hopefully, at the end of the process, a beautiful body of work is left with smooth transitions, strong characters, and a logical plot with just enough twists to keep it exciting. 
 
Right now, I’m in the process of a major revision in the chapter of how I came to social work.  I started as a bleeding heart in the wrong industry- wanting to save the poor and sick and to give hope to the hopeless.  I did what I set out to do but now I’m cynical and jaded. 
 
I question most clients’ stories because, after all, we each are the author and story-teller of our life’s story.  I feel resentment towards clients who claim to be too sick to work but manage to mow the grass, clean the gutters, and host a Memorial Day cookout for their many friends and family members.  I want to scream when clients ask for help with the heat bill but won’t sacrifice cable or smoking, eating out or getting their nails done.  When I see widespread abuse of the systems meant to ease suffering and improve quality of life, I wonder if the real answer is to stop providing the answer.  Let people decide how to improve their own lives.  If they don’t want more in life, so be it, but let’s stop trying so hard to help.  Let the resources dry up that are being misused and redirect them where a difference can be made like education and research. 
 
I want my clients and clients’ families to need more out of life than to just survive on hand-outs and government programs.  I wish there was a way to instill a work ethic, honesty, dignity and pride in their hearts and brains.  More than that, I want to see the good in people again.   Scratch that, I need to see the good in people again in order to keep adding to my story to keep it beautiful and living, rather than covered in the soot from a slowly burning society.
 
That’s just the story of my life today. 
 
By tomorrow, I’m sure the same story will have been revised and rewritten with a fresh voice and new hope inspired by a good night’s rest and the promise of weekend libations.
 
photo: http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/objects?exhibitionId=%7b36D81705-241D-4934-AB02-FD7C8DBBB3E5%7d&pg=2&rpp=20
A Pair of Hungry Pike, Unknown (Canadian), Date: 1911, Accession Number: 2007.460.2

Keeping Cool in the Ghetto

When social work doesn’t work…

It starts when an old woman’s daughter calls to beg for an A/C unit for her mother. 

“Please, it is so hot in her house.” 

I heard her break to take a drag on her cigarette.  

“We just don’t have the extra money for anything like that,” she continued.

Their very understanding social worker, nodded on the other end of the phone, “Yes, that is a problem.” 

I filled with a sense of false self-importance and knew the exactly what to do.  I quickly completed an application for the program without the need to exaggerate the situation.  The truth of this woman’s life was desperate enough to garner the sympathy and thereby assistance requested. 

Surprisingly soon after the app was submitted, the woman was approved for cool air.  As a privilege and a right to decent living conditions as a human, or out of pity for her poverty and poor health doesn’t really matter, right?

In any case, I mustered the strength to get the A/C into my car, with the help of a co-worker, and headed off into the heart of darkness to make my special delivery. 

When I pulled up in front of the shanty house, it occurred to me that they might not have the electrical wiring to support the efficient energy burning machine in my backseat.  It appeared that they didn’t have window screens, collars for their dogs or a mower to cut the grass.  I guessed that a good socket might be a stretch.  Nonetheless, I continued with my mission as I had an old lady to save.

Three women sat heavily on a sagging wooden porch.  They stared dumbly ahead until I hopped out of my car.  Then their looks turned to that of suspicion even though I called to confirm the delivery just 24 hours earlier.   

“Hey there, ladies. I’ve brought you something to cool off.  I just need a little help getting it inside.”

The woman I was there to save continued to stare ahead, uninterested in my business of her rescue.  Her silver braids shone in the sun as she looked over the cracked and empty parking lot across the street.  Weeds and broken bottles were more interesting than the possibility of a room cooled to 72 degrees.

A massive woman sat next to her and yelled out, “Well, what you waiting for? Bring it in already.”

She looked like she was about to drown in the sweat as it pooled in the roll around her neck.  Her face and arms were slick with sweat, yet she sat amazingly motionless.  She was a mound of melting human, forgettable as she was unhelpful. 

