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Posts Tagged ‘help’

I am fortunate in my job to be able to distribute food in our food pantry to people who need it. I have four or five regulars who are there once or twice a month and the occasional stranger who comes by unexpectedly. We don’t have established hours for the pantry, except the office hours that I keep, so while a couple of our regulars are, well, regular, many times it’s an impromptu visit. All but one of my regulars has a home but just can’t afford to buy enough food that they need for the month, or for the two weeks. Over the last year, I’ve gotten to know these folks, to worry when they don’t show up for a while and, most importantly, I’ve learned so much from them. It’s easy to judge people who are in need from a TV screen and the comfort of a secure home, but putting faces to that need really makes one think about not only how blessed many of us are, but helps us to understand that those face could be any one of us at any time. Some of them need help because of past choices, some because of circumstances, but they all have a story to tell. I’m going to introduce you to a few of them here for the simple fact that everyone we meet wants to be understood, wants to be heard, not judged.

T (I’m only going to identify them by their first initials) is a kind, middle-aged man who stops by at the very end or the very beginning of the month. He has someone who helps him pay for an apartment, but sometimes the money doesn’t stretch for the entire month and he needs help with groceries. He very clearly has some issues, there are days when he’s clearer in his thoughts than others, but he is unfailingly polite and makes it a point to ask about my month, my holiday, whatever is in season. He keeps up on current events and tries to engage in conversation about them on occasion. He sometimes asks for magazines to read, so I save my old issues of Guideposts and Reader’s Digest for him to take when he asks. He doesn’t always pay attention to his hygiene, but he’s always very pleasant to talk to and I enjoy his visits.

D has kids. She’s young, Muslim, and usually calls before she comes by to make sure that I’m here or to see if there are new groceries. Her children sometimes come with her and they are all adorable and well-behaved. She makes sure that she sticks to coming only every two weeks and normally stretches it out longer. She looks for halal things that she can feed her family and likes it when we have had a Kroger card donated so that she can buy perishables or over-the-counter medicines that we don’t carry. As a mother, I can’t imagine what she must be going through, but it is so clear that her kids are her whole world. I don’t know her exact circumstances, but I can tell that it bothers her to have to come and ask for help.

K scares me a little, honestly. He’s gotten belligerent with me before and he is banned from many of the churches and businesses in the area because of his actions. I only let him return to our church if he promised to behave himself and made it clear that it was his one and only chance. Since then, he’s been on his best behavior, but I stay on my guard when he’s here and only let him in when I have someone else in the building with me. He’s been arrested several times, I saw it happen on my way home once, so it is sometimes months in between his visits. I’ve seen him sitting outside of restaurants on Michigan Avenue at times, but he never acknowledges me outside of the church. Whether it’s because he truly doesn’t recognize me (he has some substance issues, as well) or he just doesn’t want to associate with me, I don’t know, but I’ve chalked it up to just letting him be. As long as he keeps following the rules, as long as I feel safe, I’ll continue to let him get food because he is truly homeless and is hungry. He’s as thin as a rail and I can’t turn him away.

L is probably my favorite. She is disabled, having been hit by a woman in a beige minivan in 2015. August 2015, to be exact. She broke her femur and now has a leg full of metal rods and pins, requiring her to use a wheelchair. I’ve heard the story many times, almost every time she comes. She likes to stay awhile and talk, telling me the same things again and again. She tells me every single time, “I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs like those people in the apartment next door.” Normally, she rides the bus from that small apartment in the next city over, the apartment that has holes in the walls where the mice come in. She puts bricks in front of the holes to help keep them out but it doesn’t always work. She’s also convinced that someone comes into her apartment and moves things when she isn’t there; her complaints are starting to get on the landlord’s nerves. I’ve driven her home a couple of times when she can’t get back to the bus and I’ve seen the outside of her apartment. It’s a little frightening, the area is bleak. She won’t allow me in because she’s afraid that her neighbors will harass me, even fussing when I insist on at least carrying her groceries to her front step. She will tell, on occasion, of her time in jail or about how she woke up one day (February 2015) and God told her that she didn’t need to do drugs anymore. She is there like clockwork every month, usually around the 20th, but when it’s cold, she has to wait until she gets a ride because walking to the bus stop is too difficult to manage with her wheelchair in bad weather.

