Category Archives: hunger

Shameful Excess

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Last night, I was flipping through channels and came across a show called Outrageous Kid Parties. This show is just another in a long list of TV shows whose sole purpose seems to be to celebrate greed and selfishness and brattiness in both children and their parents. We’ve all seen or heard of (and most likely been disgusted by) shows like Toddlers & Tiaras, Dance Moms, and My Super Sweet Sixteen. And while some of the kids in these shows are pretty unappealing, it’s the parents who are truly heinous.

Outrageous Kid Parties is no exception. The basic premise is that the parents (usually the mother) of a child decide to throw a party for their child’s special day – whether that be a birthday, bar mitzvah, whatever. But the one that I found the most disturbing was a preschool graduation. No, really – preschool graduation party! Perhaps I’m a negligent mother for taking my preschool “graduates” to McDonalds & the like, because this mother spent almost $32,000 on a “Candy Fantasy Party” for her little 5 year old genius. He must be a genius, right? I mean – he graduated preschool! Only the super smart hard workers accomplish that and therefore deserve a party that costs more than most weddings.

I mean – it’s a tough job, that preschool. There’s coloring and circle time and songs and snack time! Oh wait – even the stupidest kid in the preschool gets to graduate. But they still deserve a party for their 300 closest friends! And don’t forget the $8,500 rock climbing wall as a “graduation” gift – every five year old you passes not shitting their pants 101 needs that, right? And professional dancers and an original song and multiple bouncy houses and $1000 of candy and circus acts and a mother that dresses in fishnets and a whore skirt & climbs the rock wall. Or in the case of the 6 year old’s birthday party, horses and petting zoos and a dog show and a specially designed tattoo and a monster truck limo and more professional dancers and a goddamned ferris wheel!

People – this is why the world hates us! I know there are times when I go too far and spend too much on my kids. I think we all do. But a trip to Build-a-Bear or a new Xbox game is a world different from what amounts to more than the median individual income. And in some of these examples, more than the median household income. The excess seen in these shows is disturbing and shameful. So very shameful.

The US economy is in the shitter. The unemployment rate is out of hand. People are losing their houses, their cars, the lives due to poverty. And around the world, famine is killing children – babies! And these people having $30,000+ parties because Junior graduated from preschool is like a slap in the face to all those people.









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Helping Others is Not All About You, Assholes

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This Saturday was a busy, volunteer-y day. First, our scout troop helped out in the morning with our town’s cleanup day – picking up trash, planting, mulching, etc. Then, when that was over, it was pick up day for Scouting for Food.

Every year, we spend one Saturday distributing bags all over town and then the next Saturday we spend the day picking up donations, sorting, boxing and delivering them to the local food bank. It is these kinds of scouting activities that keep me involved despite my absolute hatred for some of the policies of the organization. There isn’t a whole lot of organized giving-a-shit around these parts lately, so any time we can do good, it’s worth it.

Sometimes it’s hard not to get a little jaded when it comes to this kind of think, though. The folks that run the food bank out of a local church basement are kind of assholes. You’ve met the type – older folks who get their jollies by being big, obnoxious control freaks. Late year, we spent hours in the heat, collecting and sorting and packing thousands of pound of food. When we were all set, it turned out that the food bank decided to be an asshole. They were under the impression that they were doing us a favor. And so even though we have been doing this for approximately 20 years they decided that they could not possibly accommodate us for dropping off (and carrying in and stacking) the food. We had to do it while the food bank was open. But the food bank was only open from about 9-4 on weekdays. Exactly when all the boys were in school and t\all the leaders and parents were at work. We tried to explain this, but they wouldn’t budge. Not one single one of those old harpies would come in for less than an hour on a Saturday to receive huge donations of food to help the needy and fill their almost empty shelves. Not. One.

We kept trying to work something out, but they were adamant. OK, then. We still had a ton of food and we still wanted to help the needy, so we called the local salvation army food bank, which serves the entire surrounding area, in addition to our town. They were thrilled and immediately agreed to be available for the drop-off. All was well.

Until, that is, the food bank called a few days later demanding, “Where is our food?!” the leader explained to them that since they refused to accept the donation on anything but their strict hours, we were forced to donate the food elsewhere. Then the shit hit the fan. Someone from the food bank wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper accusing the scouts of stealing food out of the mouths of the local hungry. This couldn’t have been further from the truth and a rebuttal was sent by the leader, but it still got out there. It sucked.

This year, the leader spoke with the food bank and they gave him a little bit of a hard time about being available, but he reminded them about whet happened last year and they got a little more flexible. They still managed to keep us waiting in the alley in the heat just to make sure we know who’s boss, of course.

