Thursday, July 17, 2003

Just When We Thought We Had It Tough

Barbara was kicked out of
the house at 17, was pregnant by 19, had her first child
at 22, and married at age 25. She decided more than once
to leave an abusive relationship, and the night she
garnered the courage to try, she was confronted at the
door with a pistol and a clear instruction to “never try
that again.” A week later, she discovered she was
pregnant. Her first child, a boy, was born severely
asthmatic and has spent time in and out of the hospital
ever since. In short order, she gave birth to a little
girl, a special child, a child with Down’s syndrome. Her
husband, married before, brought his son by the prior
marriage into the family, a child who had lived in more
than 50 locations by the time he was 9 years old with
about as many “Daddies.” Barbara caught him abusing her
son twice, and her insistence that he leave or get help
went unheeded.

In the end, Hubby was not up for
the strain -- a child in and out of the hospital gasping
for breath, another wholly uncontrollable, a child who
did not understand the consequences of her actions, and
he walked out, leaving Barbara, now 31, with two
chronically ill children, a tiny apartment in a poor
neighborhood, an apartment on which the rent had not
been paid, a petition for divorce, a $600 a month child
care obligation, and her job as a temporary which pays
$12 an hour.

Barbara has no money, as in none.
Her rent check bounced a week ago and her landlord has
been to her door twice with a not-so-subtle suggestion
that she needs to come up with the rent or move.
Regrettably, she has no where to go, no one to turn to,
and so she drops her children off at day care and goes
to work where she often cries silently in her cubicle
wondering what comes next. Her employer provided the
traditional Employee Assistance Program which provided
three sessions of “counseling.” She is on food stamps,
works all the overtime she can get, and goes without
lunch so her children can eat. They closed her bank
account yesterday because it reached the overdrawn
limit. She goes to court on Friday for a ticket because
she had no money for car insurance, it expired, and the
ticket is $1,000.

Just when you thought you had
it tough, hey?

At her darkest moment, she was
befriended by a co-worker, a young lady 21, who is
trying to help. When I was in Des Moines, Iowa, last
week, I spent a little time with this young lady, who
had to cut our dinner short in order to watch Barbara’s
children while Barbara shopped for food. Before the
young lady dropped me off, I saw a small package in her
car. In it were 3 candles, “a small gift” the young lady
told me, but one which she said represented “hope.”
“Barbara never treats herself to anything, and I want to
give her something personal, something to bring a smile
to her face.” This young lady spends time on the phone
with various social agencies each day, and so far none
have funding to help. It seems that the new tough
federal policies put into place to keep the welfare
abusers off the dole has caught the legitimately needy
into the net, a social net has been shredded to the
point to where it no longer exists.

I reflected
on this last night as I watched a story about the new
U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, another piece of war machinery
that will cost taxpayers billions. I see the aftermath
of a war the tab for which is $4 billion a month. I see
huge tax breaks and subsidies have been going to
corporations and the rich. I see government policies
standing Robin Hood on his head -- shaking down the poor
and middle class while handing over the proceeds to the
wealthy. I see corporate EAP’s that are unhelpful, not
because many companies don’t try, but because many
obviously don’t know what their employees really need in
times of need.

I see all of this and I am both
angered and ashamed. I understand that business is in
business to make a dollar. I am not different. But, as a
nation, as a people, we must decide what is important.
Everything is a choice, which means when we choose to
have something; we choose not have something else. I
don’t understand money being available in the billions
for that which we may want, but do not need, when money
is not available to the Barbara’s of our nation and our

If government can’t or won’t help those in
need, then we, the people, need to give some thought to
who we’re putting into office and why. In the meantime,
we need to step up to the plate and help those who need
help. Barbara is one of those people. And, so for the
first time on this web page, I am going to ask you to do
something. I asked the young lady in Des Moines what
Barbara needs. She wrote me an e-mail and said the

“She won’t take money. She is too
proud. But, I know Ellie (her daughter) needs clothes
(summer, fall, winter, whatever and a winter coat). She
wears a size 6 in girls and a medium top (or a 6X or 7)
top. Bobby (her son) wears a 16 Husky pants and a XL in
kids or a small in men's tops and coat. When I asked her
what she (Barbara) needed, she told me, “Nothing, I’m
OK,” but I know that’s not true. I know she could use
some white cotton panties, size medium. I know because
she joked the other day that hers are falling

There’s one other important point I
failed to mention. The young lady from Des Moines who
told me this story, and who has taken it upon herself to
help Barbara and her family, who has made this credible
connection, is my daughter, Kandi, and I am proud of
her. I have changed the names of Barbara and her
children if only because she is proud and is not looking
for a handout. She is but one of thousands who has been
a dealt a poor hand of cards and is trying to play it
the best she knows how, and she is blessed to have a
co-worker who cares.

So, that’s it, and that’s
where you come in. If you would like to reach into your
heart and into your wallet and send an item of clothing
or perhaps a small gift card, please contact me. I will
provide you any additional information you need,
including an address.

I haven’t learned many
lessons in this life, but here’s one of the big ones I
have learned: When you help others in need, you help
yourself. No one else may know, but you’ll know.
style="CLEAR: both; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0.25em">


Post a Comment

<< Home