She has issues, lots of issues, but there’s something about her that makes me feel that God is with her. She has a mystical quality that transfixes me, even during her rambling speeches. There are times when I am standing in the pantry holding a food bag for twenty minutes or more, just listening, as she gets out all that she needs to say before I even put in one box of cereal. In the midst of hearing about her relatives and the children that she doesn’t see (I’m not quite sure how many she has, but there’s at least one son), there are sometimes profound statements that find their way out and make me wonder. I look forward to seeing her every month and worry when she doesn’t show.

These folks remind me every day of not only how blessed I am, but that humanity comes in all forms; we’re not all the same. Some humans are more difficult to love or understand than others, all of us are at times. But if we at least try, if we take that minute to listen, then we learn; not only about that person, but about ourselves and the world as a whole. We learn humility. I’m not always good at that, but the people who I’ve told you about today have opened up new places in my heart that make me want to listen more. I’m working on it.

 

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*Caution- This post contains information that is disturbing, especially for younger readers.  So why am I writing this? Because it’s time for responsible, decent, people to stand up and stop letting it happen, to stop shoving it away because it’s uncomfortable and ugly to talk about. Because children’s lives matter and we must protect them. We’re not. That’s why.

Each time I became a parent, I loved to watch my babies sleep. Their faces were so peaceful, so serene, so beautiful. I loved interacting with my children, talking to them, watching them as they discovered new things, their joy at sneezes, peek-a-boo, and snuggling. Their innocence is awesome, and in using that word, I mean it would literally fill me with awe. I marveled at how pure they were, unspoiled by the world, and it was bittersweet to realize that bit by bit, they would slowly lose that innocence as life happened to them. It’s supposed to be that way. Our brains grow and change, enabling us to handle more complex thoughts and emotions that take us into adulthood, leaving that childhood innocence behind to be a moment of nostalgia for our parents.

But there are children who lose their innocence much more quickly than they should. This has been focused on more by the news lately, especially where I live, but also on the national level. A child prostitution ring was just busted this week in the Detroit area involving nineteen children, the youngest of them only twelve years old, the same age as Youngest Child. Does Jarod from Subway ring a bell? The actor Stephen Collins? I don’t think that there is a week that goes by without a story in the news about some pimp or pedophile being caught at what he was doing. Yes, I said he. I realize that there are women who also abuse children, but the vast majority of child sex offenders are male. By the way, I absolutely detest the way people use the word “pimp” to compliment a man. A pimp is a filthy, heartless, money-grubbing person who sells women for sex and then takes their money. The word “pimp” is not a good thing. Please understand that and adjust accordingly.

Before you dismiss this blog content as something that doesn’t touch your life, think again. Perhaps you don’t know anyone who was forced to be a child prostitute, but read about this ugly statistic: You know at least two people, probably more, but at least two people who were molested as children. You may know their stories, you probably don’t, but statistics show that one out of about four girls and one out of about every six boys has been sexually abused before the age of 18, meaning that it’s much more common than most Americans think. (https://www.nsopw.gov/en/Education/FactsStatistics?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1) Most children never tell, not even as adults. That’s a sick, sick, sad, thing. Now think about this. You may also know someone who perpetuates this, either by actually being an offender or someone who knows what’s happening, yet does nothing to stop it. Eradicating the world of this disease is something that should be on the radar of any decent adult’s conscience. More on that in a bit.

