Friday, May 10, 2024

Well. *That* happened.

Monday.  Woke up feeling stiff and achy; day got progressively worse from there.  Doctor's appointment right before picking the kids up from school, got there barely in time to park before Imp was climbing into the back seat.  

Evening went like they always do, and then kids went to bed, and I got a LARGE bourbon.  Because I wasn't going to sleep without help.  The storm hit around the time I went to bed, and hit in earnest about the time I managed to drift off, just before midnight.  

And then the power went out.  And the sirens went off.  We got the kids and pets gathered up and huddled  in the bathroom, listening to a battery-operated transistor radio until the all-clear sounded about half an hour later.

Shuffled the kids back to bed, and Other Half took a flashlight and went out to see if anything had damaged the roof, as best he could.  Still no power--all of the local lights were out.  We could tell we'd lost some limbs from the trees, but not how many.  

Went back to bed, and slept for the rest of the night, until the alarm on the cell phone went off.  

Still no power.  But we had light--the sun was starting to come up.  The driveway had a limb across right behind the cars, and there were limbs laying on the roof.  And on the fence into the dog's yard.  And...yeah.  

Other Half got a text that there would be a delayed start for the kids' school day, and let me know.  Then he headed to work.  I waited, then took the kids to try to get them to school...and the road was blocked.  "Road closed."  And I could see why (both for the road block, and for the lack of power to the area): there were no poles left standing as far as I could see down the north side of the road.  

Turns out, that storm?  The sirens?  Was an F1 tornado.  It went through between the little side road that connects our street to the next big east-west artery through town.  Lots of trees down along that little road, too.  Went down it, around the next street, then up the north-south back street that the college backs onto.  

...and there was a road closed sign preventing a left turn.  No way to get the kids to school.  Dog was out of food, so we went to Walmart to grab a bag.  Went home.  

School closed, Imp's band concert postponed.  Road--and school--stayed closed through Wednesday.  Power came back about lunch time on Wednesday, or maybe a little before.*  Still no internet.  Cable co-ax had been taken out with the power lines. But the power was back, and the city had semi-opened up the road around the school, so...the kids went back yesterday.  Internet came back yesterday right before I had to go get them.  

I'm glad I'd left five minutes early--the city'd closed the street between us and the school again, and I had to go the long way 'round.  

So, yesterday and today have been spent scrambling to get caught up on what I didn't get done Tuesday (dishes and some housework) and yesterday (the admin stuff for the household that requires internet access...and the admin stuff for writing that also requires internet access). 

Since May started, I'd estimate we've probably had about four or five inches of rain, going by the standing water in the low spots in the yard, where the saturated soil just couldn't take anymore.  We're supposed to get some dry time...but not much.  It's supposed to start back up Sunday night.  

Missouri in severe weather season.  Fun times.  Be sure your radios have batteries, your cell phones are charged, and your generators (should you have them) are ready to go. 

*Wednesday afternoon, there was another nasty storm system move through; however, the tornadoes that one spawned were south of us. The kids, pets, and I still spent a good chunk of the afternoon huddled in the innermost room without windows, thankful it was a bathroom not a closet. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Musings: On complications

So, last week in our discussion on charity and the direction the church should be taking, we discussed how complicated charity actually is.  

Better, it was acknowledged that there were different types, different levels to charity work.  And that it was really difficult to figure out in the moment which type of help was needed.  

The lesson broke it down into three levels: relief, rehabilitation, and development.  

In short, relief is what you do to get someone through the initial crisis, the rehabilititation gets them back on their feet, and development helps them move forward. To further clarify, we used a huge example that we were all familiar with: the F5 tornado that ate Joplin thirteen years ago in May.  

Relief was the initial response: when one of the two hospitals was picked up off  its foundation and set down three feet to one side, relief was the rednecks rushing in to help evacuate the building before it fell down.  Relief was the sick and wounded transported en mass in the beds of  pickups a few blocks to the other hospital, and room made at the other hospital.  Relief was digging people out of the rubble, digging storm shelters out of the rubble to rescue people that managed to get into them.  Relief was the initial rescue.  

Once that was done, we moved on to rehabilitation: the day after the tornado, there were people walking through, and shifting rubble out of the streets so that vehicles could get through.  Rehabilitation was getting the rubble cleared  out enough to get insurance companies in.  Rehabilitation was getting what was left of people's lives pulled away so that rebuilding could start.  So that people could get back on their feet.  Rehabilitation was Walmart cancelling the remodeling and upgrades on Supercenters statewide to rebuild the one that the tornado destroyed, so that people could get back to work, and pay for what their insurance wouldn't--or rather, couldn't, given the volume--cover.   Rehabilitation was Home Depot putting up a tent in their parking lot, opening for business before Walmart had even gotten their lot cleared, and bringing in the bones of building materials for people to cover broken windows when their houses were otherwise livable.  

