I spent most of last Thursday driving to and from the Autism Center in Seattle. The roads are narrow, and getting around is difficult. You rely very much on other people’s kindness to make it to your destination. I watched as person after person drove past me as I was trying to turn onto the main street. My frustration grew as each car went by. “JEEZ! How selfish can you be? It would take you all of five seconds to slow down enough to let me in!” I yelled at the cars as they rushed past. Then I realized what was happening. They didn’t see me. In their hurry to get to their destination, they didn’t see the frazzled woman in the beat-up SUV desperate to take her son to an appointment neither wanted to go to. The other drivers weren’t paying attention. When someone did catch my eye, they hit the breaks and motioned me in.
I’ve spent too much time this last week talking about politics and being angry at people who I think just don’t get it. I spoke of how selfish people are. Driving around the crowded Seattle streets made me rethink that. Maybe they’re just not paying attention. Maybe I’m not, either.
I wrote last week about my desperation in the situation with the government shutdown. I was scared and sad and, honestly, not in a very good place. You were paying attention. You sent me emails with support and resources for finding work. You bought ad space and are working to help me find writing jobs within your own communities. Your kindness to me allowed me to move forward on my way to whatever destination will come. Thank you for paying attention.
After I had posted that blog, I was listening to the radio and heard a story of a woman who was worried about her food stamps running out. She and her husband had been laid off from their good jobs- they both had graduate degrees- but do to the economic climate, have not been able to find work in the last couple of months. They have three kids. She was worried about FEEDING her children. In my own desperation, in my own need to get where I was going, I wasn’t paying attention. Up to that point, I had only thought about how the government shutdown affected me and my family. I didn’t realize that it could be much worse for a great many people. I searched for more information. The Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) – a government provided nutrition program- initially thought that their doors would close immediately, have only enough emergency funding now to keep their doors open for a couple more weeks. I am not ashamed to say that I once participated in that program while Lance and I were in college. I had to quit working during my pregnancy after I was put on bedrest, and after Carter was born too early with respiratory problems that took months to get over. We relied on WIC to feed our child. I’m so grateful for that program and when I saw that it was being shut down, I dug deeper to see what was being done.
People are paying attention.
I found women rallying with other women to provide formula, food, and other necessary items to help people who could be hurt. A list of where to get help can be found here: http://www.feministhulk.net/wic-and-shutdown-where-to-get-baby-food-and-formula.html. If you can help add to the list, or have resources that you want to use to help, please contact the blog owner or the people listed under your state.
There are a lot more people out there in need of help, some affected by the shutdown, others by their current circumstances. I resolved when I saw what those people were doing for people on WIC to do more. To pay attention.
It’s easy to find people you can serve if you’re looking for it. It didn’t take me long. I know a woman who has taken her five beautiful children and left an abusive marriage. Her husband refuses to support her and the kids, and she doesn’t have the money to pay for a divorce lawyer that can go toe-to-toe with her husband’s legal team. She’s been able to get into housing, but the state only offers classes on how to file for divorce yourself. She was able to find a lawyer who will help her divorce her husband and force him to support their children, and who will do it for only $900. A wonderful man that I know has been working tirelessly to raise that money. They’re close. If you’re interested in contributing, the paypal address to contribute is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know that food pantries are going to be low and in extra need of support- especially if the government does open back up soon.The food program for schools only has enough money to run through the end of the month. Even if the government shutdown ends tomorrow, it looks like there will be drastic cuts to food stamps benefits. This is a great way to help people who truly need it, too.
Whether it’s as simple as letting someone in while you’re driving, being extra kind to the frazzled mother at Target, or giving of your time or money to help someone on their way, a little bit of kindness goes a long way. I have been fortunate to time and time again be on the receiving end of people who are paying attention. People who care. You continue to teach me how to be better.
If you know of any other organizations or groups that are helping people during this shutdown and beyond, please post them in the comments. I even want to hear about companies who are going above and beyond because those are the companies I want to give my money to.
And because weird crap comes up when I post this to facebook if I don’t have a picture (and I’m entirely too lazy to figure out how to fix it) here’s a picture of Abby after I fished her from the toilet (again) the other day. She is as fast as she is disgusting.