Q. What got you into this situation?
A. What do you mean?
Q. What got you into a situation where you would need to ask others for money?
Then it was like a dam broke as he began telling me his story. In the meantime I had pulled out $2 which would have been enough for bus fare. He tried to give back a dollar and I told him to just keep it. Some of what he shared was:
- On unemployment
- Child support was being deducted from his check so he could not afford a place to live so shuffled around and stayed in a hotel a couple of nights when he could afford it.
- His job was a temporary seasonal job selling time shares with the summer over he wasn't very optimistic about his prospects
- He had come out from New York (I had noticed the strong accent but couldn't place it)
- He came to be close to his child and the mother but they didn't really want much to do with him until he was able to get things together
- People he knew had encouraged him to get a job and then a place but he thought he should get the place first so he would be able to shower and stay clean. I told him I agreed with his friends and told him about the temporary agencies.
- Nobody wanted to help him
Right as this man was leaving another man walked up in about the same age group. As soon as the first man left the other spoke up "Can you spare a cigarette?" Then the bus showed up.
This happened a few days ago and I have thought of him often. It made me sad. The man didn't have a clue and was drowning in his own confusion. There is a book I have heard of titled All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten . I have not read the entire book but I love the title. With that in mind there is a jump rope song that comes to mind: "Sally and Jimmy sitting in the tree K I S S I N G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage."
He was clueless. I thought all morning about him, myself, and others I have known that have gotten themselves in situations to some degree or another whose root cause was relationships. I had what is now often referred to as an epiphany. Almost everyone I had met or known that was struggling in this way and clueless as to the order of things was either an Adult Child of an Alcoholic and/or had come from a broken home. (I don't like that phase and label but use it now to reach a common knowledge of what I am referring to). It is as if a person have missed the class on Life 101 and was clueless at figuring it all out. The consequences became years of the school of hard knocks where they stumble through jobs, relationships, parenthood and often compounding the problems by their own use of alcohol or having close relationships with those who do.
They can receive any amount of public assistance the society wants to throw at them but it will not solve the problem because the root is not money but education in the life lessons that those who know them don't even recognize need to be taught. Let's take a easy example from a dating situation. If a person who has knowledge of how relationships should work gets stood up on a date or in some way is treated in a manner that they find less than ok what will they do? Break it off before it goes further. That is not what will happen with those who have not taken Life 101. They will excuse it, argue about it, or not even notice that they have just been treated disrespectfully. The relationship will generally continue yet in a unaffirming manner.
The greatest challenges I suspect come to those who think that the high school years are party time. Instead of planning education, careers, and developing skills for the future they are planning how to get drunk, laid, or get through class while not doing the homework.
If I am correct, then we need a different approach. Those who are weighing down the welfare roles are no better or worse than anyone else but while others were learning about life, responsibility, and how to succeed they were muddling through not quite sure why things were not working. The dreams are the same they just don't know how to make them come true. They have missed the fundamentals of life, honor, and the keys to successful relationships. How would they indeed know them if they have not lived them in their homes and were either abandoned, abused, or had a parent that was just drunk.
How do I know? I have lived there. My credentials do not come from a school but from a life lived in OJT.
So what can be done? I hope that readers who are active in the community, schools, and churches will consider what I am saying and how they might have a positive impact with the kids and young adults who have missed the class on LIFE 101. Hold them accountable but at the same time provide the tools, information, and education that is needed to succeed. Sometimes it might be a hand on the shoulder of encouragement and sometimes it may mean telling it like it is when they are going down the wrong track. Basically, take the time to go beyond the foolish behavior to see the person underneath. Indefinite welfare is not the answer. Don't hand them a fish, teach them to fish.
Please note: It is difficult to write a post of this nature and wonder if my intent may be misunderstood or taken out of context of who I am. So in order to help provide that context let me say that I am thankful for and believe we need the social programs we have. However, I also believe they need time limits such as six months to a year coupled with education and auditing. The education I am referring to is life skill seminars such as making and living on a budget, economic cooking, parenting classes, finding a job workshops. These would be part of a case by case interview and need assessment. I don't know about you but buying chips and pop with food stamps just doesn't sit well with me.