Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's not so bad...

It's seems to me that every hour of every day, we are hearing of how heartless and uncaring society has gotten. In fact, there are entire television channels dedicated to 24/7 reporting of all the bad that is going on all over the world.

But I want to share with you, some of my recent observations.

We have a levels system at my work, to reward kids for good behavior. Once the kids get to a certain level, they get to pick a special food once a week as a reward. Last week, they all voted that they wanted burgers from McDonald's.

I left the premises and drove to a nearby McDonald's. As I pulled into the driveway, I saw two small children hurry over to a truck in the parking lot. A heavy set man with his leg in a splint and walking with a walker, followed slowly behind them.

As he got half way through the driveway, I watched him lose his balance and fall on the ground. I quickly realized he was struggling and didn't have the strength to pull himself back up. The two small children tried desperately to pull on his arms to help him up, but none of them were having any success.

I stepped out of my car to go help him, and as I approached, I was just one of a swarm of people that rushed to his side. It only took me, and a well dressed business looking man, to help him up. I grabbed one arm and the business man grabbed the other, I counted to 3, then we lifted and the man came to a stand.

As he thanked us profusely, I looked around and saw the large crowd of people that surrounded. People had run over from the other side of the busy street, people had gotten out of their cars in the parking lot, and people had come running out of the McDonald's lobby. All had hurried to his side, hoping they could do something to help him.

 I was left inspired and uplifted by the sight. No one had ignored him, no one laughed at him, and everyone who had witnessed it seemed to care. I was left thinking, Wow, there are still some good people left in the world. 

 It reminded me of this past year, when I had many times metaphorically fallen down. Each time, there were people there wanting to help me up.

At the beginning of 2014 I was involved in 3 separate and major incidents in about a months span, from February to March. Each were very traumatic, and left me feeling rattled to my very core. I tried my best to shake it off, and make myself believe I wasn't effected by what had happened.

By the end of March, I was still feeling very "off" but couldn't pinpoint what was the problem. Many months later I found through talk therapy that the problem was me going through a very normal process of coping with what had happened early in the year. But in the beginning, I did not correlate my exhaustion, lack of joy and excitement, and loss of interest and motivation, to be related to my earlier experiences.

In the beginning, I spoke to my general practitioner about my struggle, and he thought it sounded like I was depressed and he prescribed me some anti depressants. The drugs were great! I bounced back. Life was enjoyable again, I felt motivated and interested in tasks again, and was having a heck of an adventure every day of life.

But there was one very pricey side effect. A side effect I am still paying for to this day...literally.

I loss all self control. I became impulsive. It was a logic of, "I thought it, therefore I did it." I would get an idea in my head, get overly excited about it, then would make it happen without thinking of the consequences. I wanted this merchandise, therefore I opened up a line of credit and got it. I wanted to go see this place, therefore I got in my car and drove there. I wanted a dog, therefore I went and picked one out, without taking into consideration how expensive caring for animals can be. Never did I stop to think if I could really afford it, or what important things (like school or work) I would miss if I left town, I just did stuff with out ever thinking.

I have to admit, it was extremely fun. I had a blast while it lasted. But the long term consequences were so not worth it!

My actions did not begin to catch up to me until early June. I was driving though Kentucky, on my way home from an excursion across the entire east coast, when my car engine began to struggle. I looked down and realized my gas tank was empty. I was relieved when I looked out and saw a gas station right by me. I pulled up and swiped my debit card, and was shocked to discover my card was declined. I swiped it a couple more times, standing there in denial.

Remember how I said I opened lines of credit when I wanted something? Well the payments had begun with me totally forgetting about them. My checking account was empty and I was still over 500 miles from home.

This was the beginning of my trouble, and the beginning of me seeing just how much beauty still exists in humanity.

I was stranded. I made a remark on facebook, that I was about to get my first experience panhandling for gas money to get home. I was so scared, but I tried to make a joke out of it all. I went to sleep in my car praying that a miracle would occur when I woke up. Sure enough, it did. A relative that I have not seen in years, sent me a message to give them a call, because they had wired money to the gas station I was at, to help me get home.

I would like to say that was the end of it, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Soon, money was being demanded from everywhere. I had to begin working 80 hour weeks just to be able to pay rent. Cable got shut off, electric got threatened, my bed was nearly repossessed, and I had no money for food or clothes. I was working more hours than anyone should ever have to, and seeing no end to it, and getting no reward. I worked like crazy and never had any money. I had to eat the food staff was given at work, and sell my blood plasma to have enough money to fill my gas tank and feed my dog.

This was when I heard about the Tulsa Dream Center. I had no work pants, because they were all ripped and stained and worn out. I found out the Dream Center gave free clothes out to the community, no questions asked. I felt ashamed as I walked in, thinking, "I'm stealing from poor people" but then remembered, "oh wait, I am poor."

They were so warm and welcoming. They prayed with me, listened to me vent about my recent financial woes, connected me to their free grocery program, and walked me in to their clothes closet. It was so ironic when I found some old clothing that I had donated in the past. I said to myself, "Wow, the giver has become the receiver."

My paycheck looked like I must be rich. I made tons of money. But because of all I had done in the months before, I had nothing now. I thought for sure there was no help for me because I made too much money. Soon I found lots of caring people who understood my situation and didn't judge me by my mistakes. I was networked to organizations that could help support me even though I didn't fit the mold of a needy person.

I was directed to an organization that helped me find affordable therapy, which was able to help me deal with what was the real problem, and slowly wean me off the anti depressants that had messed me up so bad.

And it wasn't just organizations that helped me. Every time I had an important need that I couldn't afford, someone stepped in to cover the cost. Every time I thought I was going to have to miss a meal, a friend or co-worker offered to take me out to eat as their treat without me even mentioning I was about to go hungry.
My car once ran out of gas on my way to work. I only had $2 and buying a gas can alone cost more than that. Not to mention I would then have no money for gas. When the gas station clerk said they could not lend me a can, a person in line offered theirs.  They drove me back to my car, and helped me get it started. Then they surprised me by saying they wanted to fill my gas tank for me.

As school began again, I realized the wisest thing to do was to move back into the dorms. That way I would not be struggling so much to pay rent. But I was faced with a dilemma... my dog... my sweet, snuggle, hyper, obnoxious, intuitive, protective, best friend Lily. If I moved back into the dorms, I would have to give her up, and the thought of doing that crushed me.

I moved into the dorms, but out of desperation in wanting to keep the dog, I kept the apartment just for her sake, until the lease was up in November. I kept working 80hr weeks, trying to pay rent and bills on top of going to school and by the time the lease was up, I knew there was no way I could keep working that much and keep my grades up. My grades were plummeting.

That's when another beautiful thing happened. People stepped up to take care of Lily for me until I could take her back. One person kept her for two months until their living situation changed and they couldn't anymore. Then another person stepped up to take her for two weeks until their living situation abruptly changed, and then a third person stepped up to take her in. All complete strangers at first, who I am so very thankful for. People who didn't know me, didn't know Lily, and had no obligation to help, but offered to take her in for a few months so that I would not have to give her up forever.

Another beautiful act of humanity, was my teachers. When I told them the struggles I was having, and the hours I was having to work, they all had grace on me. You know, grace is such an amazing thing. Thinking you are doomed, when someone gives grace and changes the entire experience. The teachers pushed back deadlines for me, gave me more time on things that had passed, and created extra credit opportunities for me to make up for things I had already missed or failed.

You never know how much you have, until you have nothing left to give.
Family, friends, teachers, co-workers, and complete strangers all stepped in to help me up, each time something knocked me down.

Humanity is wonderful.

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