sun’s up, nobody’s woke

 

sun’s up, nobody’s woke

we’re bleeding out

not only from the gun and knife

though we’re losing there, too

 

we’re bleeding out

potential

bleaching out

dark pools of creativity

taking a bucket and brush

to possibility

 

on the streets and stoops

brother to brother, mother to son, east side to west

a game of Chinese whispers

 

 

 

 

 

& this

on the lips of the last player

 

“we need to be

outta here

anywhere

but here”

 

just to

have a minute

 

catch a breath

 

take it in

let it go

 

take a spin

let it rip

without gettin’ rolled up on

for nothin’ real

nothin’ more

than just tryin’ to be

 

hoodie’s up

for a minute

keepin’ the chill off

from that cold april wind

 

 

 

 

 

 

even summer

it blows

 

howling

through gaping holes

in the heart

that won’t close

 

 

 

 

 

don’t need an abacus

to do the math

to feel the weight

of two hundred stones

pushed across a wire

to feel the hurt

of two hundred stones

lined up along a furrow

in the dirt

 

early morning thursday

1231 greenmount

board’s up

instead of a door

a sacred heart of jesus

tacked up

where a window

used to be

 

lord, you can see straight up to heaven

lookin’ through that house

 

because there’s

nothin’

on the other side

 

just sky and

that cold april wind

blowin’ through

 

nothin’ there

no one home

 

nothin’ more to say

‘cept .  .  .

 

sun’s up, nobody’s woke

 

 

 

 

 

nothin’ more to do

‘cept .  .  . leave

‘cept .  .  . try to be

 

somewhere

anywhere

for real

 

somewhere

where children

can run

 

not from blue or black

stick or gun

 

can run-without lookin’ back

 

can run-just to play

 

can run-with no why’s

 

can run-just because

 

 

 

 

 

 

just to breathe

take it in/let it go

just to be

for once

 

anywhere

but here

maybe here

 

& this

on the lips of the last player

 

“yes,

the people look like people at last”

 

Since working at Caroline Center, I have often said that the two and a half miles I travel to work each day comprise some of the most honest, powerful, and real moments one might experience in life. Everything that can happen, happens here.

While writing sun’s up, nobody’s woke, I was thinking about the panoply of life along Greenmount Avenue; imagining a game of “telephone” or “Chinese whispers” stretching out for miles – from “mother to son, east side to west;” and thinking about how far we’ve come, or not, since the death of Freddie Gray. 

Last week, just hours  and a couple of blocks from Baltimore’s 200th homicide of the year, 58 women in Caroline Center’s Class 67 graduated and took their first bold steps out into the world of professional practice as certified nursing assistants and certified pharmacy technicians.

Roses all. The way Tupac saw roses.

Flowers in bloom. The way Bukowski imagined flowers blooming. 

So real. The way Tom Waits felt the weight of real in Bukowski’s poetry.

Graduates at last. Wearing their “many beautiful truths from a hard scrabble life.”

 

 

Posted in #Stay Woke, 2Pac, Black Lives Matter, Caroline Center, Charles Bukowski, Freddie Gray, Nether, Tom Waits, Tupac Shakur, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Dreaming of “Ozymandias”

The older I get, the more I’m convinced that there’s nothing a little reading couldn’t cure.

I’m not talking about the omnipresent self-help books – the likes of which constitute a $10+ billion industry in the United States alone. Not at all.

For some reason – maybe for many reasons – most of which I admittedly do not understand, I woke up this morning having dreamed about Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias.”

July 8, is curiously, the anniversary of the death of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose version of “Ozymandias” I encountered somewhere along my poetic journey many years ago. But, I have never been one for remembering specific dates – gosh, I forget my family members’ birthdays from time to time. And, the flash of the title of this particular poem across the backs of my twitching REM eyelids remains a complete mystery. I have surely read more of Mary Oliver and Billy Collins’ poems of late than the works of the Romantics.