But sadly, this year, the donations were low. We passed many houses where people had left their bags still hanging from mailboxes, fencepost, etc. The donation we did get were smaller. It was sad, because it’s a vicious cycle – worse economy = more need, but it also means that more people are less able to give and fill that need. We definitely had less when we got back to the sorting location. And then, we had to weed out a lot of expired stuff, which shrunk the donation a little more.

I think the thing that pissed me off the most was that the large majority of the donations came from the poorest parts of town. There were people who saw us and ran in and filled up a bag, because hey missed theirs, etc, and clearly, they could ill afford it. But next, we headed to the most affluent part of town, expecting a haul. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Only a coupe of houses in a large neighborhood had donations out. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but in an entire development filled with in-ground pools and huge houses with Mercedes and BMW in the 3 car garages, you would expect more than just a few bags.

One lady saw us and apparently when her bag was labeled with the date, someone made a mistake and had Sunday’s date on it. She said to folks collecting, “This bag says Sunday.” They apologized for the mistake and told her that it should have had that day’s date on it. The she looked them right in the eye and snapped, “Well TOO BAD! It says tomorrow so I will put out my donation TOMORROW!!”

It disgusts me that so many people are too busy being superior, or controlling, or downright crazy that something important gets passed over. They don’t seem to realize that it’s not the Boy Scouts that they are punishing with their attitude, it’s the hungry and needy. And it pisses me off.

Helping others mean nothing if you completely miss the “others” part.

Need

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OK – FINE! You have beaten me – No one is getting three songs. I swear, I thought it would be easy, since I’m a hippie chick, I have a song reference in my username and email, and since I have talked about artists I like. But turns out it wasn’t so easy. I will probably just do a random pick for the iTunes winner. Unless someone guesses before i get around to doing it (I’m super busy at work right now) Dammit.

Because of the super busy, I am delving back into the archives. This was originally published in November 2007. I have been pretty open over the years, writing about my insecurities and failures, about heartbreak and marriage issues. I’ve shared embarrassing moments and been brutally honest about family problems. But strangely, this was by far the most difficult post for me to write and share.

What Does Need Look Like?

Back when I was living in the city and attending the most awesome church ever, I used to volunteer at the church’s weekly meal for the homeless and less fortunate. I’d show up around 7:00 am and we’d start chopping, prepping and cooking. We generally served something simple – chili, stew, pasta. Anything that was inexpensive and could be stretched a long way.

We got a diverse crowd at these meals – some obviously homeless folks, veterans still struggling with what they had been through, lonely elderly men, addicts and alcoholics, mentally challenged people living on their own, and the hardest ones to see – families. It took everything I had not to cry when a toddler or young child would smile shyly and politely ask for “more milk, please?” I can’t tell you how many times I’d have to turn away and blink back tears, knowing that my childhood was so very different than theirs. At that age, my biggest worry was if Teddy liked me (yes, no, or maybe so) or which of us was going to get to play Dorothy when we played Wizard of Oz at recess that day.

Anyway, occasionally we got people (mostly men for some reason) that didn’t really look needy. I know – needy doesn’t have a “look”, but it’s the best description I can give. One week, we had two men come in that fit this description – one older (maybe in his 50’s) (also – this was years ago when I included 50’s in the “older” category and not the “potential hot sex” category) and one younger. They may have been father and son, maybe just acquaintances. They were dressed pretty well, especially the younger man, in clean, neat clothes and a well-made jacket.

They were welcomed just as everyone else was – no one was questioned or turned away there and rightly so. But I overheard someone make mention of their “not needy-looking” appearance. It wasn’t anyone working at the meal – everyone there felt the same about our guests. It was someone who was at the church for another reason. But when I heard their comment, it really bothered me. I mean, who are we to judge? What does “needy” look like? And does needy only mean financially needy? What about the lonely, the scared, the sad? Aren’t they just as needy of our fellowship as the hungry were of our food? And yet, while part of me understood the person’s comment, I also knew how ignorant it was. While I was never “needy”, I had had an experience a few years before that made me feel judged and needy and humiliated because of it.

Back when I worked for the University and made a salary that I could never have lived on alone, mr b and I went through some pretty hard times. I was going to say that we were the epitome of “paycheck to paycheck”, but that isn’t exactly right, because the money never quite stretched from one paycheck to the next. Now, let me get this straight – I was never in any danger of losing my home or starving to death. I had family, mr b had family – if we were truly anywhere near that, they would have stepped in to help. Hell – they have helped us many times. But no one likes to ask for help. No one wants to admit that they aren’t making it, that they are failing at life. I grew up being almost unable to ask for anything, so I was no exception.

So one month, things were really tight. My monthly paycheck wasn’t due for a week (whopping $625 that it was), and mr b’s small pay wasn’t coming for a couple days, either. There was nothing in our account – in fact, we were overdrawn. This was a relatively common occurrence, given our paltry salaries and our rent, utilities, student loans and a pretty large IRS bill from an old business venture when mr b had to choose between paying his guys and paying his taxes – he chose right. Anyway, the money was gone, the food had run out the night before and we had long since started walking to work to avoid bus fare.

