Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Other Shoe Dropped (again.)

This post was originally written and posted on Aug 25, 2012.
Shortly after posting it, I took it down.

You see, I was feeling all sorts of things - new ideas.  Preconceptions were getting questioned and I was beginning to think perhaps I didn't have all the answers.  (Gosh, is that true.)  I decided that sharing what I wrote was just a little too much information.  Too mushy.  (Okay, let's be truthful here, I was also afraid you would just hate what I wrote and there would be all sorts of finger-pointing in the comments.)

Here's why I'm re-posting it today.
On that day, Aug 25, 2012, my world was very different.

My husband had just been laid off, again, but other than that things were pretty normal.  Then things got a little more rocky. Since that time my job of  9 years became less secure.  And, then my husband lost his son - my step-son.  Then I was laid-off.  And, then the cat died.  Seriously.  

(Well, actually not in that order, but ending with "the cat died" just tops off the grief sundae with a cherry, doesn't it? Somehow you have to keep your sense of humor - even if it's just gallows humor...)

I look back at this post and think, "Man, I had just scratched the surface."  And, now I wonder if a year from now I will think, "Wow, you've grown a lot in twelve months."  I hope so.  But, if I'm being honest, I really hope none of my learning comes from more jobs lost, illness, or death.   I've been volunteering at the local food pantry and my paperwork and background check has been submitted so I can start doing things like help refugees from countries like Congo and Bhutan where the lucky ones are literally fleeing for their lives. I'll be keeping my eyes, ears and heart open.  I think I'll learn a lot.

The following was originally posted on Aug 25, 2012:

I just came from a great Justice & Compassion seminar at my local church. (Actually I just came from the library, but more on that later.) At the seminar the vision was cast for the new food center as well as the other related centers, e.g. clothing, education, legal, vision and dental assistance, in way that would hopefully be sustainable and lead to lasting change. 

Last week when I signed up for the seminar I had no idea that today my husband would get laid off . Again. (Yeah, it’s the second time this year. Is there a punch card I should carry in my wallet or something? Got your card? Punch) 

 It was a great seminar. One of the speakers, Dr. Robert Lupton, spoke about the role of dignity and empowerment in building community. I could have listened to him all day. (And, this is why I just ordered his book from the library - Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor.) 

 He spoke of various acts of service or charity, e.g. donations, angel trees, etc. and he showed a different side – that of the receiver. The giver, usually, feels good about what they’ve done. Maybe they get the joy of seeing a child’s eyes light up upon receiving a new toy, for example. But, there’s another part, too. For the mom or dad this act of kindness can be “dignity depleting” and an unwelcome reminder that they are not able to provide for their family in a way they wish – or in a way that society expects of them. 

(I'm not a writer...nor do I play one on TV, so while I'm doing my best to paraphrase him, well, you get the idea.)

 Dr. Lupton and his church have put their hearts into finding ways to help, build and empower rather than creating expectancy and dependency. While he gave a few (really cool) examples, they only whet my whistle for his book. 

I’ve been on both the giving
and the receiving ends of such scenarios.  
Perhaps you have been, too.

After Dr. Lupton’s session our table had some really nice table discussion. People seemed to really feel free to share what they thought and the authenticity was refreshing. One of the topics brought to light was the (fill in your own emotion... sadness, frustration, disappointment) of sometimes seeing the same person receiving food over and over again – and not seeming to be actively looking for a job.

It got me thinking.

 Perhaps you know of someone, I do, who has been on unemployment for years and while they continue to apply for jobs “in their career,” it would never occur to them that they could be asking “would you like fries with that.” So, I can see how seeing the same person time and time again appearing at a food pantry or shelter and seeming to be “okay with it” might be jarring. 

(I am blessed with a husband who will to anything to provide for his family. And, while we hope that someday he will once again be employed in his passion area, we will take it day by day and see what God has in store.) 

After Dr. Lupton’s message, I think I can try to put words to a possible other side to that the scenario. Remember the “dignity depletion?” That phrase echoed in my mind when he said it. I have felt that. Well, not quite dignity…but emotional fatigue. I thought back to times when I might have put on a good face to a well meaning person making an inquiry about the job search. 

You see, I think sometimes I quickly, sub-consciously did a cost- benefit assessment when people asked how I've been. How's the search going, etc. When you or your loved one is unemployed or under-employed you can find yourself engaging with well meaning people a lot. These are people who have really good intentions. They want to help. But, the reality is that the first 10 or 20 suggestions they will offer are likely the same 10-20 that the previous person offered. And, the person before them.

Now, you might think, yeah but what if they know that 1 lead that no one else knew?! You’re right! That could be awesome. But, that’s what I was referring to about the cost-benefit assessment. If it was a good day, rather than getting emotionally drained by even entering into the conversation, sometimes it’s easier to just put on the happy face. And, ask about them. You know?

 Of course this brush-off could be because you felt they were just making conversation. Or perhaps, they were going to get all feeling good for asking and that really seemed to be the reason for their inquiry… 

But, here’s the truth. 
“It’s not you, it’s me.”

Today might be a really good day. Emotional high. Getting things accomplished. And entering into the conversation that day will leave me feeling drier than an Arizona landscape. So, the smile? It’s protecting the good day. 

So, I wonder how many times I might have inquired about a person and interpreted complacency and it really wasn't that at all. 

 I wonder how many people we pass that “seem to not even be trying” are just “protecting the good day.” 

Shifting gears.

From the World Health Organization: The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. Commonly, the concept of food security is defined as including both physical and economic access to food that meets people's dietary needs as well as their food preferences.

 I can identify with the second part of that. The preferences part. There have been days where cereal was the meal, love it or leave it. And, while according to the box, all the nutritional percentages would be met…the taste buds filed an appeal. 

I wonder… 
Have you or “a friend” ever been food insecure...
 to the extent that you truly didn’t know from where your next meal would come? 

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