"Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor?"
I have never been thrown off by another person 'neediness' because to be quiet honest I have lived through most of it myself. When we first moved to Texas we experienced the late rent and "pre-eviction" notices, the debt collectors, cut off power and cell phones bills, etc. My parents have gone hungry 'in order to be able to feed the kids', and we know what it's like to have one or both parents unemployed. It's never easy, but we have felt loved through it all.
Today we volunteered at the Mayor's Back-to-School Fair in Dallas and it couldn't have been a more humbling experience. We got there at around 6:30 this morning and there was already hundreds if not thousands of families lined up to receive their free school supplies.
There's only one catch to the fair... In order to get the free school supplies each student (or at least one person per backpack filled with supplies) has to go through several 'stations' before getting the supplies at the end. These stations include education, health and social services such as free dental cleaning, vision screenings (with free glasses if necessary), haircuts, immunizations, a book nook, Coca-Cola products, games and entertainment for the kids and other informative/interactive displays and activities.
My brother and I were stationed in Line Control for the Wal~Mart Vision Screenings and blood tests; this basically meant we were going to be translators for everyone filling out consent forms for the kids, keep in mind the parents were encouraged and allowed to have everyone in the family tested including themselves.
I can't tell you how humbling this experience was. There were times where I wasn't only a translator, but a scribe as well because the parents would tell me they simply didn't know how to write. The smile on the kids face when they found out they were "finally getting tested" was so heartbreaking and warming all at once! For the first two hours it seemed like everything was perfect, the families were being taken care of and everyone was happy, but once the first big wave came through, the mood and overall ambience changed drastically.
Almost immediately I could tell when parents no longer wanted to be there instead had to be there. Keep in mind the only prerequisite that these families need to have is proof of income (or a Lonestar card, food stamps, etc.) and dallas residency, so it really isn't hard for people to get in. Right around nine parents started asking why they couldn't just get the free supplies and leave and if it was possible to do their own screening but not their kids. "I can take them to Children's if something happens to them", they would say. Do they not realize that even if they can do that in case of emergencies, they can't just take an uninsured child to the hospital for a regular physical? Do they not see the opportunity they were getting when being offered free eye glasses?! I was getting angry at these parents, but who am I to judge their parenting? I don't know what they've been through... Or at least that's what I kept telling myself.
Not too long after that, I was helping a woman fill out the forms for her and her three children. The emotion that built up inside of me when she had to ask HER children their date of birth was so powerful and I was caught so off guard that I had to excuse myself because what would have come out amidst the tears would not have been pretty. What can lead a mother to be so neglectful of her children?! Sadly, she wasn't the only one. My heart broke to pieces when a boy of about four or five looked up with big eyes at his mother and said, "You don't know my own birthday, Mommy?" .....She replied by saying that there were too many of them.
That same woman signed a consent form for herself and one of her kids all the others were left waiting. I just don't even have words for how little of a person I think she is. She is a monster more than a human being. If checking all the kids takes too much time out her day, than maybe she should not get her eyes checked and let one of her meal tickets get it done.
I better change the subject because I could go on forever about bad parenting.... All in all it was a wonderful day! The fair serves about 15,000 students each year and I'd say I was there for over 8,000 of those. I already can't wait for next year!!!
On another note, I had a very real conversation today that left me feeling...pained? Since I used that word, I have to say it's a good bad kind of pain. It's the kind that's so real it's liberating, but at the same time so frightening you just don't know what to do or where to go.
I think this is a step forward, or at least I hope. No promises. I've been feeling pretty empty inside lately, or simply not feeling at all; it's about time I feel something... I think this is something, for now at least.
More on this later..?
Peace and prayers.
PS. "You can't run when you're holding suitcases..." Dara Maclean