I just started listening to an audio-book today by Rhonda Byrne called ‘The Power’ and it’s truly helping me start the New Year in a more loving note. Truly, the more I live the more I realize the power of Love is life changing, but I never realized how much. Thinking positive, believing in the impossible has changed my life in ways I cannot even start to explain.
It all started in the most unlikely of ways, in late 2001. At the time, I was upset, negative, argumentative, depressed, not in the best of places. You would not have liked me at all, and many people didn’t and were not afraid to tell me so. I was divorced, living alone with my son Nicky which had one of the most severe forms of EB, with my family half a world away, without any help and with only myself to rely on.
Just when I needed it most, things started happening that helped me see… Not only that’s when I started reading the first of many books by Brian Weiss & Michael Newton that completely changed my life, but I also realized a few things about our society which led me to the path of how important it truly is to help each other and to walk in the path of love, compassion and understanding instead of judgement.
I am posting here an excerpt from my book that I am currently writing, Butterfly Child, that explains what I went through and what I learned from it. The book is due out in late 2014.
“The second big thing that happened was how I was ‘let go’ from my freelance position. The good news is that in those 7 months I had saved quite a bit of money, the bad news is that I didn’t know what I was going to do for money next. Who would watch Nicky? Once again I was in the same predicament as I was in Arizona a couple of years earlier. I felt like I was on a sinking boat full of holes everywhere. I started job hunting that day, an endless job hunt.
After my last day of work I walked into the Social Services office in Mojave, hoping to get something; I didn’t even know what, food stamps, anything to help me out, I wasn’t picky. I knew that without a job my savings would be gone within 2 months. Nicky was having one of those ‘bad corneal abrasion’ days so I pushed him in the stroller. He looked awful, all bandaged up, crying and with a blanket over his head so the light would not hurt his eyes. After waiting forever I finally got to see the Social Worker, who, might I say, despite seeing my son suffering right in front of her eyes showed absolutely zero compassion, she didn’t even ask me what was wrong with him! Needless to say she wanted to see all my identification papers etcetera, which is fine, but she balked when she saw that I had a few thousand dollars in savings. She said they could not help me at all and gave me a list of all the things they needed to see before they could help me *after* I could prove to them I had less than $2,000 in my name. I found it quite ridiculous because it takes a month or more to be approved to receive any kind of benefits and my cost of surviving for one month was around that amount. I told her that, but she didn’t care. It was almost as if I had to be on the street or near homeless to get help. That list, might I say, was so insulting! I sat there looking at it, and I felt like I was treated like a criminal. They wanted papers to prove I was Nicky’s mother, wanted proof of my citizenship, Nicky’s citizenship, statements of all bank accounts, they wanted to see how much I owed on the car (because if I had too much equity in the car they would not help me!), and wanted proof that I had insurance on the car and that I was current on my sticker, they wanted copies of all my utilities, lease agreement, they wanted me to sign all kinds of papers attesting that I didn’t own any stocks, bonds, real estate, the list was quite specific and there were at least 20 items on it and before she let me go she said I had to wait in the lobby for them to take my photograph and fingerprints! I honestly thought I was heading to jail. All I was asking for was food stamps so I could save my money for things such as rent or car payments to tie me over until I could find some sort of income! I suppose I now knew first hand how humiliating and invasive it was to become a recipient of government assistance. I would not have felt any worse if I was being urinated on. I was frightened, traumatized, and now I was being treated as if my unlucky turn of events was a crime and I was going to be arrested for it. It’s a miracle they did not add ‘drug test’ to the list. I was expecting it. As if I could afford to be on drugs. As I was sitting in the lobby tears welled up in my eyes, Nicky started crying in pain, people were staring; I was done being humiliated, they would not get my photo or fingerprints that day, I took Nicky out of there and got in the car. That drive home was one I will never forget, I was mortified beyond belief, all I could do was cry without a moment of rest. I wanted to scream, to shout, I stopped the car and let the biggest, loudest scream I could muster. It was a new low for me. Too many working families are one paycheck away from feeling what I felt and it’s devastating for me to think about it. What’s even worse it’s the judgement of others. How easy it is to see someone on welfare and think they must be scum. Who are we to judge someone’s life, who are we to determine the quality of their character, or their worth to society? No one deserves to be treated like that. Be your sister’s keeper and withhold judgement. Money, possessions and lifestyle do not make us better people, they only makes us appear to be.
For me, fortunately, it became a moment in my life that taught me a great deal, but not one that would hurt me or my son. It wasn’t until later that evening that someone suggested unemployment benefits. Since I had been freelance I didn’t think I qualified, but because I worked for that same company as a regular employee and they changed my status after basically firing me still within that year, I did indeed qualify, which was a tremendous relief. Unemployment checks would keep me afloat for the year that it took me to get another form of income, but more on that later.
As I write this more than ten years later, it seems as if people who never had unforeseen circumstances come up, rarely understand the plight of what I went through. Unexpected things can happen to anyone at anytime, and when they do everyone needs the welfare system to come to our rescue, which is the reason why these programs were created. None of us know when we’re going to need help, as not everyone, like me, has family nearby to help them. I feel profoundly sad when I hear anyone insult these kinds of programs or the people that they serve because of a few bad apples. Yes, I am certain there are people that take advantage, but just because of these folks, we just cannot assume “everyone” is lazy, or “everyone” is scamming the system. Generalizations are simply wrong and offensive, and generally ignore the realities of life. “
How many times have you looked at a homeless person or someone on food stamps and come to the conclusion that they are worthless? This person could be a Vietnam Veteran, could be someone that had been abused, neglected, someone with a mental disorder or an untreated condition or simply a victim of circumstance? It matters not. We judge and it’s wrong. It’s WRONG. We know nothing about this person, nothing. What this trip to the Welfare office taught me is that. Nobody there wanted to be there. Everyone was uncomfortable, crying, at the end of their rope. Instead of compassion they get judged.
So, my resolution for 2014, it’s not to get into shape (HA! I will start walking again, but I am pushing 50, let’s be honest, I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, I just want to stay healthy), and it isn’t to quit eating chocolate or drinking margaritas (it ain’t happening anyway) it is to learn to be more compassionate, more loving, more forgiving. I am not perfect, I have a lot more work ahead of me, but I think a good start will be to ignore, unfollow, delete. Perhaps call people more (I am horrible at that) and send more love where it’s needed. Also, the less I respond to hateful, negative, critical and unkind comments the better. It has to be my new mantra. If people want to be hateful, negative, argumentative, that’s their karma. I had to learn and hopefully they will find their way as well.
Happy New Year everyone!