I am a helper by nature: little miss fix it, help it, make it better. I don't know if it's some thwarted mothering instinct which would have been spent had I ever given birth. I don't know what it is, it's just been with me all my life and, like so many things, it's hell and it's not, this urge to help.
A couple of months ago I got a call on a Saturday morning from a guy wanting to know if I had some work for him in packing and shipping. Very long story short, I hired him and I adore him. He's smart, energetic, runs circles around my main warehouse/shipping guy. Circles. He's sweet, funny, I like this man. He's the cousin of a guy who used to work for me, and the nephew of another, both of whom are hopeless alcoholics and had to be let go.
This kid (I say kid, he's 38!!) tries so hard. He's sweet. People take advantage of him. I think he's kind of lonesome so he allows all sorts of trash into his life and since he works and works hard, makes money, keeps a home, has something of a stable life, he attracts users. He is Seminole and Creek and he and his family suffer the triad of afflictions so common to Native Americans in this state: profound poverty and discrimination and alcoholism. I don't know if our native population will ever overcome the effects of this country's efforts to destroy their culture with the boarding schools. That policy was a travesty no amount of reparations will ever make right.
He lost his apartment three weeks into working for me because the aunt he was living with spent his rent money on dope; had to move. He gets anxious, obsessive. I know these traits. He's an alcoholic, sort of non practicing, sort of, most of the time. I'm an alcoholic, definitely not drinking ~ geeze, just realized for 24 years December 6. He's done some time on a couple of occasions; it was sheer luck that I was not locked up for any number of reasons. So I helped him with the apartment thing ~ just a little, with transportation, some extra furniture.
Then the electric goes off. Apartment's cold. Some loser cousin used his name to get utilities, didn't pay and now this kid (38!!) owes big $$. I helped. Gave him his Christmas bonus early. Electric's on. Yea. Let's work!!
I hold back part of his money each week so he'll have it to pay rent. He took his check last week while we were in Mazatlan and got his holdback monies too. Before he got his rent paid, he met up with a cousin fresh out of the pen, and got drunk to "show him a good time." Ended up staying drunk all weekend. His female cousins took his money. Some other cousin took his phone. When he realized he'd lost all his money and his phone, he just got drunk again. What the fuck. I know that feeling. I advanced him the rent money without his having asked. Poor people get so thoroughly fucked in this world. A day past due and it's another $25, then $25 per day until paid. By the end of the week he'd have been so far in the hole his entire check wouldn't have covered it.
But then there was the phone. The phone is this man's lifeline. I think it's the way he keeps the lonesome at bay and stays connected to other people. He's frantic without the phone. We have been working on this fucking phone all week. Needs a new Cricket (and I have nothing but dirt to dish on those users, fucking Cricket). Three phones later, nothing had worked. There was one across town, he was sure of it, for $50. We're running all over, all day long, trying to get the fucking phone on so we can actually do some work.
At 4:30 I gave up and said let's just go buy you a new one, we have to stop this madness somewhere, we've wasted days trying to get a used one, it's not working and I'm losing my mind. Four days lost for him and a good 10 hours of my life trying to set up broken phone after broken phone, all donated by worthless cousins of this sweet kid I now want to strangle and run over with my truck.
We got the phone and he instantly relaxed and I was pissed ~ enraged, actually ~ at wasting a day until I got home and headed up the rock path to my front door. There was a fire going ~ I could see the flickering of the flames in the stained glass windows in the living room. As I opened the door, I heard a yip and the thumping of little feet on the oak floors as my puppies came running. The big cat was sitting on the sideboard making blinky eyes at me in welcome.
The house smelled marvelous. My husband was in the kitchen cooking tenderloin, asparagus and a pilaf. He came to me with a smile and hugged me, giving me warmth and comfort on this very cold, dark night, asking if I was okay, if all had gone well, I was late, he was worried, so happy to see me my sweetheart.
I felt so fortunate, so filled with gratitude, so blessed by this life filled with love and the luxury of living without any real struggle, with financial security, safety, companionship, comfort, resources, support. I too often take these things for granted and I realized it at that moment in Mike's arms.
I feel ashamed sometimes of my good fortune. I express this upon occasion and am always told "well you work hard, you went to school, you you you you." But it's really not about me and what I did. I did some things, true, but I was able to do those things because of the sheer happenstance of birth. I was born into a family with resources, a family that valued education, work, steadiness, honesty. Mine is family with good values, so good and so never ending that even when I strayed wildly from the way I was brought up, I still had that foundation to return to. I could be rehabilitated because I had something to go back to, something solid, real, good.
It's not really possible to rehabilitate someone who has never been habilitated to begin with. It's too hard. The making of a functional citizen is a lifetime process that begins at birth. A lot of what's needed happens in those first 12 years. This boy's family members are the main ones cheating him, lying to him, using him. My family lifts me up, they're always there for me, loving me, supporting me. They would never, never, not ever use me in any way. They love me. It is pure chance that I got my family and he got his.
When I am irritated with helping someone who struggles so, I find myself consumed with my mad and think fuck all of this, fuck you, fuck all you losers who can't keep it together. The feeling behind that comes from the selfish bitch who inhabits a bit of my soul. I am not doing what I want or need to do and the initial feel good that comes from being able and wanting to help another dissipates as the process drags on.
I am unselfish by instinct and my first impulses are good, but if it takes too long to help you the great I gets in the way and the bitch gets out and I think fuck you. Fuck you. I want, give me, my time, me, me, me, me, what about me!
Recognition turned my mad turned into glad and then to gratitude and an awareness of this shame or embarrassment or something I have about my undeserved blessings. This time of year when it's so cold and the nights are dark and the comforts of home are so exquisite, I am mindful of those who have so little and I say a prayer for all of the struggling people of the world. I say a prayer, too, that I will be a cheerful giver when the next opportunity presents itself. I know it will come, it always does. I will do what I can.