Yesterday was my last official day as an AmeriCorps member serving with Rebuilding Together Central Alabama, a wonderful opportunity I have been enjoying for 11 months now.
For the past year I have been biting my tongue and heavily sensoring what I have been publishing, as it is AmeriCorp’s policy to not rant too much about anything political, which was almost a deal-breaker for me.
Today marks my first official day of unemployment, and I think the completely nutty homeowner who hunted me down was a really good way to kick off my new life. This evening I will be helping to set up and attending a fundraiser which will benefit RTCA. One never really stops being an AmeriCorps member, do they?
This morning was the River Region Alternative Gift Fair, an event held for folks to come and donate money to their favorite charities in the names of their loved ones as a different kind of Christmas gift. We, of course, had a table there, and although I wasn’t required to run it, I made an appearance.
While schmoozing with my friends at another booth, a crazy lady approached me. We had never met before, but she was one of our homeowners. We had spoken on the phone dozens of times. She showed up to the event to do two things:
a) hunt me down and insist that her house was in greater need than others’ homes, and
b) donate $5 to our organization, earmarked for her own home.
I explained to her that we are a nonprofit and that we are volunteer-based, which means we are not an emergency assistance program. I also explained to her that we are unable to guarantee repairs to everyone simply because we literally do not have the manpower to serve everybody. She accused us of being liars and said that our “commercial on TV was false advertising” (we do not have a commercial). The best we can gather was that she saw a commercial for the Gift Fair and assumed it was ours.
She was also upset and did not seem to understand that a $5 donation to her home would not bump her up on the priority list. Because, quite frankly, it sounds like the repairs she needs will cost upwards of five thousand dollars, and we just don’t have the money or volunteers to do that kind of work for everybody.
It is incredibly difficult to describe my encounters with people like her. She had no grasp of who we are and what we did, no matter the extent we explained it to her. It is a mindset that many poverty-stricken folks seem to have: that RTCA is just one of those big government organizations in the sky with an unlimited supply of resources and if we don’t serve you it’s because either Jesus hates you or because we are assholes.
Nevermind that we aren’t even a government organization; these welfare-type programs are all the same in the eyes of many. Speaking with my new homeowner friend today was just yet another example of that. She confused us for not one, but at least four other organizations.
But how do I say that without making sure you conclude that these people are living in terrible conditions and really do deserve to have their lives fixed? The solution, in my opinion, always boils down to standards of education and an unbelievably lopsided distribution of wealth in America. To heck with the jerkwads who are busy buying $500 bottles of wine, spending over $20 on each meal, and can’t decide whether they want to take the Bentley or the Benz to work and still fight tooth and nail against a 1% tax increase on their class, even though there are people running around who can’t read or write, are forced to eat shitty food that their food stamps can barely afford, and have holes the size of basketballs in their roofs that they have been living with for years.
It seems to me that the Starbucks-a-day class is afraid of paying a little more in taxes to help eradicate the ridiculous poverty we face that we have forced people into (yes, we’ve forced people into these situations; stop calling them all lazy) because they simply don’t understand how poor our poor really are.
I have so many thoughts on this. I hate poor people because I know them so well. But, like an older sibling, if you hate on them I will beat you up.
The blog posts are going to start pouring out now.