Friday, September 28, 2007

chasing tails

Those people deserve what they get.

I hear this uttered after just speaking publicly about homelessness, about the plight in our community, about suffering and what we can do. My head whips around like I was slapped and barely controlled I turn back to him. Excuse me?

I said, those people deserve what they get. Why don't they just get a job.

So often in moments like these I've used all sorts of tactics, a bit of humor and education, a quiet sort of explanation about root causes and social injustice. But this isn't the week for that, my heart has already been jumped on enough.

Without measuring my words I get very close and bite back how dare you judge someone else's suffering. how dare you. when did it become okay to ignore the suffering of others. tell me, when?

Angry now and caught off guard he too rises up and in defense tells me they are not my problem. To which I reply but you are most certainly theirs.

He had another choice word or two but I turned and walked. I walked hard and fast feet to pavement I walked and as I walked I cried. I cried tears of frustration and disbelief and exhaustion that people continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering around them and instead choose to kick them in the shins. I cried not over this asshole but for the thousands just like him. I cried because our world could be so much kinder than it is.

I get back to my office and as I sit the phone rings. I debate for a moment and then pick it up. Hello young lady my friend M says, his voice a rich sound of gravel and butter. I may be out of line here, but I met a woman and she needs help. She's sleeping in her car with her two kids. One's just a baby. Can you help? I met her yesterday and I couldn't sleep last night knowing I had a home while she slept outside. And I grip the phone a little tighter, teary again but this time from the goodness of others instead of the bad. Of course. Have her give me a call. And hey, how are you?

I love my new apartment. I love it so much. And I just got a new job, too. Things are looking up.

Indeed, my friend, indeed. For me as well. Thank you.

46 comments:

FENICLE said...

Social Justice. I buy into this. Alot. And I think mostly others who make comments like that are uneducated.

Bravo to you for trying to educate them!

Blog Antagonist said...

"but you are most certainly theirs". Oh yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

I was outraged at the man's comment, but not surprised. It's a disgustingly prevailant sentiment.

But how wonderful about M. Often, it's those who have so little that are willing to give so much. He has a good heart.

Her Grace said...

Yesterday, on Oprah, she asked the question:

Do you believe that everyone has a fundamental right to health care, or do you believe that health insurance should only belong to those who pay for it?

Her audience gave her a resounding YES! everyone deserves health care. But we sure don't see that in action, do we?

Keep fighting the good fight.

thailandchani said...

Glad you gave the guy a bit of verbal butt-kicking! That attitude is far to prevalent and it needs to be challenged.. whenever and wherever we hear it.


Peace,

~Chani
http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

crazymumma said...

It's amazing how many think it is not their problem. It's the human family, and I always thought we had to all hold hands to make it work. Well, I guess the hands that do help just need to be stronger to make up for the missing ones.

Friend M. Paying it forward. My thoughts and hopes are with the woman and her two kids.

Oh. And I'm glad you tore a strip off of someone. Sometimes there is no room for diplomacy.

Janet said...

It's got to be so frustrating for you to repeatedly run up against that attitude, when you know how powerful a little kindness and compassion can be.

And then M. popped up to reinforce what you already know is true.

mamatulip said...

I don't know how you restrain yourself when you run into people of that mindset.

I've been thinking of you a lot this week.

And. I am so proud of you. Of all that you are and all that you do.

Bob said...

jerks like that demonstrate the public's need to be educated about the real issues surrounding the homeless. you can't argue with that kind of guy with a compassion argument, you relate it to his world. ask him how can you get a job when you don't have clean clothes for a job interview. you don't have a phone for call backs. you don't have a car to go to the interview or to work. ask him if he would hire a homeless person. stuff like that.

assholes like him are all about themselves. it's easier to say it's their fault so it doesn't become his problem.

preaching to the choir, I know.

I admire that much more for doing the job you do with the opposition you encounter.

Mad Hatter said...

For you to hear that this week--of all weeks. I think it lucky the bastard kept his balls.

And YES! to your friend M. Yes.

Julie Pippert said...

Do you know...I am with you on giving back to that guy just as he gave out to you. "you are theirs" oh yes, excellent. I hope that phrase seared his brain and kept him up thinking, trying to figure out what was wrong and how to fix the fact that his heart was 4 sizes too small.

Big (HUGS) to you though b/c I'm sorry you had to hear that *just then.*

On the other hand, sometimes those things fire me up and remotivate me.

And a big WTG to you and M! Can you let us know if that lady and her kids are okay?

Julie
Using My Words

Redneck Mommy said...

So proud to call you my friend. I wish I could have been there to lend my support. And to shove my boot up his arse.

Anything for you, love.

Sober Briquette said...

It seems as though Mr. M was there for you when you needed him. What a lift, when someone has faith in you!

Ignorance is one thing, something we can try to do something about, but stupidity seems to be terminal.

Joker The Lurcher said...

i live in quite a privileged place in sussex. i'm off work with stress at the moment and i was on my way to buy some milk when i saw a guy selling the big issue (a magazine produced and sold by homeless people). a very old, very posh lady came up to him and said "why don't you get a job?" i was about to wade in but i stopped myself. i am way too volatile at the moment to chance trying to deal with this sort of lady. and the guy was more than able to deal with her as it turned out, in a polite way.

and also, just because she sounds posh, how do i know what her 80 years of life have shown her? there are quite a few people who get like her because they pulled themselves out of the mire and they can't see why other people can't do it.

what i'm trying to say is you can't sort everything - best to concentrate your work where it matters and let this sort of person fry in their own self-satisfaction. you do such a good job jen, and you sound so low just now. take good care of your self.

