Sarah Blake LaRose (3kitties) wrote,
Sarah Blake LaRose

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general ramblings and poverty

I'm awake... My nose is tolerable. This is good. And the thing says that today will be "beautiful." The rest of the days this week will just be "nice" or "sunny," etc. So I should take advantage of the day...

I think that a trip to the library might be in order in a little while. Cleaning house is also in order... I'm going to finish back-dating entries and do some more writing: I have a lot of writing I'd like to do. Normal life has returned to this house!

And now for a bit of profound stuff...

Yesterday I had a conversation with someone at church about things I'd like to get involved with in the church and community. She remarked that I was on the computer a lot, and I got the message from her tone that she thought that perhaps I could help out with various efforts by doing Internet research. I said to her that I didn't mind doing this but that I really do need to get out and be networking and meeting people more often. "I need to be off the computer more." What I didn't say is that truthfully I've become so tired of my computer that it's difficult to do something I am good at: research and writing. I respect my skills; but I am not really an introvert supreme and I don't tolerate life hidden away behind a computer screen very well. This is one reason why I dislike the concept of working an office job and why giving up teaching was so hard for me. I needed an alternative that was people-oriented, and telephone work doesn't do it for me. I want face-to-face contact with people, preferably getting into the nitty gritty details and problem-solving ways around difficulties. It's what I'm good at. I've managed to turn my computer into a problem-solving machine by founding groups like the BVI-Parents email list, which has been a problem-solving and support resource for hundreds of families; and in a situation where I couldn't get out and about, this allowed me to do something I loved and follow a lot of people's progress over years. It feels good to watch the families finding resources they need, and a lot of it is only loosely related to anything I did. But the list does give me a vehicle to be available to them, and at the time when I started it I was just doing something that needed to be done. I've been able to meet a number of the families when I've been traveling, and that's always rewarding. That's the kind of thing I want to be doing locally, not sitting in an office collecting debts or filing mail.

Something else I'm good at is communicating about experiences... That's part of why I keep this journal public. I don't just want to communicate about disability experiences... What started all this thinking was a discussion I had with a lady about some community efforts to address poverty. She commented that my poverty was situational while a lot of poverty is generational. I'm quite aware of this: my own poverty has lasted far longer than what people think of when they think of situational poverty, and it has led me to examine the issue of poverty in great detail. Experiencially, it's the same. The feeling of powerlessness over a long-lasting situation and a generational situation can be similar yet different. In the extremely long-lasting situation, the person can reach a point when there is really no more he/she can do. Every solution that someone proposes has been tried years ago. The situation can spin wildly out of control, and that's often what creates generational poverty in the long term.

What frustrates me a bit about the efforts to address poverty is that even in simulations, it's impossible to communicate the impact socially and emotionally. When I got home from church, Alexis and I discussed this over lunch. It reminded me of my experience in the classes for foster care licensure in Florida. We did a simulation activity in class one night to learn about why a child may end up in foster care. The facilitator prompted the actors, who were having a bit of difficulty getting into the roles. "Go on, throw a tantrum," she would say to the one playing the child. "You're not getting to go to the fair for your birthday because your daddy just lost his job and he promised. Come on! Stomp your feet! Scream and yell!" Then, "Now, Daddy, you're getting mad. She won't shut up about that damn fair. How are you gonna make her shut up? You just lost your job, and you don't wanna hear it anymore." It was really a very powerful means of getting the point across.

So I wondered... When groups are there with their mock food stamp budget, why not throw a little surprise into the deal? Kid, you want that little toy on the grocery store toy aisle. Bug your mom about it. You're only four years old... Oh, and the dog needs dog food, and you need toilet paper... Those things aren't covered by food stamp money... They're all things I've witnessed and/or experienced. They tend to get left out of the presentations... Sometimes going to a food bank can seem like getting a royal feast. Sometimes it can be like a slap in the face. "Nonperishables" do expire. It just takes much longer. I brought home canned meat once that had expired two years before. My mother noticed the date when she visited me a few weeks later. No wonder some of the things I had been eating had tasted so odd! I wouldn't have known: I can't see the dates on the cans.

Most painful for the person living a life of poverty is the stigma. "Poor people have too many pets," is a joke bentered around my family; but it's an attitude prevalent in society. Of course, I've seen the poor people who have seven cats, none of whom have peoper vet care and all of whom are mangy and ill-behaved. On the other hand, I know a number of poor people who take excellent care of their pets within their abilities. Many rich people don't keep up to date with their animals' vet care; and we aren't criticizing them for it. We only assume that they do it because they have the money and could do it if necessary. Many vets don't update their own animals' vaccines once the animals reach adulthood... It was an eye opener for me when an animal control officer picked up a cat from me in Florida, saw the six cats remaining in the house with me and my roommate, and said, "They're all in great shape," and told us that they didn't investigate multi-cat violations unless there were complaints from the neighbors.

I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with all of this... With the previous paragraph, I was intending to talk about the kid wanting the toy in the grocery store... Of course, any kid who is denied a toy is going to scream. If it's a well-dressed kid and the parent is in line paying with cash or credit card, I don't hear anyone criticize what's in her basket or the behavior of the child--unless it's just someone who doesn't like kids. If it's a welfare mom, it's very common for me to hear criticism if she has "junk food" in her basket and her kid is crying. Do you know how cheap junk food is compared to healthy food? Unfortunately, it's very expensive to eat healthy: this is one of the top reasons I've heard for people quitting the South Beach diet. "It's too expensive." I don't regret my decision to eat nutritionally, but I do remember feeling it in my pocket. It's much easier to buy junk and just eat less. And in a society where people spoil their kids with toys constantly, who can blame that kid for crying because he/she was denied a toy? I can't. I get as aggravated by the next person at screaming kids in the grocery store; but the grocery store isn't exactly a happenin' place for a child--especially with a stressed out welfare mom worrying about whether she'll be able to feed her family.

I do know that a fair number of people don't care if they ever get off "the system." I also know that there are some very hurting people behind that attitude... I have lived among them, worked for them, ridden buses with them, sat beside them in the welfare offices, etc, for the greater part of the past 16 years. For some reason, some of them let slip their feelings to me when they rarely discuss them elsewhere. Maybe it's because I'm busy playing with their children... Maybe it's because playing wit their children often makes me see that there might be reasons why that mom can't work full-time while caring for a disabled child that no one wants to touch. Maybe it's because I'm not afraid of their anger... I share it, and I'm not threatened by listening to it. I just don't need to turn it into acting out.


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