In the office where I worked, there was a small group of us that pitched in every month for a lottery fund. We played the big jackpots a couple of times a week and put any winnings back in the pot. The envelope was kept in one woman’s desk (the territorial crazy-ass bitch – I have some stories about her for another day). Since there was usually more money in there than we generally needed for the lottery, it became a “bank” of sorts. If someone in the group had forgotten their lunch money or bus fare, they’d borrow from the pool and pay it back later. So, on that day, I was getting ready to leave (I was the last one in the office), and I was fretting about what we were going to have for dinner (and lunch and dinner the next day – I had already skipped breakfast and lunch that day) when I remembered the lottery pool. I checked the envelope and we had way more than we needed, so I borrowed five bucks. We had enough in there that if we divided it by the contributors, we’d have 10 dollars a piece, so technically, I didn’t borrow anything more than – and actually less than – my own money.

I left work, walked to the store (no way was I wasting my $5 on bus fare), bought some ramen noodles and ground beef and walked home, feeling slightly relieved that I didn’t have to skip eating the next couple days. I guess I should mention that we were out of checks and they were on re-order, because otherwise, I would have knowingly written a bad check. I mean – eating versus bouncing a check (as I said a common occurrence)? No contest.

The next day, as soon as I got into the office, I was called upstairs on a project, so I didn’t see any of the other women when they came in. It wasn’t until hours later when I caught up with my friend Toenail, she told me that Diana, the crazy-ass bitch was freaking out because someone had stolen our money. She came in and immediately checked the envelope (being a paranoid, territorial, crazy-ass bitch) and freaked out. No – that’s not exactly true. She first assumed that someone had borrowed it, but when she asked the other women (completely unbothered by the thought of it) and they said no, she freaked out. They others said it was probably me, to calm down. But she hated me. So suddenly, what was perfectly OK when she assumed it was one of the others was thievery when it was me. She ranted and raved and screamed and cried (yes – she actually cried – she was really good at mustering up fake tears to suit her needs).

She went upstairs and cried and told everyone and anyone that I had broken into her desk and stolen her money. Before long, I was summoned in to the (world’s worst) boss’s office. I was interrogated and humiliated. I sat there before my anus of a boss and explained that we always borrowed from the fund and that it was never a problem. I explained that it was my money. I explained that the other women weren’t upset at all – only dirty Diana (oh the stories I could tell about her). Still, he had heard the word “stolen” and that was as much as his tiny brain could handle. He wanted to know “why I did it”, what I needed the money for. After explaining yet again that I didn’t “do” anything, I told him the truth – I began to cry as I explained that we were out of money and out of food. He looked at me incredulously – as if he couldn’t even comprehend being broke and hungry. He didn’t feel any sympathy for me. He didn’t care that his employee could not afford to eat on her salary. All he wanted to know was, “What can you get for five dollars?”

This made me cry harder. If he was intent on humiliating me, he was doing a fine job. I felt terrible. I was ashamed. Not of what I had “done”, but of the fact that needed to do it. I was ashamed to have to explain to the man who once told me how cheap his airfare to Paris was and told me I should go (it was more than my entire monthly paycheck) that I had bought ramen fucking noodles just so I wouldn’t go hungry for the next two days.

And why should I have been ashamed? I was working. I had gotten a college degree. I was earning a living. I was doing everything I could and it Just. Wasn’t. Enough. Why should I be ashamed? Shouldn’t society be ashamed? Shouldn’t our government be ashamed? Shouldn’t my fucking asshole boss be ashamed? Ashamed for not paying me enough to live on? Ashamed for judging and humiliating me for something that he was partially responsible for? And yet, I hung my head and cried and took the rest of the day off so I didn’t have to face anyone. I walked out the back way so I wouldn’t run into anyone. I had already seen Dirty Diana’s satisfied, smug face and that was enough. I stopped in the bathroom on the way and threw up, so deep was my shame. I cried all night and most of the next day.

And you know what I was wearing? Clean, neat clothes and a well-made jacket. So you tell me – can anyone really say what “needy” looks like? I try to give and help whenever I can, and even if I can’t? I’ll never judge someone asking for help. I know how ashamed I felt that day, and I imagine it is hard and hurtful and humiliating for others to feel “needy”. Believe me, no one is judging them as much as they are judging themselves. No one can imagine what they are going through. No one would put themselves though that feeling if they didn’t feel it was their only option. And if they did? Then they are clearly in need of something, if not food or money. And I for one, won’t deny them.

