Thursday, May 07, 2009

There but for the grace of God go I...

paper snowflakes over window Visiting the county's only shelter for women and children was a bit of a shock, although our group had, a few years ago, made regular forays to the same place to serve meals there on Sundays (which can be a great need at many of them, as most volunteers serve meals there on Saturdays), because the population seemed a bit different. Of course the residents were different, of course, but this time, they weren't all young women with children, although most were.

Joining the young women were a few well-educated young ones, with whom we also chatted amiably. One of the few older women there was also well educated and traveled, and I enjoyed speaking with her--though I hope she gets back on her feet soon. Like many other people, health problems were the catalyst that brought her to the shelter; her problems began with bronchitis and snowballed from there--the second time in as many weeks that I've learned that bronchitis can be so serious. She seemed hopeful for the future, and appeared relatively healthy, but apparently could not be with her family.

This all-too-common shame of going to be with one's family (or, conversely, not accepting a family member who's fallen on tough times) is endemic of our go-it-alone individualistic mentality, and it's hurting us all. Even the motivational speaker Iyanla Vanzant had a rough patch a couple of years ago when she lost her home with a subprime mortgage (and still does not have health insurance) but still too many of us listen to people like former Senator Phil Gramm nastily refer to other Americans as "whiners."

* * *

A group trip to the Capital Area Food Bank to volunteer one weeknight (pre-Obama visit) was heartening--to see many different kinds of people willing to help others, with a quickness! They proved the truth of the saying "many hands make light work," for the apparent mountain of donated items were sorted within a two-hour span. Whew! My back hurts again just thinking about it. But it's a good kind of hurt, if that makes sense.

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