 “Listen, I need some help. Can someone come down here and give me a hand?”  I directed the question to the only capable body, the third woman who sat on an upturned paint bucket.  

She picked up the hint and was the only one to respond.

“Why you axin’?  Is it heavy or somethin’?”

No, I just want you to experience the good feelings generated from team work, I thought.

“Yes it’s heavy, and I can’t lift it alone.”

 Begrudgingly, the youngest woman shuffled down to help.  We managed to get the A/C inside once we cautiously stepped over the old woman’s swollen feet.  She couldn’t see the need to move her feet for our safe passage.  After all, she was there first. 

The woman led me inside towards the nearest open window and dropped her end of the box. 

“There, you can set it up here,” she declared and turned to go back outside.

So I showed myself to the door after her and left. 

Nothing was said when I left.  The massive woman looked disappointed that I didn’t set up the unit and the youngest woman was dismayed that she may be tasked with the difficult chore of reading directions and setting the A/C up herself.  Meanwhile, the woman with the silver braids stared straight ahead, indifferent to world around her.  She didn’t mind the heat and never asked for the A/C.   Why should she be grateful for something that she never wanted? 

I’d like to make the excuse for her that she was tired of accepting charity and even more tired of living in poverty.   Her soul was worn and weary from never having enough or any way to get it aside from the kindness of strangers.  

My only regret is that I didn’t drag the A/C back out of that disgusting house that smelled of wet dog and flea killing powder, around the old woman’s legs, over the broken boards of the porch and back to my car for someone who does want it and would appreciate it. 

What is gratitude in the face of charity?  What is anything in the face of charity, other than a sad state of affairs, to everyone but the giver?  In spite of this, I’m still secretly holding out for a little thank you card in the mail.  Its a silly and selfish wish, but what can I say, I’m just a little human?   

 

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” 
― Hélder CâmaraDom Helder Camara: Essential Writings

“While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.” 
― Chinua AchebeAnthills of the Savannah

 

 

So you bought a house…

Dear Fellow Bloggers,
There’s so much I want to share with you. Over the past few weeks, my husband and I have found ourselves with a pair of kittens, a house, and a new set of mad skills involving the sewer. Skills like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you might ask.

Yes, these skills are similar in their versatility, but not quite as glamorous.

It all started when we noticed sludge water shooting from the sewer pressure valve into the front yard. Or was it when the bathtub and toileting starting backing up, end of the world, can’t-nothing-stop-what’s-about-to-happen style? In any case, that started and by the time it finished, my courageous spouse was ankle deep and most unhappy with the situation. He went to take a quick rinse off in the shower, only to discover the water was ice cold. We then learned all about where the pilot light should be lit from underneath of our water heater.

Over the course of a few days, we’ve met local plumbers, electrician and our neighbors. Most have offered the same helpful advice, “You should have had this checked out before you moved-in,” which we really appreciate.

It’s been a journey filled with dangerous perils, like raw sewage and cold showers, but we persevered. Now, we have rejoined the rest of the civilized world with heated water and flushing toilets. We might be bringing down the neighborhood with our wild cats and sewer issues, but we are loving every minute of being out of an apartment and finally in a home of our own.

Any other home-buying/owning disasters out there amongst you, fellow bloggers?? I’d love to hear a few if you’ve got the time.

Thanks for stopping by-
J.R.

Human in June

The warm, summer breeze awakens dormant senses,
Shriveled and dying, almost too weak for life.

Fresh air flows through the lungs and sun warms the skin,
The smell of flowers and grass, soil and rain mix together.
And the senses remember.

Vision sharpens to see the bright, red cardinal perched on limb,
a blackbird trills in the distance, honeysuckle and lilac perfume the air.
Rain falls, clean and cool.

Sweat mixes with the rain and streaks down a dirty face
Exhausted and filled with a peaceful clarity.

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