I always find when we go around the table at Thanksgiving to say what we’re thankful for, I have a hunkering to totally nail it with something spectacular, upstaging, best most unique thing to be thankful for. The thankiesty thankfullness ever. But something’s different this year. I’m thankful for all of it. For everything. Things just seem shinier and better.
So, I work at the front desk of my church office. If there’s one thing I do well there – it’s receive calls and walk ins for people who need money for food, gas bill, rent, or a heat bill. In some weird way, it’s the hardest part of my job and yet, I’m glad to talk to them and try to help. The hard part is telling them we have none of their requests.
For the record, and as a sign of the times, churches don’t keep cash for people who need it. A small part of that is for my safety. And also, if you’re here to talk to a minister, they are there for counseling and prayer. But mostly, everyone is strapped for money. Even in booming Omaha, every agency, church outreach program and people who need resources, simply don’t have it.
Sometimes the calls are sweet and sad. Sometimes we go through the list of resources of numbers to call and find we’ve got the same list and they’ve tried everything. Once they realize they’ve run out of people to call, it’s frustrating. It breaks my heart. Sometimes I get excited when I find a new number to call. Sometimes they’re defensive or rude.
Let me defend the defensive and rude person just a bit. Sometimes they’re lying and have made up a story and they just want you to buy their story. Sometimes they’re telling the honest truth. It’s not my place to solve the age old mystery of whether the story is made up or not. More than anything, they want help. And they want to tell you what they need. They need help. And quite frankly, no matter the story, their politeness or their truth – they need money.
If they’ve made it to our church – they’ve been rejected. They’ve been through every paper-worked system you can imagine. They’ve been told they’re liars. Told what they should have done. Asked how they got into that position in the first place and harshly judged.
Before they get to me, they’ve had people tell them no. They’ve had bill collectors threaten them. And they’ve had to decide whether to pay the heat bill or the grocery bill. Today I had a lady walk out on me in mid-sentence once she realized I had no money to give her. Minutes later, I had a person hang up on me once she realized we didn’t have a food pantry that day.
I don’t take offense. It’s odd because it’s the only time I really don’t get offended. Chances are, they are in a big bind and need help fast. And if there’s kids involved – they don’t have time to be polite and make small talk – they just hang up and move on to the next call to make.
Don’t forget they’re hungry. Do you know what it feels like to be hungry? Do you know how grumpy you are when you’re hungry for just 20 minutes? Hell, we miss a meal over here, and it’s four Dr. Hydes running around. We have to get home to our fully stocked fridge and pantry, stare at it and deduce there’s nothing to eat. So we roll through a drive-thru. Imagine missing four meals or two days of food and having no idea or hope in where or when you finally will eat.
For every rude – or lets just say angry-at-the-world person – there’s five calm and kind people grateful that we’ve spoken to them with respect.
I come home and tell Ricardo while the kids are within earshot – the calls I’ve taken and the circumstances. I want them to know about people in need.
What sucks is the demographics. There are none. Poverty as it turns out, does not discriminate. Refugees, white, hispanic, young, old, mother-daughter, disabled people. Sometimes people call for our food pantry, I’m happy to give them the information and then they don’t know how they are going to get there because they don’t have a car. Or they can’t stand in a line that long.
Before you think they’re all working the system – Occasionally a friend of mine needs me to make copies of his veteran disability benefits paperwork. What that man makes in a year is not enough for anyone to live on for a month.
Meanwhile, Samsung is reporting spending 17.6 billion dollars in advertising. Imagine for a second the impact that could have elsewhere, and not just Samsung.
I’ve been struggling to write this today. It started out as a facebook post. You’re welcome Facebook, for moving it to a blog post. Still struggling to explain, I found this. And this guy says it way better. Please watch the whole thing.
So, this Thanksgiving – I’m thankful for it all. For the complex stuff. For the simple stuff. For a paid heat bill. For healthy kids. For a happy family. And for the freedom to go just about anywhere because I can afford to put gas in my car. For the little frivolous things. And the least materialistic things. Enjoy the conversations and over-indulging. Be kind and be pleasant. Hug tight.