It seems like lately my husband and I look at each other on Monday evening and say, “Is it really still just Monday?” Each day seems long and packed from start to finish. My kids have been in day camp since last week. It’s great for them to get out of the house and be with friends (mostly outdoors, wearing masks), but rather than basking in a few hours of reduced interruptions (and it’s really just a few hours, not a whole day), we both feel like their time out of the house disappears in a flash, and meanwhile, the effort of preparing them for camp (packing lunch, snacks and bathing suits, as well as applying sunscreen and reminding them to wear hats and masks) is completely exhausting. My daughter’s limited mobility makes getting them into the car and navigating the drop off and pick up lines even more challenging.
On the bright side, being in camp has really been beneficial to their physical and emotional health. They come home happy, and are tired enough to sleep better at night. That makes it all worthwhile for me.
But I think that’s why, even though I went to bed somewhat earlier the last two nights, I am as tired on Wednesday as I would expect to be on Friday.
I continue to be proud of my consistent streak of blogging about our experience during COVID-19, but I let myself take a break the last two days. I realized that I was staying up later at night to put my thoughts together, whereas in the beginning of this adventure, I managed to find time to blog during downtime at work. July happens to be an especially busy month for my job, with lots of grant reports due, so I suppose it’s understandable that I have less energy to put into blogging.
Still, I hope my schedule will even out, and I’ll find the peace of mind and time (just about 20 minutes a day!) to continue recording my thoughts. Some weeks I’ve been really proud of my insights and creativity (if I say so myself). Others, like this one, it’s still therapeutic and beneficial just to have a release for my feelings, and a record to look back on all we’ve been through.
In a lot of businesses, things slow down over the summer. However, in my job, July is one of the busiest months of the year. That’s because the fiscal year closes on June 30, and there are multiple grant reports due in the weeks that follow.
I was feeling a little bit full of my own importance this week as I juggled multiple reports, from several departments on vastly different programs. So much responsibility invested in me. And, then, I got a gentle reminder that the work I do merely supports the infinitely more difficult work of career counselors, social workers, case managers, service coordinators, paralegals, and attorneys.
In a meeting about one of our programs, I learned about a heart-wrenching situation involving one of the agency’s clients. It was the kind of news that stopped me in my tracks and made me realize that I am incredibly fortunate to support the work of the brave souls who serve the poor, the young, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, the immigrants and refugees, and other extremely vulnerable members of our community. I remind myself all the time that I could not handle the responsibilities of our frontline workers, and that is not hyperbole or false modesty.
Every day they see people living in impossible circumstances — often the real-life representations of statistics most of us just hear on the news — and in many cases, there is very little they can do to “remove the barriers” as we say in the business. And yet, they find small ways of making things a little bit better. When someone is facing eviction because they can’t afford their rent, sometimes there is financial assistance available, and often there are other things that can help — assistance with child care so they can hold a regular job, enrollment in utility programs so they have enough cash for the rent. Every little bit of assistance is a step in a bigger plan. Over time, people’s lives are changed for the better. Sometimes, their lives are literally saved.
Before I started my job, I didn’t have a full appreciation for the daily grind of living in poverty. Being poor is not just a matter of making difficult financial decisions or learning to live without some of life’s comforts. It is actually a daily exercise in survival, where there are often no good options, and every choice you make can have devastating consequences.
My boss, Dana Gold, has developed a game that simulates the daily decision-making process of people in poverty. I know some of my friends are all too familiar with the scenarios depicted in the game, but for others, it may be eye-opening to see how missing a day of work because of illness or dealing with an expensive car repair can plunge a person into the vicious cycle of poverty that is hard to escape.
In our culture, sometimes people joke about being poor because they are overextended in one way or another. But real poverty is not a laughing matter. If you’ve been fortunate enough to not understand this through experience, you might benefit from checking out https://brokethegame.com/.