Hetha said...

I am also glad you gave that guy a verbal bitch slap, sometimes that is more affective than the logic of education or the reasoning behind humor. Awesome that M called you that same day, just what you needed when you needed it.

You're a rock star jen, plain and simple.

Andrea said...

I dont' know how you deal with people like that. I would be yelling and calling them names all the time.

Good job, Jen.

QT said...

It makes me cry too, sister. In fact, I am usually surprised by how often you are able to hold it together. Seeing what you see everyday, I wonder if I would cry nightly.

But your friend M, wow, talk about timing. Does it wash away all the bitterness? Not completely, but it is a start, isn't it?

Love to you, friend.

Magpie said...

You fight the good fight.

flutter said...

Jesus, how insensitive can people be?

Thank the universe there's you.

Mrs. Chicken said...

It's the dichotomy that gets me every time. blood against peace, hurt against happiness, hunger against full bellies just down the road. You are stronger then I; you live it while I just observe.

As always, humbled here by your heart and your life.

Momish said...

Ah, that's the universe sending you complete messages, my friend. A reality of how it goes both ways, lest you lose sight at anytime. And rightly so, you received the good one second, so that one can rest in your heart and wipe away the other.

Great to hear your friend M is doing so well!

Kyla said...

Jen, jen, jen. You are beautiful. Your heart...it amazes me, every day.

meno said...

Some balance in the Universe, just when you needed it.

Some part of me wishes you had punched him though.

carrie said...

I don't know how you do it.

But I am so glad you do.

Tabba said...

Man, did M ever call you at the right time or what??

mitzh said...

I am glad that in all these there is someone like you....

Bless your heart.

KC said...

So glad for the call. So glad. A perfect reminder of all that is good and possible in this world.

Mrs. Chicky said...

I still consider your retort to be grace under pressure. I would have told the guy to go f*ck a donkey or something equally witty. You are grace personified.

slouching mom said...

You responded perfectly, in my opinion, to a total a-hole.

And how wonderful that M is calling you about helping someone else! What kind of trust is that that he's got?

The trust that YOU inspired.

Such a coup, so heartwarming.

Little Monkies said...

People have no idea how close they themselves are to sleeping on the street. If they knew (one major illness, one lawsuit, the loss of a job, an unexpected divorce, etc), they would be a lot more kind.

urban-urchin said...

I'm so glad that M was sent your way today to show you that there is good. I don't know that the man was bad neccessarily- ignorant, absolutely and as you said defensive- but I have to hope that your words resonated with him on some level. Perhaps in the quiet of this evening, away from the anger and confrontation he'll reflect upon the interaction and see how, in fact suffering is all our problem.

thordora said...

aw hun. Why are people such shits anyway....

{{{{{HUGS}}}}}

liv said...

Babydoll, you are having such a tough time right now. What an atrocious beast of a man. Sometimes I think you're like a teacher. The job is thankless, the pay is not enough, and you're being a buffer between other humans and the outside. You are also like a teacher in that you have a brain and heart full of stories and accounts of those who appreciate your work. Come back to center and feel the white light dancing all around. xoxo

Jocelyn said...

It's so incredibly hard to know what we can change--where to put our energy--and what to move past. I used to live in Colorado Springs, home of the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family, and I would regularly get papers from my students saying that people with AIDS deserved it.

For awhile, I convinced myself that these students needed to hear my voice and challenge. Ultimately, though, I realized I was martyring myself for people with no ears. I moved.

painted maypole said...

Hooray for M. You can change it for everyone, but those that you can... you really make it big.

Casdok said...

Peoples attitudes can be so wearing cant they.

ewe are here said...

The *ss who said that 'those people' deserve whatever they get is lucky he didn't get what he deserved, a swift kick to the nether regions.

But it was nice to read that your friend M reached out to you...

The Chick said...

Sigh....for the heartless and for those full of heart. Both take my breath away.

The Expatriate Chef said...

Not sure what the big dark cloud is, but I am thinking of you daily. Should I mail you an apple pie?

Aliki2006 said...

Paying it forward...this is how it works--I wish it were universal, this lesson you're working on helping people understand.

deb said...

You did make a difference, sometimes you don't get to see it, but sometimes you do. You helped someone and he was able to reach a hand out to someone else. That's a good thing.

Amy York said...

I think, though these types of interactions are most definitely difficult for you, you are the perfect person for them to happen to. Good for you for helping to educate another ignorant fool...

Ally said...

Tonight this post has me sobbing. For all of the people who turn a blind eye, for all of the suffering, for that mother sleeping in the car with her children, and for people like you, who try so hard to help, get beat down, and then get up and try some more. Tears of grief, and gratitude.

Lawyer Mama said...

What a horrible, awful thing to say. But then a lovely reminder that there is hope for humanity.

Susanne said...

This had me with blurred vision. It's horrible that it seems to be acceptable to say, "These people are not my problem." in public. Cheers to you for standing up.

And how marvelous to have the chance that there are others too.

bgirl said...

jen, i think of you often, the lives you touch, the view you have into the different sides of humanity. i like knowing you exist, more than that you *live* and we are all so much better off because of that.

all my prayers for the mama and child, and to you for all you do to help them find a soft spot to land.

The Holmes said...

A bit of outrage is a good thing. Why is it that the people who usually seem to espouse these "just get a job" attitudes are the ones that come from the most privileged backgrounds? Ugh.