In any case, there’s no doubt in my mind that “Ozymandias,” while nearly 200 years old, is worth picking up and dusting off for a little re-reading. Like chicken soup or an apple a day, this sonnet may just be what the doctor ordered, good for what ails us in these times.

I met a traveler from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . .near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Without getting too deeply mired in analysis, I’m sure that my dream about “Ozymandias” was partly about the joy of waking up from such powerful images and words of warning to a brand new day at Caroline Center. A place so completely free of pretense – to greatness or otherwise. A place where there are no “frowns” or “wrinkled lips,” let alone “sneers.” A community so vital, that it defies the lifelessness of body and spirit displayed on Ozymandias’ “shattered visage.”

A community so rich in meaning, that it is immune to the

senseless decay to which Ozymandias ultimately

succumbed. At Caroline Center, there are no pedestals

onto which to climb or from which to fall. There is no call

for foolish bluster. And, there is every reason “to look

upon our works” and to have only boundless hope.

At Caroline Center, we welcome all “travelers” into a safe community, a place of “delight and rest.” We welcome women who have arrived from hard places in their lives – places they will never forget .  .  ..  .  . but with our education and support, they may soon begin to feel are places from long ago and far away. We welcome journeyers, who though they may still be quite young, have traversed an unlikely span of years and survived more harsh experiences than most people could have endured in two lifetimes.

 

Graduation for Class 67, our current class, is at the end of

July. And, every trainee and candidate for graduation has

traveled a far distance to what will surely be a better life.

 

When Caroline enrolled this class nearly 15 weeks ago, a quarter of the women did not have enough food for themselves and their families; close to 10% needed housing; 15% had no medical coverage; better than half of the women were trying to care for themselves as well as raise their children; and, more than 75% of the class had expressed a need for individual counseling.

The bold, new landscape ahead for Class 67 graduates, which will include professional externships and the first exhilarating days in new careers as certified nursing assistants and pharmacy technicians, will be vastly more promising than the desolate terrain in those final lines of “Ozymandias,” where “the lone and level sands stretch far away.”

As I put the puzzling dream of “Ozymandias” behind me, I’m thinking about how often the great fall and how seldom they land in the arms of the good.

 

“Dreaming of Ozymandias” is dedicated to the memory of Jacqueline (Jackie) M. Buedel, our dear friend, who shared her many talents with all of us. She was a gifted teacher, passionate advocate, devoted mentor, and skilled administrator at Caroline Center. She was also a big fan of “The Breakroom,” often being among the first readers, if not the very first reader, of the published posts. “Dreaming of Ozymandias” was posted in “The Breakroom” on the day Jackie completed her work – at least as we knew it then – at Caroline Center and in the world. Her life helps us remember that we are all travelers – seeking and welcoming each other to “places of delight and rest” along the journey. 

 

Posted in Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Romantic poetry, Shelley, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

If You Would Only Listen

Caroline Center certified pharmacy technician candidate Keah M. just celebrated the mid-point in her 15-week education and career training program at Caroline Center – the eagerly awaited Halfway Hurrah, a longstanding Caroline Center tradition.

At 31 years of age, Keah is as committed as anyone you could ever meet to achieving a significant professional and personal goal –  a rewarding new career with opportunities for advancement and a better life. For Keah, and for many other Caroline Center trainees, life has not always been this promising. Felt this focused. Been this freeing.

One of the qualities we admire most in Caroline Center trainees is their relentless courage. We respect that women who seek a Caroline Center education and who choose to pursue it come from very different places in life’s unpredictable journey. We appreciate that each woman is uniquely herself.

And, we admire every woman for her steadfast courage – the kind of courage that has quite literally kept her in life and allowed her to reach the day when she boldly crosses a threshold – from what used to be to what she now knows is entirely possible and so deeply deserved.

For Keah, this courage found expression in an original poem she wrote, 30 Years a Slave – a poem so powerful that we were hoping she would agree to share it with readers in The Breakroom.

