Charity

     The best of persons will have an off day. “Nice is different then good” (thanks for that one Stephen Soundheim). I never put much stock in politeness or propriety. I think it’s all crap personally. Anyone can fake “nice”. It’s the goodness that is impossible to mimic.

      So, when someone, a woman, a fellow mother, approached me earlier this summer (July) and offered to help me with my “unfortunate” circumstances, I was taken back. Initially I did not know how to respond. Our sons had played baseball together. Her husband was the assistant coach of his team. When we met up again at a summer barbecue of a mutual friend, I thought it might be serendipity at play. On this lazy summer barbecue day our sons were playing in the yard and some how, for some reason, my son let it slip that we “might be living in our car this summer”. Not knowing how to approach me, she emailed me with word of the event and offered her help to us. I did not know how to respond. At first, I didn’t want to respond. It didn’t feel good to me that somebody had found out our secret; the fact that we were homeless. So I didn’t respond. About a week later our mutual friend reached out to me in regard to her email. He encouraged me to connect with her, advising that she was connected with other families and combined they could give us the help that we needed. So I emailed her back. We agreed to meet a couple days later.

We met at Starbucks. I left my son at home with my mother and sister (we were staying with them at the time). Her son, my son’s friend from little league, was sitting at a near by table. She asked me what I needed. I let her know that I needed an apartment and money to resolve an issue with my college transcript so that I could move forward in my career. She asked which my priority was, the transcript or a place to live, and I replied, without hesitation, a place for us to live. She offered me a job at her home business, an online retail store, which I accepted. We left with the agreement that she would call me when she got back from vacation a couple of weeks later. I waited. She’d given one early date and one later date when she might return. I waited until the later date passed and I emailed her. I simply wanted to reconnect with her, hoped she enjoyed her vacation, and asked for an update on what we’d discussed. Her tone had changed in the email. She called me later and told me that she couldn’t do anything to help me unless I went through social services first. I was confused. Hadn’t this been an offer of private help? Why was she getting involved with social services? She’d taken it upon herself to call the local SS office to ask about options for me. She wrote them an email saying she wanted to be my mentor and help me through the process of getting back on my feet. 
WHAT????
I called the SS office. I have a great relationship with the LCSW there. She’s a pretty awesome lady. She informed me that this woman had emailed her and she had found it “off”. As an LCSW working for the town she was not legally allowed to discuss me or my case with anyone. And she commented that the email from this woman had sounded arrogant. I agreed completely. 
I contacted this woman later that day via email. I let her know about my conversation with the LCSW, excluded the comment on her arrogance, and assured her that I was being helped generously by the SS office, with Child Care and other. I informed her that I had found an apartment and that my only difficulty was coming up with half of the upfront deposit. I wanted to start working, but asked if it would be okay if I brought my son on the first day, as I did not have any child care. I had not had time to plan for child care because I didn’t know when I was supposed to start working.
She replied with this answer:
I used to allow Susan [ a former employee] to bring her son to my home but he vandalized my washer so I don’t allow her to bring him anymore.  Tomorrow is ok because Ben will be here, and he will watch Doug.    I will have to draw the line after tomorrow.  Too many things can go wrong that you can’t afford to repair…I don’t have the time to run a babysitting service and you can’t work if you are supervising your son.  I am extremely flexible with time so if you can’t find childcare, stay with Doug.  If you can only work 4 hours a day that’s fine, whatever you can do. 

Hurt, upset and disappointed, I couldn’t believe she’d just written what she had. This is how I responded:

You are absolutely right. I can not bring Douglas. I will have to wait to work until Douglas’s care starts in a couple of weeks. 

Thank you again,

Michelle

Her response:



Michelle I thought you said you were in touch with Social Services, since you are homeless you walk out with food stamps, child care vouchers, job searching assistance and shelter.  I know you don’t want to be in a shelter, but what about everything else?  You and I know that the only way to make yourself self sufficient is to get a job.  How are you going to get an apartment without a job and assistance from Social Services?  Do you want me to go with you to get these items?
Are you telling me that you don’t have enough “patience” to navigate the system?  What are you telling me? 

My response:

When did you hear, or who told you that you just walk out with these things???? Each of these things has its own application process that is lengthy and frustrating. I have been through this. Ive been approved for certain services, as Ive told you. Childcare starts when school starts. Thats when the Y program starts. SS put me in touch with the Y. Who is telling you that you just “walk out” with these things like its that easy? It isnt. And honestly, I’d rather be filling out job applications.
I have to say I think Magies comments are WAY off. She may know somebody who works in a shelter, my good friend has LIVED in one and what she and her girls were exposed to (drugs, people high, para.- snuck in)

as well as neglegent staff, are not things I want Douglas anywhere near. And homelessness isnt a twelve step program. I dont have any trouble admitting how dire my situation is or that I need help. Ive just had a more in depth experience with the system then most and I know what to stay away from. Shelters are one of those things.

