Lost Perspective

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Lifestyle

In working with people who spend the night on the streets or in a shelter and depend on food stamps and vouchers, it is easy to lose perspective. In fact, I may be writing from a lost perspective now.

I am in a world in which cigarettes hold more value than milk and employment is menial and miserable.  The kids are frequently reported for bruises and bed bugs.  There are no healthy relationships, it’s use or be used.  A survival of not the fittest, but the most street smart, the most savage and aware of the systems from which they must either decide to manipulate or leave for the unknown.

Those who stay breed the next generation who are certain to take up their parents’ torch.

It’s a dark realm, almost like an alternate reality that is better kept a secret, in the underground, or for movie settings from which an impoverished savant is able to rise from dregs of society to that of the rich and famous.

Only in that case, the fictional or the legendary-once- in a lifetime situation, is it an interesting place and the desperation is palatable for the rest of the world, knowing that there is a light to shine from the darkness, a ray of hope for those who have nothing other than plastic bag of raggedy clothes and a headful of lice.

The lost perspective.

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Oh, the humanity

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Circling the parking lot outside of a doc’s office, I grumbled at all of the sick people. Still no legit spots in sight after two loops so I parked in a handicap spot and ran inside. I considered adopting a temporary limp but felt that would be even worse. I had to pick up a packet of paperwork from a nurse; I expected to be in and out. A limp would take extra time.

Please, I begged the universe, don’t let me get towed or a ticket although I clearly deserve it.

The waiting room was filled the sick people who owned the bothersome vehicles. A man in a dirty white t-shirt had crutches leaned against his chair, another man wheezed as he ate a sandwich in his wheelchair, a woman with a tiny bun of thinning hair was surrounded by bags and coughed into a ball of ragged Kleenex. Briefly, one woman looked up from her cell phone when I rushed in and returned to the tiny screen with complete disinterest.

The room was filled with people and their problems. If I had a little mask, the kind with an elastic string, I would have put it on with great haste in hopes of preventing the spread of desperation.

I tried to remind myself that I am not a bad person.

These were the people who needed the handicap parking spot in the front of the building. They were here to find answers to what was wrong with them. I wanted to clue them in that it’s everything. Life can be wrong and unfair but it goes on. I wanted to help them to reframe the situation. Let’s not think about what’s wrong with your aching joints or lower back, why you have that cough, or distended belly.

Let’s focus on what’s right with your life.

You are at a doc’s office, so that’s a start. The sun is shining. We have fresh water and clean air. The streets are paved. Education is free and so are we, for the most part excluding freedom from debt and government rule.

Leaving the office with papers in hand, I let out a great sigh of relief. I had been holding my breath without realizing it as I traveled across the waiting room. The germs, my sensibilities screamed. The bugs, my unfounded fears yelled. The desperation of living on the fringes of never having enough, my inner voice quieted down overcome with reason, truth, perspective, and finally gratitude.

The humanity, oh the humanity.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Morrison_(announcer)

http://www.humanity.org/

She’s got those nails

The little woman slipped through the double doors into the restroom.  She passed an older black woman, who was on her hands and knees, scrubbing the grout between the floor tiles.

“How you doing today, sugar?” she asked, as she cheerfully scrubbed.

Meanwhile, the little woman sat on the commode with her bony elbows on her knees and her head in her hands.  Verging on tears, thoughts of the flashing red light on her telephone that another voicemail had come in and the stack of growing paper on her desk swirled through her mind.  It’s too much she thought and tried to calm her racing heart.  Taking just one thing at a time would be an easy if she were a dentist pulling teeth; but instead, she was in a field that required a professional level of constant multitasking.  A woman had been calling all week asking for updates on something that would take weeks to get into place.  In each call, the woman’s voice grew angrier and more desperate.  These calls continued and broke the little woman’s reserve down further and further, until she had to escape to the safety of a bathroom stall.

“You sure you’re ok in there?” the woman cleaning asked after she heard a deep sigh from the little woman’s stall.  “You sound like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders with the way you’re carrying on.”

“Oh, sorry,” the little woman replied.  She wasn’t aware how loudly her worries were escaping from her body despite her best efforts.

Shamefacedly, the little woman emerged from the stall and turned on the faucet to wash her hands. A stranger had heard her sigh and knew more about her current struggle than she knew about herself.  She did feel as though the world was on her frail shoulders, and it was heavy.

“Sugar,” the older woman said and stood up with a groan.  She leaned against the paper towel dispenser and continued, “Just remember why you are working.  Is it for the paycheck or is it to help people?”

The little woman sighed again, this time aware but unable to stop the sound from leaving.  “You’re right,” she conceded.

“Mmm…hmm,” the cleaning lady agreed and looked over the rim of her glasses at the little woman.  “Course I am.”

She held up her index finger to make a point, “You keep in mind that it’s just a job.  It doesn’t define who or what you are in life.  It’s just a part of it.”

Gesturing with her hands as she delivered her bathroom sermon/ therapy session, the little woman grimaced when she noticed the long fingernails that curled two inches or more over the tips of the older woman’s fingers.  They were 100% natural and a light brown, likely from cleaning materials and god-knows-what else.  How she was able to do anything with her hands was a feat and a mystery.  The claw-like nails created a self-imposed type of a disability which seemed a shame when many people with unavoidable disabilities would prefer to live otherwise.

“Thanks,” the little woman said backing out of the bathroom, still staring at her nails in disbelief.  “Really, I mean it, thanks for talking to me.  Sorry to rush out, but I’ve got a call I’ve got to make.”

The little woman held her head higher and felt ready to face the rest of her day as she pushed the doors open to the hallway.  The cleaning lady had put things into perspective for her without knowing anything else about her situation.  Yet, she had known just what the little woman needed to hear to continue.  The little woman mused over these things when she brushed past a co-worker on her way back to her desk.  The co-worker said over her shoulder, “Hey, you’re looking brighter than earlier today.  Good for you.”

The little woman replied, “I just got a pep talk from the cleaning lady in the bathroom.”

Chortling, the co-worker knew exactly whom the little woman referred to, perhaps having had her own pep talk on another day. She asked what they both had wondered about the woman who had done so much and so little at the same time, as the bathrooms were never very clean. “What about those nails?”

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