Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Day I Met a GangBanger.

After I had watched him for awhile.. watched him come in with his black pantyhose and ball cap head dress and baggy pants belted at the knees.. watched him do that special 5-part special handshake and hug that is reserved for members of the ‘brotherhood’… my suspicions were confirmed. Just another gang member.

I had a right to be here.. here at DFACS, land of welfare checks and food stamps. I have 2 lumps that still have yet to be finally cleared by the doctor. I need the Medicaid. (Of course they will be, like the 3 before them, but in the meantime I have yet to hit the lottery, and food banks don’t have medical insurance.) I typically don’t assume that people at DFACS are mooching off the system and just need to get jobs.. I know their stories personally.. and bad things happen to good people.

But this one? His uniform was new. That jacket must have cost a pretty penny.. but of course he probably bought it with drug money he got off someone he murdered. Yes, I’m biased. I have a right to be. You would feel the same way if you had been left widowed at 19 years of age with a baby due in 3 weeks… widowed because a gang had decided to murder the one person who stood up to them when they went around hitting girls at a party. Just trust me. You would.

When he followed me outside and stood next to me under the overhang, I was stuck. It was pouring rain, and I still had another 15 minutes until my ride arrived to take me home. I lit a cigarette, and waited. I knew what was coming, and he didn’t disappoint me. All through his ebonics, which I personally cannot stand-it’s simply bad English- and his hand gestures and slouchy posture, I waited. All through his ‘Yo..check this out!’s, and ‘Get your digits’ I waited. Being hit on by ANY man aggravates me.. but being hit on by a punk kid dressed as a living reminder of one of the worst experiences of my life makes me furious.

I understand the sense of family. I understand that for many this might have been the only path left open to them. What I don’t understand is the lack of concern and empathy towards others. All of my life experiences have guaranteed that if I was to come out unscathed, then at the very LEAST I was going to walk out of the fire with an understanding of how your actions affect others. And if I have empathy? Everyone should, too. It’s just how I am. That’s not going to change now.

Finally.. I looked at him and asked him firmly why he wasn’t in school. He gave me the surprised look that by now I am quite accustomed to. ( I look younger than my years.. it’s always fun at my daughter’s school when the teachers tell me to get in class and I get to tell them ‘I’m a Mom’.) I told him my age… I told him that I have a daughter around HIS age… who was at that moment in school, and had I mentioned that’s where he should be?

And then.. then.. the whole world came sharply into focus. Lessons that God has been trying to pound into my head time after time..lessons that I keep swearing I have learned.. I hadn’t really. I hadn’t learned them at all.
The ‘Yo’s’ became ‘Ma’am’s.
The posture became straight.
Good English replaced the horrific ebonics .

The gangbanger became a boy.. a boy that immediately apologized to me for assuming I was his age. And then the boy became Dwight.. a 19 year old who had been laid off his job and was there to try and receive some assistance so he could contribute to the household where he was staying with his ‘homies’ until he could find another job.

Did you know Dwight graduated from high school 2 years ago? Did you know that Dwight is forklift certified? Did you know that Dwight has a valid driver’s license and can pass a drug test? I know, I know.. but.. I really think he can. I’m going to believe him, anyway. I’m going to have faith in Dwight, and I’m going to find Dwight a job. I’m not going to judge him. I’m not going to judge the clothes and the handshake and.. we’ll work on the ebonics.

Do you know that as I am writing this I can’t even remember if it was the Crips or the Bloods that killed Jason? I guess that part of it isn’t important anymore.
What IS important is that I think I have FINALLY learned this lesson. I WAS STILL JUDGING. Not simply assumptions based on clothes.. deeper assumptions based on past life experiences that make you biased later in life. We DON’T have the right. I don’t have that right.

I hated gangs.. and now.. now I’m looking at them as simply boys that have built up this hard exterior for whatever reason. The walls that we build to protect us emotionally when something bad happens? Well I happened to meet Dwight’s mother when she walked up for HER appointment.. and I think he must have had to build walls very early in life. I can’t imagine having a mother like that. That poor child.