I have been offered assistance through SS with the security deposit. They came up with half. Im gratful for it. I now need anothet $1400. I am working to raise that now. As for my job situation:

I am constantly looking. Im all set to sub this year in Stamford, plus tutoring. I have also minimized my expenses taking my monthly house hold expenses down by about $900 per month. Thats about a third, which is huge. I think its easy for people from the outside to assume that those in this situation are irresponsible and lazy. Its not the case. Unfortunately I feel like asking for help has become a full time job and I hate it. We will get through this I am sure. I will look to the web links you sent. Any help I can find that keeps us out of the Shelter I will take.


Thanks a bunch,

Michelle


Her response:

Michele you would have been the 7th single Mother that I have mentored over the years.  You seem to be having a lot of problems and having a lot of excuses.  Are you telling me that the ONLY childcare you can get is during the school year?  I don’t believe that, and I know it is not true.  FYI you could have had your deposit taken care of in just 2 short weeks of work, but you opted out. You need to get your priorities straight.  Good luck.  

As well as this ( which I’m sure she thought she was emailing to somebody else)

You are high…she is a professional scammer.  Always an excuse….

My response:

Are you accusing me of lying to you??? I never asked you for help. You approached me. 

I didn’t even feel comfortable emailing you back. I’ve tried to keep everything very private
and handle this all myself. And how exactly do you “know it isn’t true” that I can’t find child
care in the summer??? I had childcare most of the summer; You were on vacation!!! You offered me a job, then
took off. I had no idea when I’d be starting. It’s pretty hard to get daycare when you don’t know when
you’re going to start needing it. I told you I could begin when the kids start school, which is in less then two weeks.
I’ve got no family that will help, that’s why I don’t have a place to live to begin with. Unless you count
the family I’ve got in Texas… yeah. Not exactly going to work for local childcare.
And “two short weeks” of what??? Working for you? When? I was supposed to start on Monday until you wrote me
the highly judgmental and, honestly, hurtful email that stated “I couldn’t pay for anything if it got broken” when I asked if
Douglas could come along.
That’s a disgusting thing to say to somebody who reluctantly opened up to you about their financial
problems. Do you have any tack? Obviously not. Because you’re spewing venom at somebody you
don’t even know. Whom you never took a chance to know. I don’t want your mentorship. I think you’re
horrible. If I was a “scammer” I’d have you wrapped around my finger,… 
I’ve taken nothing and
ASKED FOR NOTHING!!!- Wait, you paid for Douglas’s camp because supposedly you think he’s 
a good kid, then associated him with a child that “vandalized” your washing machine. Has Douglas
ever done anything like that, to you, your family, or anyone you know? He’s an AWESOME kid. Not a 
destructive one. How dare you prejudge my child based on an event we weren’t even associated with???
I didn’t want to work for you. Plain and simple. Your words were hurtful and I don’t 
trust you.
No excuses. That email was arrogant and derogatory. You don’t know us, the way Doug is or the way I work.
You’re prejudiced. Which doesn’t say much for your willingness to help. You threw us into a stereotyped “class” of people. 
I’d like to work for someone who actually believes in me. You prejudiced me without getting to know me.
And where exactly would we end up “in two weeks” Kimberly? We need a place by this weekend! Waiting another
week would mean another week of homelessness. What’s wrong with you? 
Please, just leave us alone.
She responded again, but I haven’t bothered to read it. I meant what I said, I want no more contact with her. I do hope our sons can still be friends at school. I don’t hold grudges against children. I don’t really hold grudges at all, but our actions demonstrate who we are and there is no better demonstration of who we are then the way we treat others. I did nothing to deserve her accusations. I realize that the situation we are in is my responsibility as well as my fault. Whatever choices I’ve made, they didn’t pan out for the better, at least not yet. I am proud of the investments in education I have made for myself. I know it will pay off in the future. But for now, I suffer the repercussions of leaving a full time job and gradating into a recession. That’s it. I took a risk and this is where I’ve landed. I have to survive. And I have to find a way to provide for my family. I am a hard worker but I’m sick of working full time jobs that still won’t cover rent, let alone other bills. I went back to school so I could make progress, not be held back. Never once did I expect any of my journey to be easy but this is such a blatant demonstration of socioeconomic prejudice and it sickens me. Why would I “scam” anybody? I was reluctant to email the woman back!… 
The whole ordeal upsets me. What’s more, these people are arrogant enough to call themselves charitable? This woman had no idea who I was. She’d sat down to talk with me all of once (not including the brief hellos we’d exchanged at baseball games). And she had me wrapped up. She thought she knew my type, so she decided to let that build the concept of me she had in her head. 
I get it.
I’m down.
I understand, people don’t want to touch what they think might be harmful.
Someone who’s down might be harmful.
Then again, they might not.
And though I didn’t expect a stranger to jump in and engage us “mom style” (to reference one or my earlier blogs) I didn’t expect to be treated like a vagrant bitch off the street.
I really didn’t expect anything. Going into this situation I was cautious, but excited, that someone was offering to help. I remember the feeling I got the day she made the offer. Like I’d been blessed and smiled upon. But more. That I’d been showed and lucky enough to experience a shinning example of how to do the right thing. 
I choose to keep that memory in my head. To remember it and learn it as if it did happen that way. Because I believe that is the way we should treat each other. The teacher might have turned out to be a fraud, but the lesson holds true.


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