Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Imagine, If You Will

This picture has nothing to do with this post. But the post is a bit of a downer, so I figure you might need a kitten.

I want to help you develop your compassion. I know you have some -- you share gut-wrenching stories of helpless animals, veterans, disabled people. But with the next breath you share a post about how we don't "owe" anyone anything, that people in need are not "entitled" to support.

I'm guessing that you have at least average intelligence (IQ between 85 and 115) and that your household earns an average income ($76,510 in Ontario). You are probably not aware that this means half of the people around you have lower IQ than you, and half of the households learn less -- even far less -- than that.

Further, I'm guessing you grew up in a family that celebrated birthdays and seasonal feasts, that you have taken a vacation at least once in your life. You have some post-secondary education for which you did not have to go into deep debt, either because of scholarships or family help.

You were not orphaned at a young age or placed in foster care. You did not drop out of school because you were unable to read by age 14 and there was no one to diagnose or support a learning disability. You do not have trouble understanding online instructions and application forms. You did not get fired from job after job because you failed to live up to your potential when learning disabilities got in the way of performance.

You have never been so neglected or abused that the first time you ever felt happy was when you did crack for the first time. And you spent the next decade trying to kick the habit.

You do not have to choose between going to work or leaving your six-year-old home alone because you can't afford childcare. You do not wake up in the wee hours flashing back to the rape. You don't have to choose between going to work or going to your desperately-needed (free, if you're lucky and don't mind the two-year waiting list) therapy appointment to help deal with PTSD or mental illness.

You have not had to leave everything you own in order to escape an abusive relationship. You have not made the choice to go on welfare so you can finally have that abscessed tooth yanked, which you could not afford to do on minimum wage even working two part-time jobs (because neither offers supplemental health benefits).

You haven't had to lie to your child's teacher that your child was sick the day of the class field trip, when really you couldn't afford the $10 fee. You haven't pretended to forget about the list of things your child is required to bring on the first day of school, when really you just couldn't afford the $40. You haven't done your child's back-to-school shopping at Value Village, hoping that the clothes would make it through the school year and wouldn't look too second-hand.

You haven't had to do this for years in a row, to the point that you feel defeated every August.

You haven't sold the last remaining thing you inherited from your mother so that you could feed your children. You haven't woken at three in the morning to work a second job so that you could pay the mortgage and feed the children. You haven't made pancakes for dinner six nights in a row because all you had left in the house was flour and eggs.

You probably have a "positive attitude" and do well in job interviews. You are likable. You don't stammer or say awkward things or have sweaty palms and avoid eye contact because that makes you profoundly uncomfortable. You don't get turned away from "McJobs" because you "don't fit in" even though you look "normal."

You've never had to choose between antibiotics for your baby's ear infection and food for the family.

You've never had to figure out how you'll gather the deposit to rent an apartment in a nicer neighbourhood so your kid can go to a better school and hang out with other kids who are a better influence.

I do not doubt that there are people who "milk the system," but for every one of those there are one hundred who are doing their absolute best to keep body and soul together. They are parents. They are children.

There are a million reasons why people need social assistance, some for a short period to help them over a hump, others for a much longer time because the problems they have are not transient. Those of us who have the blessings of health, education, intelligence, and, yes, wealth, should be ashamed to show anything less than compassion for those who need our support.

You, my friend, are the one who seems to feel entitled.


  1. You have painted a very vivid portrait that leaves one asking how to come up with more solutions for a broader reach...

    1. Thanks for commenting, Sheila. I don't understand what you mean by "solutions for a broader reach" -- do you mean broader reach of our social services? Or broader reach of my message of compassion?

  2. Compassion is a VERB. Simple as that --- we Must Do. Anything less than caring for one another is unacceptable. We should give without judgement and without strings. Imagine an alien race visits this planet, and sees how we have abandoned the less fortunate, the most vulnerable?? What kind of "species" must they think us? To see huge mansions on manicured lawns, being worked by people who live in a shack in it's ditches? (true story) No way they call us civilized; let alone Compassionate.
    Excellent post.

    1. So true. It saddens me to see so many right-wing "Christians" being so cold-hearted to their fellow men and women.

  3. Thank you for your open and thought-provoking post. I feel blessed every day to have a warm home and full fridge for my children. Your post really has me thinking about how compassionate I am towards those who are around me and the struggles they deal with every day.

    1. It's good to be reminded from time to time. In the daily struggle of facing all the things we *don't* have, we can lose sight of all that we do.


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