The Ugly Side Of Helping Others

23 Dec

Warning this is a vent, hell it’s a rant. While my goal is not to offend, the fact is I need to blow off some steam and for me that generally involves writing, after all its better than the old days when I used to smash things.

In Maine, they have a funny saying I never heard until I moved here…when folks are really busy, they say I am out straight. When I first moved here I was like WTF, does that mean? Now, almost 8 years into my Maine life, I totally get it. So to steal the vernacular of the native folks, I am out straight.

My daytime life involves helping folks when you boil down the fancy language. Yeah, I have a title that seems like animpressive title but at the end of the day, the work I have been doing for a dozen years now really is about helping others. I have worked in a wide array of setting to achieve that goal but no matter if its been a homeless shelter, low income housing or community center. At the end of the day, the work is about trying to affect change in the lives of others who need some help.

Prior to getting into this line of work, I had a brief career in sales. I was an advertising sales rep for a medical journal. Financially, I did quite well…well enough at 22-23 as a young single Mama to afford a condo on Chicago’s lakefront. I suppose had I stayed in that line of work, I would be a lot better off financially. But as I joke, I found God and was lead to do more meaningful work. So it is what it is.

Most days I love my work, I love helping others and I do it for the joy. Because of the way I was raised, I seem to have a knack for relating to folks in all walks of life. I can juggle a family in need and turn around and talk with donors in a way that is meaningful. I guess if I were to analyze my gifts and talents I would say that is a big one, the ability to connect with others. I will never make a gorgeous home though I can cook great food, so I accept that barring a lotto win, my house will probably always look like a college student, but the ability to connect with others…that seems to be where my gifts lay.

Anyhoo, in all my years working with folks there is something about the holidays that seems to bring out the worse in people and to be honest it pisses me off. One of the downsides of the work I do is that pretty much every year where I have been employed since the Spousal Unit and I married a dozen years ago, our personal holidays are disrupted. Years ago in Chicago at the agencies I worked at, homelessness doesn’t stop because it’s a holiday and as low woman on the pole (especially before I got my degree) that meant I had to work on the actual holiday. After a couple of years it went from having to work both Thanksgiving and Christmas to picking one of those days. Last agency I worked at in Chicago, only person who was not included on work holiday duty was the Executive Director.

So you would think now that I work at a place that is closed on the actual holidays life would be easier but no it’s not. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my crazy time of the year, the agency that I work at provides help and programming to many frankly that I am happy to do. But the past few days have brought me face to face with the ugly side.

Look, I know its hard being poor at a time of year when society says consume. Everyone wants the same things for their families, good meals, gifts and good times. Many families in need rely on agencies and programs such as mine to help them, but sometimes folks forget that behind the agency it’s flesh and blood folks running the show. Folks who also have needs, this past Saturday I woke up to a child with a red face, slight fever and runny nose. A child who just wanted to cuddle with Mama and have homemade soup. Problem was on Saturday I had to work, I was running a special program that by the end of the day provided meals and gifts to over 100 kids and their families. Long story short, there was no way I could meet my kid’s needs at that time. To say I felt like an ass would be a understatment. Thankfully the Spousal Unit did the best he could since by the time I got home to say I was spent would be a great understatement though she did get that soup.

Since Saturday I have assisted loads of families in getting their needs met, some with a gift or two and some with the entire holiday including the dinner. Most are appreciative but its been the few that felt the need to yell or pester me that things were not on their time clock, that have me wanting to just snap. Really, I am not a fucking magician and at the moment my kid doesn’t even have a fucking tree and has been consuming way more tv than she should because I am too busy and too tired to function like a normal Mama.

Times like this the gimme gimme consumerist aspect of our society pisses me off, the fact that everyone feels so entitled and gets mad if their expectations are not met exactly the way they want them to be. The fact that people never stop and realize that hey we are all humans…where is the true spirit of the holidays? Where is the kindness? instead people yell and get mad because they cannot get what they want when they want it.

So today I pray I can wrap up work so perhaps I can plan to relax with my own family and thank you for allowing me this time to vent. By the way we did get the tree, the night before last and the only thing we are lacking are the candy canes….I promised the kiddos that candy canes would appear tonight.

4 Responses to “The Ugly Side Of Helping Others”

  1. Big Man December 23, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    Expectations can be a beast, particularly when they are not realistic. They just mess up everything.

  2. pennywize December 23, 2009 at 4:44 pm #

    WOOSA! Leave it there (I know you do), and have a Merry Christmas, BGIM!

  3. danielle December 28, 2009 at 10:55 am #

    coming in late on this, but just wanted to give you a nod, I *totally* get it. two years ago I was working with a mom and bought, with my own money, a bike for this mom to give to her daughter (I was reimbursed by my job a few months later, but still). mind you now, this was this mom’s second round of having her kids removed and was “working” on reunification with her 10 yo, but didn’t do a damn thing in the 2 years I had her case. anyway, I brought the bike to mom so she could give it to her daughter and she actually had the audacity to give me flack about it because she really wanted her daughter to get a mountain bike. the learned helplessness in our culture is sickening.

  4. Kathy January 9, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    Wow, I loved reading this post, and I also identify so much with being a mother and having to work the horror daze, thats what I call it, and not being able to be the mother that I want to be, not being there, or totally worn out from it. Thanks so much.
    I read your posts at Black Diaspora, and he linked this post, it’s a great read.

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