Bear with me on this post, I didn’t think about it beforehand and it’s hard to tell where my rant will end up before it actually ends. I’m sure I’ll step on some toes, I usually do.
So, I did a thing that lead to some introspection, as it always does…and then that leads me to the awkward place of both wanting to do more things and wanting to do no things because it feels selfish at the same time. It’s a weird power struggle.
I don’t know if it’s typical of me or not — some would think it is, some would say it’s not. I suppose it depends on which side of me that you see.
I am, as a rule, incredibly anti-social. There are a lot of reasons, but most of it stems from a strong strain of cynicism and, unfortunately, that cynicism reflects on myself as well. Regardless of how altruistic I intend to be, I get something out of an action. I get that modicum of joy and satisfaction that I did something good and unasked for.
It’s different when you give somebody $10 to a charity that is begging for it at every checkout in America — that just feels like being nagged out of your money for the unfortunate folks with muscular dystrophy. Do I still give then? Of course I do. I have two cousins that had Duchenne MD (they were brothers) who defied the odds by living into their 50s with the disorder. They were both fantastic people and I’ve donated every year since I was an adult, first in their honor, now in their memory.
So even in giving something, you get something in return. The charity begs through a clerk who doesn’t care one way or another, I write their names on a clover and then I get a little bit of warm-wash in my gut at remembering my cousins. I also get to hope the money helps out others facing the same hurdles they did…and secretly wish that my paltry $10 goes towards research that will one day find a way to cure or at least mitigate some of the worst symptoms instead of going towards printing out more shamrocks to hang in more stores across the nation.
I always slip money, when I actually have cash on me, into the donation jars of a DAV Forget-Me-Not or VFW Buddy Poppy drive. I spent so much time a child peddling those little red Buddy Poppies with my Granny Boo that it’s almost an impulse. The last DAV lady seemed absolutely shocked that a “kid” with wild colored hair and black clothes was handing her money. I think I have enough of both flowers now that I could probably make a summer wreath out of them and probably should, it would be a pretty tribute on our front door.
Many years ago, when Logan and I first lived together, we fell in love with some foster kids. One of our friends was a babysitter for social services and I think I spent almost every day at her house playing with the foster kids. They were all heart-breaking in their own ways, especially knowing the situations they came from. Logan and I were young and therefore the age of a lot of the kids’ parents, so the kids often opened up to us in a way that they didn’t with their foster parents or their babysitter…even though their parents were often the people that had hurt them, they were all that they had known. One of the toddlers whose arms were scarred would run to the door to be picked up by me and would want to hold my hand whereas he’d hide them from others. One of the little girls would let me brush and braid her hair. One of the little nonverbal boys would shriek with giggles for us, especially when we’d bring our puppy (now hulking huge dog, Thorin) by to play with him. They’d want to be held, and rocked, and just generally be loved on.
…but there was one set of sisters that absolutely stole our hearts. The oldest was four and was absolutely in love with her Loooogie (a nickname I still call him). She was incredibly intelligent and had spent her entire young life watching out for her younger sister, who was sweet and a bit developmentally delayed at the time due to neglect. One day, as Christmas was approaching, the oldest had curled up in my lap and she asked if Santa existed. Knowing all that this poor little one had been through, I just asked if her she thought he did, and she hesitated but finally nodded after a few minutes. She then admitted that she was afraid that Santa wouldn’t know where to find them since they were in foster care (and knowing her foster parents to be miserable human beings, I seconded that sentiment). My response was that so long as she believed, Santa would always find her. That Christmas, Logan and I bought gifts for her, her sister, and the other family of foster kids that were staying with them. Santa was going to find them, hell or high water, even if it was on a part time salary. The foster parents, of course, changed most of the tags from “Santa” told all the kids that the presents were from them and how hard it was financially for them to buy everything and what a burden they all were. …but a the important gift made it through. The little girl got her “puter” (a little VTech laptop that she had told nobody but the library Santa and me that she wanted) from Santa, so the magic stayed alive and a kid that had so much taken from them at such a young age got to have a taste of a childhood a little longer. Thankfully (or regrettably) the foster parents were deemed unsuitable after bruises were found on the youngest girl and another foster kid testified that they had all been hit at different times. The girls were then adopted by some of their family members and we received photos of them afterwards — they looked happy (which they never did in foster care), so I’m happy and hope that they’re doing well all these years later. We still think about both of them often. The other kids the foster family had were put into emergency custody with our friend the babysitter and she ultimately ended up adopting them, so things worked out for them too.
…but I digress. With the state of the world, as I perceive it currently, I’ve been feeling a bit helpless lately. There are so many people hurting and so many things wrong…and people seem to be flipping out over things that are, in my opinion, entirely pointless. Athletes aren’t standing for the national anthem and suddenly people are having meltdowns? Shouldn’t we be more worried about the war of words and egos between “Rocket Boy” and “Dotard” that could very quickly escalate into a very real war? Or what about climate change? Aren’t those things that should really matter? I’m just one person who doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, so what can I do about them anyway?
Put a little good out into the world to try to offset all of the bad that I keep seeing around me daily. That’s all I can really do. That’s all I can hope to do with my meager resources and influence. Just a little good.
Logan works a secretive job, one that I can’t know the specifics. The whole complex is guarded and I’ve only been on site once, for an approved family day where they opened up the grounds and a few buildings to show people that jobs exist. To work where he works, you have to be a sole U.S. citizen (not a dual citizen and especially not illegal) and there was a very rigorous security clearance process that involved sending people out to interview almost every single person he knew at the time, myself included.