Sometimes, we don’t know how strong we are until we begin to listen. Not to what others are saying about us. Not to what others are saying to us. But, to ourselves.

So much good can happen. So much growth can happen. If we would only listen to ourselves.

 

 

30 Years a Slave

For 30 years, I was a slave

For 30 years, I was in captivity

For 30 years, I’ve worn these orange and pinstriped suits

My commissary was filled with scraps that were thrown at me

Scraps of judgement

Scraps of contempt

Scraps of disappointment

Scraps of expectations that I would never meet

My shackles were bound to my heart and mind

I was sentenced to a lifetime of hard time

My shackles were carved of others’ opinions and goals

Somewhere deep in my mind there was a hidden key

For 30 years I’ve been told who I wanted to be

And who I would be

Be a doctor, be a lawyer, be a teacher, they said

Be a cook, be a childcare provider, be a hairstylist

Dress like this, dress like that

Wear your hair this way

Don’t get tattoos; don’t get piercings

When you walk, don’t let your hips sway

Eat your veggies, eat your fruit

Minimize your carb intake

Because there ain’t nothing cute about being overweight

Go to college for years and years and years

Even if you hate it

It’s the only way you will survive

Talk like this, talk like that

Don’t use slang

Stop listening to rap

For 30 years, I was a slave

I was a prisoner

I was confined

To my mind

TO THE WORLD’S EXPECTATIONS

To mommy’s and daddy’s expectations

30 years I was a slave

But then I turned 31

And I realized

I’m the only one who has to live this life

I’m the only one suffering from these lies

That I tell myself

In order to meet the expectations of others

So, I broke free from my chains and my soul drainers

From my dream murderers

And my happiness takers

30 years I was a slave

But at 31 I got brave

I finally opened my ears to listen to myself

And myself chose my opinions

And myself chose my expectations

And myself chose to be happy with myself

To be happy with my decisions good or bad

To be happy with my life

And myself chose to be here

At Caroline Center

Learning medications, math, and prescriptions

Anatomy, physiology, and computer skills too

I’m learning how to walk, to talk, to be professional

For 30 years I was a slave

But at 31, I chose my own opinions

I chose my own feelings

I chose my own path

I chose my own dream

I chose my own destiny

And finally . . . I chose myself

30 Years a Slave was written by Caroline Center pharmacy technician candidate Keah M. and we are pleased to be able to publish it in The Breakroom with her permission. Many thanks to Keah for being a guest writer in this edition of The Breakroom.

Posted in 30 Years a Slave, Baltimore job training programs for women, Baltimore's best non-profit, Caroline Center, Job Training, Journey, Pharmacy Technician Programs, Poems of Freedom, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Well, Isn’t That Spe-cial?”

 

Contracture. Cardiovascular. Calcemia. Each of these words and many more are part of the day-to-day vocabulary of Caroline Center certified nursing assistant and certified pharmacy technician trainees.

But, “covfefe?” Well, that’s something else altogether.

Each time I think I’ll never see such a week again in our nation’s capital, something happens to prove me wrong. And, this Memorial Day week is shaping up to be no exception.

As a writer, I am fascinated by words. I love words. I may even be a little obsessed with words. Case in point. Several years ago, my family had the pleasure of hosting a visiting student from Israel whose birth language, Hebrew, allowed him to experience English words and typical American expressions through quite a unique lens. One night at dinner, I asked the small group of visiting students if there was one word or expression that they had learned on their visit to the U.S. and to Baltimore, in particular, that was their favorite. Our visiting student, Raz, spoke up immediately and confidently. “Reisterstown!” he proclaimed. He was laughing so hard that he could hardly speak; and, soon everyone was doubled over with laughter and had tears in their eyes. No one knew just why “Reisterstown” was so darned funny; and, it was impossible for Raz to explain – either in Hebrew or English.