After that comes development: some businesses didn't come back.  We built new ones.  Some streets had to be totally torn out and redone.  The mall--left more than half-empty by a few anchor stores going bankrupt years earlier--took in the high school while the city built a new one (in partnership with a local community college and technical school...which turned out to be good for the city, the high school students, and the tech school).  Yes, the city made some really stupid choices, but that's par for the course.  A lot of good was done, too.  

When we turned it from city level to individual...things got a lot more complex.  How do you tell which step you need to be on?  How do you get the person you're trying to help to buy in, to cooperate?  The last two steps are hard, folks.  And yeah, accepting "relief"--handouts--is easy.  And a lot of people won't try to get back up on their feet.  

How do we as a church figure out who wants help up and out of the hole, and who just wants food packages and comforts added to the hole?  It's hard.  

It takes getting to know people.  It takes building a relationship.  Once that step is in place, it's a lot easier to tell who actually needs help, and who wants to coast on no effort expended.  

Relief is easy, because it's in the moment, and it's instant gratification.  Boom--done.  It's as easy and tempting for the helpers just as much as it is for the helped.  Rehabilitation is a lot harder.  It takes more time, it requires a lot of effort from both sides, and progression isn't always linear.  Development is the hardest of all, because the helper has to step away.  And yeah, the person being helped is going to stumble, and probably fall a couple of times.  But it has to be done.  

But first of all, the church has got to get the relationships built.  And that isn't easy, either.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Musings: on charity

Faith.  Hope. Charity.  All are key Christian traits.  

Sure. 

But what is charity?  Is it a meal when someone's hungry, clothing when theirs is thread-bare? Money thrown at the problem?  

If that was all, then we wouldn't need to worry--welfare throws money at the problem all the damn time.  However, it's done nothing but make things worse.  

What is charity, then, if not a handout?  

Say you're walking along, and you find a deep, deep hole, with somebody at the bottom, yelling for help.  How do you help them?  Do you make them comfortable in their hole? Toss down food, water, blankets?  Maybe a pillow or two?  No.  You pull them out.  You get a rope or get a ladder and toss it down to them, help them climb.  

Throwing money at the problem is proving to do nothing but make them content enough to not climb out.  No, not totally content, but content enough that it seems better to stay put than to struggle.  

So, how do we do that?  How can we, as a group, help people?  

The hard truth of the matter is that you can't help some of them.  They don't want help, they want to lay in their hole.  They just want a minimum of comfort while they do.  

As for the rest...it's even harder.  You have to get to know them.  Without knowing who they are, you can't know what they need.  You can't know what they're struggling with that put them in the hole to start with.  You can't help someone who wants help if they're addicts by just pulling them out of the hole--they'll just fall back the second you let go.  And you don't know if that's what put them in the hole if you don't know them.  

Some people that want out of poverty need help with addiction, yes.  Some need help with other things: learning to budget, learning to do some things for themselves to free up some of what income they have, learning to feed themselves--dear God, do you know how expensive it is when you can't cook???  

A lot of us have forgotten that we have to know people to be able to help them.  

Before I was born--hell, before my mother was born--that used to be the responsibility of the church communities.  They'd pitch in and help: they took care of widows, orphans, helped those injured in their work (because almost all the jobs were heavy, dirty, dangerous work)...they knew their people, and knew who needed the hand up, and who needed support through a rough spot with a few months of handouts.  They knew who wanted out, they knew how they fell in the hole to start with...

...and they knew who were just lazy bastards that weren't worth trying to help, because they wanted the minimum for comfort in their holes, not help out.  They'd help their kids, but not them.  

We need to do that again.  We need to build community.  We need to be open, we need to pull people in.  We need to get to know each other.  

Because without that, all we can do is offer handouts and hope for the best.  

That way, though, leads to apples and sandwiches abandoned on street corners.  I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about.  

And I'm tired of trying to help and getting my hand slapped for offering because I'm offering help instead of money. 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Musings: on poverty

Other Half and I attended a...well, a class, of sorts...at our church last night.*  The class was the first of a six week series on poverty, charity, and how the church should participate.  Honestly, I wasn't expecting a lot, but it triggered a couple of thought cascades with a couple of the questions. 

First question: What is poverty? 

The answer the group came to was...wrong.  "A persistent, day-to-day lack of resources" isn't  poverty.  That's being broke in a big way.  But it can turn into poverty in a twitch. 

The pastor suggested it was a sense of shame, powerlessness, helplessness, of being invisible.  Again, no.  Those people aren't there yet.  Those feelings of shame?  Poverty isn't that.  

So, what is poverty?  

It's a series of habits and patterns of thought that keep people broke.  People who are broke can slide into true poverty scarily easy: all they have to do is apply for government help. 

