Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Day

On this Thanksgiving Day, I'd like to express my thanks for family, friends, a job in this tough economy, a roof over my head, and in general the people who accept me for who I am and not what I have. 

While it's tough to pay the bills because the paycheck always seems just shy of catching up, I have a job and many people don't.  I have a warm apartment and many are homeless.  I have family and many are alone.  These things are very important but we sometimes take them for granted.  For the hundreds of thousands of Americans out there who have no job and/or no home, it's a daily reality.

Life is getting harder and harder for many every day.  People are still getting laid off.  Bank accounts are shrinking for those who have been out of work for months or even a few years.  Temp work is not steady work, even for those with the necessary skills.  Unemployment goes only so far, for those who were fortunate enough to get it and the several extensions they have made.  Some folks who were laid off earlier in the game did not receive any of these extensions.  They've been unemployed the longest and are getting the least help.

Many people who lived and worked quite normal lives, but may have had a mild emotional disorder, were hit hard by layoffs, little unemployment, and tough living situations have become "unglued," so to speak.  Their slightly fragile psyche has lost the mental guards they'd always put in place in public. Now they are lost in the shuffle of struggling to pay rent, always a little bit behind, find work, see if they qualify for any assistance anywhere, and maintain their dignity in the process.  It's a little like always being on stage and having to make wardrobe changes publicly.  They are exposed, emotionally fragile, and quite vulnerable to a host of issues.  A mild emotional disorder grows proportionately to the degree that their public facade slips, and the longer this continues the more difficult it will be to help them build themselves back to normal functioning.  Soon they will be homeless; these are the people who will not survive in a shelter.  Instead, they will become a statistic of the violence and abuse that occurs in some shelters when staff is not vigilant.  [I am not denigrating shelters; many are good.  But tight budgets that are getting cut even more mean shelters will be less able to be as vigilant as they need to be.  Good staff can only do so much and it takes a tough psyche to handle shelter living.]

I realize this Thanksgiving message may sound very dour.  It wasn't meant to be.  Instead, I see the very people I have described above wishing me and other staff a Happy Thanksgiving.   They come in with a smile more often than not.  They search job boards & apartment listings, network with each other, attend networking events to learn of other opportunities, and do whatever they can to get out of the hole they're in.  They are America's latest victims of greed, opportunism, and whatever you want to call the mess we're in.  They are facing it as gracefully as they can.

So what is the good news in all this?  The tenant association I advise collected food to give to our local food bank (Bread of Life in Malden, MA).  The food bank is hosting a complete Thanksgiving Dinner at the high school today and scores of volunteers will be there to assist in peparation and serving.  Some volunteers will be delivering those same meals to shut-ins.  Many other organizations are doing exactly the same, all across America.

One thing Americans do is help people in need. I'm thankful for that too because it means that when I work with someone who is just getting into this "system" of need, I can point them to resources that help them out.  Two resources in my area to find food pantries and soup kitchens, by the way, are listed below.  It's the same list of sites, but one is calendar-based and the other is a geographic map of locations.  If you are in need and live in my area, check them out.

Have a safe holiday folks.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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