Websites and chat rooms help these creeps connect. When the internet was invented, it was a huge bonus for their sick minds. It’s a big, anonymous playground, a place where they can bond and connect over their crimes through complicated servers. Millions of pictures and videos of children being abused are traded online every day, like baseball cards. Millions of children are physically sold online every day. Let me say that again. Millions of children are physically sold online every day, in India, Japan, Russia, China, Nepal, Malaysia, France, Germany, and almost every country in the world including the US. The sex trade doesn’t just encompass children in poor developing countries, it concerns the children next door, down the block, your on relatives. You just don’t know, so it’s really important to pay attention to the children in your life. Make yourself accessible to confide in and above all, BE PREPARED TO DO THE RIGHT THING AND CALL THE AUTHORITIES!!!

You see, abusers don’t broadcast what they’re doing. Mine didn’t. People were absolutely shocked when they found out what had been going on. That’s the way it usually works. When I told my 6th grade teacher the situation in a journal entry, she told me to talk to my mother, but never bothered to call the police. I’ll never know why she didn’t, but I still feel betrayed to this day. Children are helpless when it comes to this kind of thing. They need adults, they need YOU to step in the minute you understand that something is going on that shouldn’t be. You don’t have to confront the suspect, in fact, you probably shouldn’t. It’s very easy: Call the authorities. You don’t need a fancy phone number or website to report abuse. You can, if you want to, of course, but 911 works, too. Be that hero that a child needs and get them help. End their nightmare.

Another thing that we need to do, as the responsible adults we should be, is to not only raise our kids right, but to also be a good example for them. We need to teach our kids that no means no. We need to teach our boys that girls are not to be objectified, but to be respected as the equals they are. We need to teach our girls to not let anyone mistreat them. We need to teach our kids, boys and girls, about sex, real sex, not the kind that they can find online for free. We need to teach them that sex is about trust, intimacy, and love, and that they have the right to say no at any time. We must teach them that no one has the right to touch them in ways that are uncomfortable and that if someone does touch them, they are not to blame. We need to teach them that they must never be afraid to come to us with any scary situation, and that we will believe them, even if the person that touched them inappropriately is a beloved family member, family friend, clergy, or teacher. They need to know that they can trust us, that we will help them no matter what, and that they are important and loved.

What kind of a sick mind uses a child for sexual purposes? What sort of person knowingly destroys a child’s life for their own sick appetite? Pedophilia is a real psychiatric condition, one for which there is no cure. Control is another issue for many abusers. Do I feel sorry for these people? I feel sorry for someone who has the urges that they do, but my compassion takes a serious hit once they victimize a child through pornography or any other means. There is no excuse to abuse another person, none whatsoever. I have no answers, so I leave them to the psychiatrists. And God’s judgment. This is where I have trouble controlling hatred.

I also don’t have a lot of sympathy for adults who know that a family member or other loved one is viewing child porn or is actually abusing a child. For whatever reason, ignoring the fact that someone is sexually abusing children is selfish and wrong on so many levels. It’s never okay to not help a child. An abused child will suffer the effects for the rest of his or her life. Take it from one who knows. Adult survivors are more likely to suffer depression, low self-esteem, are more likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol, and are more likely to attempt suicide, especially if they never told anyone about the abuse or if their abuser was never caught. If you know someone who participates in child pornography, you need to pick up that phone right now and end it. Every child in those photos has been abused and if you don’t turn them in, it’s on your hands, too. Do the right thing.

I don’t mean to be a downer, and abuse against children has, unfortunately, always existed. But I hear about it almost every single day and I’ve had enough. Enough of hearing about girls being raped on their way to school in Detroit. Enough of seeing teenage boys tearfully recount their victimizations as children. Enough of high-profile citizens trying to hide behind celebrity and money to cover their crimes. Enough of seeing pictures of little girls in brothels in other countries, who are the same age as my 3rd graders, being interviewed in magazines about the life they’re forced to lead. For the love of God, and I don’t take His name lightly, ENOUGH! We must stand up, we must fight against this evil. If these realities don’t make you sick, I don’t know what will.

Do the right thing. Let our children lose their innocence naturally and gradually, the way they are supposed to, not through the hands, or computer, of a pervert. Again: do the right thing.

If you are being abused or know of someone being abused, please call 911 or your local police department. If you need help, message me. I will support you.

Amen

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