Welfare/food stamps are a nasty fucking trap.  Regan was entirely correct when he said the scariest words in the English language were "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."  No.  They aren't.  They're there to remove your agency and your choices.  They're there to take control of your life by miring you into poverty. 

I said poverty was a series of habits and patterns of thought.  And that government "charity" systems force people into those patterns, but I haven't defined what they are.  

First, people get so mired in today that they don't think about tomorrow.  This is something that starts to take shape when someone goes broke.  It's like addiction: all the addict thinks about is where their next hit is going to come from, but the broke person's worried about paying the next bill.  And then...then, they start making choices that look stupid from the outside (and, frankly, are stupid)--"There's money, so I'm going to get this small thing I want."  Dumb, but human.  Broke can't afford wants, but society's trained people to believe they should prioritize wants to be happy.  But that money could have/should have gone on needs only.  Because that couple dollars spent on a soda? That five dropped at Starbucks for a coffee?  Might have been the difference between being able to pay the next bill, or...not.  

This is one of the forks that separate the person that's broke from the person sliding into poverty.  The broke person looks for ways out.  Might start regretting getting that little stupid thing that is already gone.  Will be focused on "up and out." The broke person probably does feel shame. The person about to slide into poverty...sits down in a flood of self pity. And stops feeling shame, and starts feeling entitled to more.  

And...they complain.  They complain about not being able to afford things (news flash: most people can't afford everything they want).  They complain about always being broke.  And they start looking around for how to get money.  Not how to make money, how to get their hands on money.  

Broke isn't lazy; poor is.  Broke isn't characterized by an over-developed sense of entitlement; poor is.  

Broke isn't scared of bettering themselves.  Poor is.  

Because those who become mired in poverty?  The ones complaining about never having enough, never getting what they want?  The ones saying they deserve more?  

They apply for welfare.  And often get it.  

Welfare, as I've said before, is a trap.  A nasty, pernicious trap.  Sure, they hand out money...but only a little bit.  And there are strings and rules attached.  First string: you have to stay poor.  You can't get an income stream going--or they remove the money they give you, and tax the income stream.  And new income streams are rarely sufficient to needs.  And then when taxes are added in...they were getting more via their welfare checks.  Second string: your kids are not allowed to have jobs without getting the household check cut off by the gross amount.  And yes, they track.  I can't swear to it, but I am convinced that this is to make it a generational thing--if the kids don't develop a habit of work, they'll end up on welfare, too.  

Welfare is a root cause of generational poverty.  It alleviates nothing.  It does nothing but teach those mired in it that they're helpless to improve themselves and their lot.  

Broke is often frustrated with their lot, and look for ways out.  Poor believe there is no way out, and refuse to do more than look for ways to be comfortable.  Broke is angry; poor is depressed.

In a couple of days, I'll talk about the other question.

 

*Last summer, the church broke away from the Methodist hierarchy, and hired the guy currently preaching as an interim pastor, partially because he'd been a pastor there before and they knew him, and partially because he's retired. The interim pastor has taught a six-week course last fall, over Nehemiah.  We'd get dinner, and a sort of a college level lecture, every Thursday for the six weeks.  He's doing another over poverty and charity, and what we as a church should be doing that we're not, and maybe what we are doing that we shouldn't.  

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Life goes on.

Mom made bread.  Mom made bread often.  Not as often as Grandma used to, but she made a lot of bread.  

I...made a mistake.  The Tuesday after Mom passed, I was going through the motions and I threw ingredients into the bread machine Odysseus got me for my birthday, last year.  No, not gluten free bread.  Regular bread.  

As soon as the house started smelling like bread baking, I started leaking tears and could not stop.  

I didn't make bread last week.  We took that last half loaf from the previous week and turned it into garlic toast to go with the pasta bake I'd made.  And, since that was the day after Mom's service?  If I hadn't had bread on hand, I'd have asked Odysseus to just pick up a loaf.  

Today was pasta day again.  The "start bread" alarm on my laptop went off...

...and this week, I didn't leak tears.  

Not while I was smelling the bread baking, at least.  I still randomly leak tears (I'm sure y'all understand), but that smell of fresh bread didn't trigger it for me, today.

Life does go on.  It took my mom a little while after Grandma passed before she could make bread without bawling.  Guess it was my turn. 

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Yesterday

Yesterday was Epiphany.  Liturgically when the Magi found their way to the Christ child. 

Yesterday was when my mother found her way home.  

Friday night, my sister told me that Mom had lost consiousness, and she couldn't wake her, so called the ambulance.  She was taken to their local hospital, and they discovered she'd had a massive brain bleed.  She passed at 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning, never having woke up.  

It was fast, and hopefully painless.  Which was more than I'd hoped for.  

I'm going to miss her so much.