So I was thinking.
I was thinking that all these boys are a great untapped resource. I was thinking that they would be GREAT to have help at the food bank… or at the church.. I know some elderly people that need their gutters cleaned.. And no, I’m not going to ‘use’ them for their muscle and youth. I will feed them, and I will introduce them to people, and maybe.. just maybe.. it will have some affect on their life.. You never know. I just feel compelled to stick my foot in their path right now. My gut tells me this could be the beginning of something great. Did I ever mention that I believe God is in my gut?

As for Dwight?
If anybody has a job opening, I have his digits. Yo.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm Going to Save the World.

Thanks to 2 of my followers, I LOVE SAYING THAT. I'll say it again.

Thanks to 2 of my followers, I have come up with an idea.

We support our food bank by doing appliance work. I've done another blog(My Blessing) on the lightbulb over my head going off when I realized that not everyone coming in needs help.. some are in a position to GIVE HELP. I hit a dead-end when I also realized that not all of them volunteer at large shelters in downtown Atlanta.. nor do they always like me enough to discuss it.

Rachel,, gave me the idea. (Can I do that? Just post her link? I guess we'll find out.)

Small Footprints,, Food Glorious Food blog made me realize I can take this idea and use it to help the families I feed, too... AND promote my other agenda.

I'm going to make a brochure to hand out at work.. to my customers (who can read it on their own time away from my big mouth), and to put in the food boxes. Hell if I get truly inspired and motivated (it's a stretch) I might even give them to other businesses to hand out for me. Or maybe churches, gas stations and daycares..

I myself have dial up internet.. and I only have that because my boss had it put on his American Express.. and I think he forgot about it. Bad karma, I know. I'll risk it.

To normal people, information is right at their fingertips with the internet. To the people I see every day? They can't even afford the paper. I'm not just talking about my food families.. my customers that come in for appliance work are there because they can't afford Sears. We are in a bad part of town, an industrial/trailer park/ghetto gangy part of town. I have the tennis shoes over the power line and the pretty spray painted gang symbol to prove it. But what better place for a food bank, right?

I'm not saying I only get really poor people.. because we all now know I get the Lexus drivers, too. I'm just saying MOST of the people are having to cut back on luxuries.. like the internet.. and is it crazy to assume that there are people out there who would like to help others or even help the earth but don't necessarily Google it? They just don't have the knowledge and information on how to do it?

I have women tell me they don't know what to do with fresh garlic when I put it in their boxes. Is it crazy to assume that they need tips on how to prevent food waste? Or maybe a recipe.. maybe one that consists of what's in their boxes.. or how to cook a turkey. (I'm wondering now if that isn't the reason that lady didn't want one. She didn't know how to cook it. I've actually had women tell me they've never fried chicken before..)What better way than to print it out?

For instance. Did you know that (at least here in Ga.) every Catholic church has their own St. Vincent de Paul chapter.. a group of that particular church's members who do nothing but HELP. They pay utilities, rent, give clothing... I know this because I went a couple years ago and they paid my electric bill. (I work pro-bono, remember.. and I don't do it because I'm a millionaire and can afford not to work. It's a struggle to do this. That would be cool, though. The millionaire thing...)

A city passed an ordinance (thanks again Rachel) that said they will ARREST YOU if they catch you feeding the homeless. That bothers the hell out me. I think there are ways around that..but that's a blog for another day. So here is another idea..

I have a friend, Priscilla, who spends all her money and time carting children from a REALLY bad section of town to the library, the movies, to church.. she will make 2 and 3 trips at one time in her Land Rover to do it. Priscilla isn't rich.. she cleans houses for a living and if you saw her on the street you would think that SHE is homeless. (REALLY glad Pris doesn't blog.. she would kill me.)

My point? Priscilla rocks. No really.. my point is that everyone has got to know at least one family that is struggling.. someone in your church, your neighborhood, a friend of a friend.. it turns out you can't save the world at one time. Okay that doesn't even feel right.. I take it back. Yes you can.

How about a section on how to find that family? How about a section on how to give when it doesn't feel comfortable?(How about you stop blogging and MAKE THE BROCHURE, Shannon..) Find ONE FAMILY.. one person. One child. Alot of parents are proud. You have to be careful.. or they won't accept the help, and then the kids suffer. I always start out with.. 'I have all these clothes.. can you do me a big favor and go through them and see if there is anything you can use? That way I won't have as much crap to haul to the church. Please?' It's never failed. Same thing with books, household items, etc.