Why did I even mention Logan’s job? Because in the wake of the devastation from Hurricane Maria, I feel like citizens of our country are being ignored. In his small, secluded group that work in a locked, guarded room together, he has two Puerto Rican coworkers. Two guys in an already select group, that make up a huge organization, so you know the numbers grow exponentially as you spread outwards.
Both guys are floundering currently. One has no clue if his girlfriend is okay. The other hasn’t heard anything from his entire family. Can you even begin to imagine not knowing how your loved ones are? Most of us start to panic if somebody doesn’t answer the phone or return a text after a few minutes. It has been almost a week since Hurricane Maria tore over one of OUR territories and left nothing but devastation and heartache in her wake. Puerto Ricans are our fellow country men and women and we’re leaving them in the dark. Were Irma and Harvey horrible events? Sure, but fortunately they weren’t islands. People still had ways to move about, to reach out and find resources, contact their families, find a safe and sanitary place to sleep. The outcry for aid was strong and it was all I saw on my social media and news. After Maria, all I’ve seen is outrage over football players.
…so I’m helpless to help and frustrated at being so useless.
I did the only thing I know how to do. I did the southern thing (well, what Logan and I perceive to be southern — we haven’t noticed it as a trend up here, so please correct me if I’m wrong!) and I sent them food. On Monday, Logan went to work with a loaf of pumpkin bread for both of his coworkers. When somebody has hit a rough patch, you feed them. It’s one less thing they have to worry about and homemade food is always good for your spirits, right?
When his group is having a particularly hard time on a project, I’ll whip up some cookies or send in a cake. Logan likes it because it wins him some epic brownie points in a company that seems so highly food-motivated. …and I get to enjoy that glow of knowing that while I can’t fix their problems or actually do anything to really help them, I maybe took away even a bit of stress, even if it’s just for a minute while they’re nomming down.
There’s where the cynicism comes in though. Giving should be altruistic, shouldn’t it? I baked the pumpkin bread because I wanted so desperately to be able to do something for both of those guys and knew that, realistically, there wasn’t a thing I -could- do that would actually be useful. I can’t afford to fly them down to see their family, assuming they could even get flights home. I certainly can’t fix the infrastructure or our crumbling political system. I can only do something I’m moderately good at, which is cooking. Everybody has to eat.
I still get something out of it, though. I still get to feel like I helped. I still get to feel a bit of relief that I did something, anything… I get to hope that I took their minds off a horrible situation, even for a split second, when Logan surprised them by giving them the pumpkin bread.
…and now, a day later, I get to enjoy the high from complements and thanks I wasn’t seeking. Or was I secretly wanting that validation? Is that what drove me to do it? I hope not. I’m fairly confident in my ability to cook and bake but I have to admit it’s really nice to have the appreciation.
Logan said one of the guys took his bread to share at a meeting with other Puerto Ricans on Monday to spread the love and they devoured it and sent back loads of appreciation and commendation. The other guy shared some with his cube-mates and then took the rest home to his girlfriend. The people there all seem really kind and giving, so I’m glad it was spread around even more. Supposedly Logan was even told he was lucky to have me from a guy who apparently didn’t even like pumpkin. To be fair, I also know that guy and am fond of him; he’s eaten dinner with us and filched some meat pies I’ve packed for Logan’s lunch before, so at least he has more experience to base his judgement. ;P
Putting a little good into the world makes me want to do it even more. Again, though, I can’t but question my motives. Am I doing it for me or for them? Who am I really helping?
Logan asked if I would make some fried apple pies for him to take to work. I think he also likes the attention and good will. I’ll make some this weekend. I have plenty of apple pie filling I canned last year using Cortlands that we picked. It shouldn’t take long to whip up a big batch of mini pies. Most of his coworkers have pretty easy lives, but you never know what is boiling beneath the surface. Some of them are having issues with their kids, or are suffering from losses, or are just downright lonely or stressed. It’s weird what little things — tiny little things like a random, homemade fried pie at work can sometimes do to make someone’s day a bit more bearable.
I’m also working on my secret “30 for 30” project. This December, my sister would have turned 30 years old. It’s crazy to believe…and even harder to think that she’s not been with us for eleven years now.
I want to make 30 pillow cases (I use the “Hot Dog” method) to donate to our local Ronald McDonald House (or possibly the one in New Haven, CT if I venture down that way before then). We spent a lot of time staying in various houses while either she or Dad were at hospitals. They’re such a fantastic resource for families and patients and we always loved staying at them, especially the one in New Haven.
The houses are always in need of volunteers and all kinds of supplies, and since I sew and have a bunch of cute children fabric on hand, I thought some pillow cases would be fun. The house can keep them for the rooms or even give them to the kids so they have something bright to take to the hospitals with them…it really doesn’t matter to me. We would have loved pillow cases with Miss Spider or Babar on them at either place, so hopefully the kids staying there now will too. I’ll freely admit that I’d still love a Babar pillow so may make myself one when I’m done. 😛
Maybe that’s enough for me, I should quit analyzing (yah right) my motives and just ask:
If I was in x situation, what would I want somebody who had the same resources/skills available as I do, to realistically do? What would actually help to make my life a bit better?
…and I think I’ll always settle on the answer: Put a little good out into the world.