This week, enter the “covfefe” tweet. Everyone’s talking about it. But, why is it so funny? If we, as good citizens, are to take the cautionary wisdom offered up on more than several occasions to heart – that “the president’s tweets speak for themselves” – we’re all finding ourselves in a kind of linguistic limbo, doubled over, if not from laughter, than certainly from an existential crisis of language and thought.

“Covfefe?” “Coverage?” Something else? I don’t know. Who really knows? Ultimately, it’s not the spelling that’s so troubling. It’s everything else.

Lucky for us that social media is making certain that “covfefe” will not suffer an untimely death or a perilous slide into obscurity. The Urban Dictionary has already put forward a definition. And, it’s likely that the folks at Merriam-Webster – the ones who decide which words ought to be included in the dictionary and what those words will mean – are watching this one very carefully. Here’s why. Getting in the dictionary is simply a matter of frequent usage – and, “covfefe” is gaining ground. A word’s meaning is simply the result of how most people use the word – and, there are a growing number of “covfefe” definitions out there. So far, I like Senator Al Franken’s definition. “Covfefe.” A Yiddish expression for “I’ve got to go to bed now.” Amen.

Lucky for us, too, that “covfefe” sleepwalks into our lexicon during the week of the 90th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is taking place in Washington, DC, even as we speak – or, should I say, “tweet?” These expert spellers are a formidable group – all 15 years of age or younger – 291 strong –  culled from a pool of 11 million students whose spelling competition prospects for 2017 might have come down to a single letter, not seven. I’m rooting for two competitors this year – Shaheer Imam, a 13-year-old from Catonsville, Maryland, who is back in competition for the second time after a five-year hiatus; and, Edith Fuller from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Edith is 6 years old and the youngest competitor ever in the National Spelling Bee – not this year, but last year, when she was a 5-year-old competitor. I think that they could both spell “covfefe;” and, I would give more than a penny for their thoughts to hear their definitions. I would bet that they also could spell the words that Google lists as those most frequently checked for spelling online this year by folks in their respective states. The spelling of the word “patient” apparently has stumped the most Oklahomans so far in 2017; and, the proper spelling for the word “special” has, it seems, tripped up the most Marylanders since January. By National Spelling Bee standards, both of these words are pieces of cake.

Well, it’s only Wednesday, and we’ve got half the week to go. Time enough for more shenanigans. Time for more distractions. Time still for more equally impossible entries into the lexicon of the English language.

And, just three days until the next SNL!

Speaking of SNL, for some of us, the word “special” will evoke Dana Carvey’s hilarious rendition of Enid Strict, The Church Lady – the rather stiff, smug, and overly pious host of her own talk show, “Church Chat.” In her blue and purple sweater dress set and peering over the top of her cat’s eye, horn-rimmed glasses, she would serially take her guests down a notch or two with the retort, “Well, isn’t that spe-cial?”

I love The Church Lady, superior dance and all. Now, 30 years later, I finally understand why. Enid Strict’s words may just be the perfect anecdote for our times. And, might I suggest, the best and most proper response to all of that late-night tweeting.

Do those tweets really speak for themselves? Well, when in doubt, and when the next 140-character midnight missive leaves you wondering and at wit’s end, try casting these four words in the general direction of the Twitter-verse  .   .   .   “Well, isn’t that spe-cial?”

COV·FE·FE imperative verb/Take immediate cover, he’s tweeting again.

Posted in Caroline Center, Covfefe, Saturday Night Live, Scripps National Spelling Bee, SNL, The Church Lady, Twitter | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Women’s History Month Means Thinking Beyond the “Firsts”

So the work continues. And for all the young women in this room, all the young men, we can never be complacent. Because we have seen in recent times how quickly things can be taken away if we aren’t vigilant, if we don’t know our history, if we don’t continue the work.   –   Michelle Obama

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing the history. And, continuing the work.