I'm getting off point. I start typing and just rant.

I'm going to make a brochure.. because I can have a 'Be Green' section and who knows.. maybe one person will start recycling.

I'm going to make a brochure.. because I want to help others.. help others.

I'm going to make a brochure.. because I want to help my families in need, help themselves.

I'm going to make a brochure... and it's going to save the world.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Things You Might Overhear at My Food Bank.

  • "Mommy, is Daddy going to sell this food too?"

  • "YES! Oreos! They are so good after you smoke a big fat one. You got any milk?"
  • " I have 5 kids. .. The only meat you have today is a turkey? Don't put that in my box. I don't like turkey." (I put one in anyway and told her oldest daughter how to boil it to death and make soup. Screw her.)

  • "I'm not high- don't judge me. I need some chocolate, Shannon. Not 'cause I'm high. Cause I'm not. I'm not high. I mean it girl, quit looking at me like that. Why you people always judging me? So do you have any chocolate or not. Can't I just want some fucking chocolate without ya'll thinking I'm high?" (All I had said was, 'Hey Theresa!')

  • "I'm having a cook out tomorrow for all the Boy Scout Troops in the county and only need enough chicken for like 300 people." (I actually said 'Are you fucking kidding me' to this one. She wasn't. She told me I was letting her son down. I told her to sell her Lexus.)

  • "We brought back the boxes (food I had given them) and we went through our kids old clothes.. last time we were here there was a little boy who needed a coat. "(They brought a whole wardrobe plus toys!)

  • Typical Thursday! For every 5 bad, you get 1 good. It's the opposite of what they say about negative/positive comments throughout your day.. that you will remember the one bad one. I remember the good, not the bad. The ones who came back to try to help someone else. They are the ones who stand out in my mind at the end of the day. Of course, next Thursday when Theresa walks through that door I think I'm going to jump in her face and start yelling, "Are you high? Why do you always have to be high? Do you want some chocolate?" :)

    Tuesday, December 2, 2008

    People you meet at a Food Bank.

    The first time I met Roger he was on a bicycle with a wire basket. I had to open a juicebox I gave him because he was afraid opening it himself would give him harmful germs. His hair was in a ponytail, his beard one long braid that went almost to his waist.

    He has told me many things over the years, including how to cook in a coffee can over an open fire, how to tell if hawks in the sky are after your pet ducks, and that people in the Bible lived to their hundreds because they ate the crucified bodies..he went into detail about that one, but I'll keep that to myself.
    He has lived in the woods somewhere near Jim's house for years now. He's had an assortment of wild dogs, has the normal mentality of most homeless that if you bathe you will get ill, and is very leary about taking processed food.

    Roger hears voices. He will actually stop midsentence, hold up his hand, and then ask me to repeat myself because 'they' were interfering because they don't want him talking to me. 'They' only interfere when he is telling me his secrets.. the true story of Jesus, his version of religion and the birth of the Earth, and who our government really is. He's hiding.. he's running.. I would say he's schizophrenic. But I'm not telling him that. What if I was wrong?

    I'm not sure what he does for money.. he has a truck now, and says he has a job. A construction job. Over the years I know he did odds and ends for the people that would allow him to.. people with big hearts, or people that wanted to take advantage of him. I'm not sure..I wasn't there. I'm only assuming. I only listened with half an ear because he would tell me that all year long he saved his money to be able to help feed those less fortunate during the holidays... and when people tell me that.. people that live in the woods, people that I feed, I don't believe them. I believe they have big hearts.. I believe they would help their neighbor.. but I only believe so much. Especially if you have just told me that early Christians were cannibals and that the Earth is a ship made by aliens.

    As you know with my blogs, I usually do it when I have learned a lesson. So without any further ado...Roger came by the shop this weekend with a truck full of turkeys for Jim to hand out for Thanksgiving. He showed Jim the receipt where he had just purchased them from Sam's Club, with money he had saved all year.Roger still lives in the woods. I, however, am wondering about those early Christians.