For the Children

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One of the radio stations I listen to does a weekly “soldier salute”, where they talk to a relative of a soldier about them. It’s a nice feature – solders deserve recognition – and they usually send a care package as well. All in all – great. But one thing that annoys me is that, occasionally, they talk to a person who feels the need to preach about how great it is that we are in Iraq. They’ll go on about all the wonderful work we are doing there.

The main thing you hear from these people is about the kids of Iraq – how happy they are to see the soldiers and how we’re helping them. OK, that’s probably true. It’s great that we are helping kids. But I can’t help but think that much of the reason that these kids need help is based on the direct effects of the US having invaded their country, leaving 500,000 of them orphaned, and many more without homes or schools or churches, which have all been bombed. And I may sound callous about this next part, but while I do care about the Iraqi children (and children all around the world), I have a hard time justifying our occupation of a country, based on false claims of weapons and warfare, by saying “the kids need help.” Because here in the US? Lots of kids need help, too. We have 13,000,000 children who do not get enough food. There are 3,300,000 children who are being abused or neglected, with close to 2,000 of them dying each year. There are 100,000 children each night who sleep in a shelter, or a park bench or a car, since they are without a home. There are approximately 3,000 children a year being killed by gun violence. There are more than 8.7 million children without health care. And there are the ones without adequate schooling – in 2005, the majority of 4th graders in the US could not read or do math at their grade level. The majority! (I’ll bet they could take the fucking PSSA, though). There are thousands of children still displaced by Katrina. Or should I say, by Katrina and the completely unacceptable and morally offensive lack of giving a shit by our government. So don’t tell me about what we’re doing “for the children.”

Today, they talked to a woman who, in addition to mentioning the children, talked about the wonderful work her soldier was doing building Christian churches. Not churches – Christian churches – she made that distinction. And I couldn’t help but thinking, yet again, how egocentric we are. This country is predominately Christian (80-90%), so we automatically assume that everyone else should be. So we go into a country that we have bombed and ravaged, leaving many, many mosques in rubble – a country with a Christian population of about 2%, and we build Christian churches. What about the other 98%? I’m sure Jesus would allow us to forgive them for being underwhelmed. Look – I can sign on to the helping kids and the building schools and safe living quarters. But the building of churches, no so much. I mean, if we bombed one – then rebuild it. but to attack and invade and bomb a country, then attempt to rebuild it in our image is not only ego-centric, but offensive. Offensive to me and probably to the hundreds of thousands of Muslims that have nowhere to worship. If you want to give something back – give exactly what you took, not something else entirely. It’s like someone knocking down your house and then saying, it’s OK, here’s a swimming pool, a shovel, and some cheese.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t help other countries – we should. But we should help our own, too. And we need to stop patting ourselves on the back for helping rebuild a country that we ourselves demolished. And we need to take our damned blinders off and decide that if want to help people, we need to help them with their actual needs and not what we think they should need. And we damned well need to stop telling ourselves that “we are there for the children,” just because it sounds prettier than “we are there as a distraction and because our president is a scrotum.”

Wasteful

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I was watching Big Brother the other day and saw something that really bothered me. What disturbed me was not the vapid, petty people or the stupid fights over who said what or the complete lack of anything resembling brains, but something else entirely. See, they had a food competition which required them to gather fish and throw them into nets. The entire yard was strewn with large fish. And while the first thought of the contestants seemed to be “eww…stinky fish”, mine was of the more than 35 million people in this country who aren’t getting enough to eat. And the fact that we are sting here watching hundreds of pounds of perfectly good food go to waste is like a slap in the face. It sickened me.

And yes – I watch that piece of trash. And I hate the people, I hate Julie Chen, I hate just about everything about Big Brother since Foxy Evil Doctor Will and yet I still find myself watching on the nights when there’s nothing else on. That particular night, the only other thing of note that was on was the Oscars, which I will not watch. There’s nothing more annoying to me than a bunch of celebrities congratulating themselves on being wonderful. I love movies, I love (certain) celebrities, but the awards shows are where I draw the line. The last (and probably only) Oscar I got excited about was for Al Gore’s.

Since were on the topic if wastefulness, my main reason for not liking the awards shows is that they are the absolute epitome of wastefulness and overindulgence. It bothers me to see people wearing ten-thousand dollar gowns when there are men and women wearing old socks on their hands and four beat up, dirty jackets and unraveled hats and covering themselves with newspapers to stay warm.

I hate watching them get out of their fancy, gas-guzzling limousines and town cars and Bentleys while entire families are living in 1982 Buicks. The millions of dollars in diamonds are vulgar in the face of the abject poverty that some people in this country face. And why is it that a celebrity who makes more in one day than most of us make in one year needs a gift basket filled with bejeweled jelly-bean dispensers and fancy beauty products and more fucking diamonds. Why does anyone need a 24 karat fucking cheesecake?