I, for one, am committed to carrying this essential wisdom forward – from Black History Month through Women’s History Month to my social justice Seder on Passover and well into the foreseeable future. But, let’s think for a moment about the time we are in – March and Women’s History Month.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it feels to me like so much about Women’s History Month rests upon the recognition of “firsts.” The celebration of women who were the first to do something significant. The first woman to climb Mt. Everest. The first woman to cast a ballot in a U.S. election. The first woman to travel into space. The first woman to run for president. And, even, the first woman to live on earth. The focus of the month so often seems to be on the trailblazers whom history wishes us to remember for leadership and accomplishments of the highest order.

As much as I love Women’s History Month and as eager as I am to learn even more about women’s contributions to society, I want to cast off the cloak of conventionality – that well-worn clothing of “firsts” that colors so much of our celebration.

Before Junko Tabei climbed Mt. Everest, there were girls who dreamed of scaling impossible heights. Before Louisa Ann Swain cast her vote, there were young women who were demanding that their voices be heard. Before Valentina Tereshkova flew into space, there were bold adventurous women who set their sights on the stars.  Before Victoria Woodhull ran for president, there were feminist thinkers who aspired to create political change.

Knowing the history is important. And, knowing that the history is larger than all the “firsts” combined is essential. This deeper history is where, in many cases, the rubber really hits the road. We also need to remember that continuing the work – as bold and daring as the work is – even on a good day, will never be as grand or as shiny or as memorable as even one “first.” But, continuing the work – doing what needs to be done to the best of our ability – to shatter a glass ceiling or to reinstate feminine voice – and, doing it over and over again, is what sticks.

It’s what matters. It’s what ultimately makes all of the “firsts” possible. And, all of this takes courage and commitment.

At Caroline Center, we’re focused on women and work, so we get it – glass ceilings, equal pay for equal work, sexism, racism, and so many other factors that threaten to keep our graduates from flourishing in their careers. At Caroline Center, we also know that women’s potential is enormous and diverse.

That’s why this March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, all women – especially Caroline Center trainees and graduates – must stand proudly together.

Some of us may be shattering glass ceilings; others of us may be breaking through a lifetime of stone walls. Some of us may be making history; others of us may be setting the stage of history. Some of us may achieve important “firsts;” others of us may gain long-overdue recognition for making the “firsts” possible. Some of us will be trailblazers; others of us will be unstoppable forces of nature. Some of us will be blazing comets in the night sky; others of us will be the persistent and powerful light of a billion stars watching, guarding, and guiding on the horizon.

 

Posted in Michelle Obama, Uncategorized, Women's History Month | Leave a comment

Seeing Strength in Numbers

 

shamsi

How will you spend your courage,/Her life asks my life.

No courage spent of/Bloodshot/gunshot/taproot/eye –

How will you make your way?

Then, respond to the day/some other way than blind

from The World Made and Unmade by Jane Mead

Woman to woman. Woman to world. How will we spend our courage? How will we make our way? How will we respond to the day some other way than blind?

After the presidential inauguration, I find these words from Jane Mead’s elegiac collection of poems, which she wrote for her dying mother, taking up an unlikely yet entirely welcome residence in my mind and heart. In poetry this perfect, I do not wish to dilute eloquence and true meaning. And in poetry this perfect, I accept that much meaning is entirely possible. That the literal can become transcendent. That the particular can meet a kindred universal soul. So, when I read Jane Mead’s poem, I’m thinking about the time we movingforwardare in. A time when courage, more than cash, is our most powerful currency. A time when moving forward, not backward, is our only true choice. A time when each and every day, with eyes wide open, is the way we must respond.

One woman to another, one generation to the next, one question for all – How will you spend your courage? I mean the kind of courage that can only truly be understood woman women-are-perfectto woman. I mean the kind of courage that finds a collective voice as millions of women march in Washington, DC, and around the world. Women, especially women of color, know this kind of courage well, and it is not new.

More than a century ago, Mother Caroline Friess, SSND, the North American foundress of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, emboldened young women to keep moving forward, every day, with eyes wide open. And, she empowered women to keep their eyes on a very worthy prize. To pursue an education for themselves and to teach others for whom access to education had been denied. In doing this, with great courage and heart, she changed the world. With these nine words, “Now take new courage, and make it your own,” she started a movement, formed a congregation, and inspired a powerful sisterhood that is thriving today at Caroline Center.

Five years ago, when I came to Caroline Center, I probably knew more about the power of privilege than the power of courage. Day to day, week by week, the experiences of my what-it-takessisters at Caroline Center changed me. While every woman’s life experiences and life circumstances are different and unique, the challenges we face are felt by all of us; and, the hope that we have in the struggle to overcome our challenges belongs to each of us.

How will you spend your courage? While numbers and statistics can never, ever tell the whole story, the trainees who are enrolled at this mind-bending time in our country’s history, most assuredly, will graduate both rich in courage and generous and smart in how they spend it. They will have good work. Meaningful work. They will have new careers. Opportunities for advancement. Better lives. But, their newfound courage will be their greatest legacy; the one, sure sign of the transcendent power of sisterhood.

Here’s what the numbers say about where our current trainees are upon enrolling at

Caroline Center this month:

  • 100% are experiencing poverty and underemployment
  • 57% are working at least one job while attending the program full-time
  • 46% cannot afford basic public transportation
  • 36% require food assistance; more are food insecure
  • 25% need supplemental support for child care expenses
  • 23% are experiencing utilities cut-offs; more are at risk for cut-offs
  • 16% have eviction notices; more are experiencing housing insecurity
  • 68% are working one-on-one with our financial counselor
  • 70% are receiving individual counseling

pharmtech-at-walgreensIn 15 weeks, we know that because Caroline Center is here for them, these women’s lives will be markedly different – more independent, more confident, more fulfilled, more hopeful. And, if it is even possible, more courageous. We know that the quality-of-life indicators that point to the highest levels of stress in their lives will begin to improve. And, we know that one number will shine brighter than the rest: 100% of Caroline Center graduates will experience meaningful employment with excellent additional opportunities for career and academic advancement.

Naoki Higashida’s name may not be familiar to you, but the book he wrote in Japanese when he was 13 years old, using a simple letter board to communicate because he has severe autism, has this profound piece of wisdom: “Everybody has a heart that can be touched by something.” This is not an “alternative fact.” It’s just the plain truth. As women, we need to believe that “something” is courage. We want the world to see that “something” is courage. Because courage is what we’re bringing. It’s the way we will make our way. It’s the way we will respond to the day, some other way than blind.

SILHOUETTE WOMEN

Notes:

Naoki Higashida’s book, The Reason I Jump, was first published in 2007 in Japan by Escor Publishers Ltd. In 2013, Random House published the book in English as translated by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida.

Jane Mead’s poem, “How will you spend your courage,” is in her book The World Made and Unmade, which was published by Alice James Books in August 2016. The World Made and Unmade is Jane Mead’s fifth collection of poems.

Images:

“She The People” by artist Shamsia Hassani (pictured), the first female graffiti artist in Afghanistan, photo by citylab.com

“Women Are Perfect,” photo by  Sait Serkan Gurbuz

Cover image from What It Takes magazine, photo by Ryan Stevenson, RaRah Photo

Caroline Center pharmacy technician, photo by Howard Korn, Howard Korn Photography

 

 

 

 

Posted in and Make It Your Own, Caroline Center, Food Insecurity, Housing Insecurity, Howard Korn Photography, Jane Mead, Naoki Higashida, Poverty, Presidential Inauguration, RaRah Photo, School Sisters of Notre Dame, Shamsia Hassani, SSND, The Reason I Jump, The World Made and Unmade, Uncategorized, Unemployment, What it takes, Women Are Perfect, Women's March | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Just A Truck

Oftentimes, it’s the little things.  And, sometimes, it is just the matter of a truck.

fullsizerender-002

Frequently, I receive phone calls from friends of Caroline Center who have furniture they are replacing and they ask me if there is a trainee or graduate who might be able to use what they don’t need anymore. The issue is never if we have a trainee or graduate who is in need; it is almost always a question of how we can get the items to her.

What I’m talking about played out a few weeks ago when a good friend and her family were in the process of emptying out their deceased mother’s home. They had a lot of good furniture. There were even people who could help move the pieces, wishing to honor the memory of their mother who had so lovingly furnished their childhood home.

All we needed was a truck.

Linda (not her real name), the recipient of the donation, graduated from Caroline Center five years ago and has been working since that time as a CNA/GNA in a long-term care fargo-empty-bedfacility in the city. Linda and her three children had recently moved into a three-bedroom rental, and she shared with me that the only furniture she had was a single bed that her young son was sleeping on.

To the rescue: Sr. Betty Koehn, SSND, who oversees trucks and such things at our sisters’ office and residence on N. Charles Street, was happy to help. She had a truck ready for us on Saturday morning. In short order, we had the truck loaded with several donated beds, a sofa, and other odds and ends, such as lamps and dishes. Then, we were off to Linda’s in the truck, which was closely followed by our two-car caravan.

breakfast-counter-stoolsWhen we arrived at Linda’s house, all of us were taken aback at just how little there was inside. Although Linda and her family had been living in their house for a full month – even though Linda has had a steady full-time professional position as a CNA/GNA for five years – there was, quite literally, only a single bed and two kitchen counter chairs in the entire house.

denim-blanket

A thin bedspread on the floor of one of the bedrooms marked the place where Linda and her two daughters were sleeping. There was no TV, but Linda assured me that was okay because she and her children were able to watch movies together on her phone at night. There were no lamps, but the only tiny complaint came from Linda’s daughter who said it was hard for her to reach the pull chain on the overhead light. light-and-pull-string

Just goes to show that after you pay your security deposit, your first month’s rent, the charges to turn the utilities on, put a little food on the table, and pay for renter’s insurance, if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford that, you can eat up an entire paycheck – even a professional healthcare worker’s paycheck – pretty quickly.

That Saturday, it only took a truck to begin to change Linda’s reality; but hers was not the only reality that would be changed.

My friend’s family members who helped deliver the furniture – good people and long-time volunteers in the community who were certainly not new to grappling with and, in their own ways, helping to address issues of poverty, came away having experienced a new reality, too. After seeing how little there was in Linda’s home, our immediate reaction was to go back to my friend’s mother’s house, look again at what items remained, gather them up, and make a second trip to Linda’s.

We all had new energy for a task that had before been burdened with the sadness of a mother’s passing. The sense of loss that we felt at the REACH FOR THE MOONending of a loved one’s life was being healed by renewed purpose and meaning. Was this what Mother Caroline, our foundress, had meant when she said, “Now, take new courage and make it your own?” As we worked through the day sorting out my friend’s mother’s belongings, “Linda could use this” became our mantra. Throughout the afternoon and evening, the life-changing work at hand – made possible with just a truck – filled our conversations and occupied our thoughts and reflections.

At the end of the day, it would, once more, be just a truck that would change Linda’s reality yet another time.

After a long day of moving, when we returned the truck to Sr. Betty at the province and told her about our experience, Sr. Betty asked if we thought Linda could use an additional loveseat. We asked Linda, and she said “yes.” Yes LetterSo, that week, we borrowed the truck again and made another visit to Linda’s house.

And, so it goes.

A popular automotive industry commercial touts the strength of its trucks in an ad campaign that claims, “Real people, not actors.”  While we weren’t looking to replicate a “reality” TV show that weekend – there are certainly enough reality shows to go around – we will never again underestimate the power of a truck or of any small act of kindness to positively change the lives of all involved – both giver and receiver.

New CC Logo

“Just a Truck” was written by our Executive Director Patricia McLaughlin, SSND.

 

Posted in Poverty, Uncategorized | Leave a comment