On the road today, met with 2 individuals separately whom have left an inprint on me. Here is a snippet of their stories.
Meg is a 40 something woman living in a trailer park in a nicely decorated, welcoming mini-home. A year ago, she separated from her husband and she has found herself alone and on welfare because she is suffering from various physical and psychological ailments. These illnesses have been haunting her for many years and affecting her ability to live without pain. Consequently, I met with her to help her apply for a disability pension, which would give her a tiny bit more money to live on. My role was to complete a social assessment to accompany the medical documentation, then pull together the application on her behalf to be presented to a medical board for review.
She has suffered from anxiety and depression for close to 20 years after caring for her dying parents, one after another and then experiencing the deaths of several other family members and friends all in a space of 10 years. She never recovered. Since then, she has developed fibromyalgia and is presently being tested for arthritis and lupus. She lives on $490.00 dollars a month, and obviously has to rely on the food bank and the generosity of her sister to get by. Her ex-husband is dealing with his own financial woes, though is still working. Her medical coverage is supplied by his company. However, in order to have her many prescriptions paid for, she must pay them upfront, send the receipts to her ex who holds onto them until he feels he has enough to put in a claim, and then sends her the money to cover to previous costs whenever..................
Normally, I jot down bits of information and details on the assessment form in order to jog my memory when I return to my office to complete it formally. However, it was apparent that Meg was nervous, so I sat the pen down to engage her in a conversation. Two hours later, we had covered a mountain, most of which will never make it to the assessment form. In between talking about the necessary details, we shared parts of our lives with one another and came to a place of common ground where we laughed about being in our 40's, about some of the crazy things on television, about family and sisters and pets and friends and about living in Fredericton. We cracked a couple of jokes about the TV show "The Trailer Park Boys" which she believes she is now living............ But the story that will stay with me is about her dog, Willie, who is the love of her life.
Willie is a jet black Cocker Spaniel whom Meg rescued last October. She and her friend who also had her own dog of the same breed would visit this friend's sister who lived on a local Reserve. The friend's sister had purchased Willie for $1,200.00 as a puppy, and then promptly kept it on a very short lead tied to the table leg outside. The length of the lead was so short that Willie had no way of moving around. Meg found the scene heartbreaking. It left her worrying and crying on several occasions when they would leave this home. For about a month, she couldn't get Willie off her mind, despite the fact that her friends tried to convince her to stop thinking about it. One night after seeing Willie tied up again, she couldn't sleep worried about this little puppy. So, the next day she phoned this friend's sister to see if she would give Willie to her to care for. Knowing that the S.P.C.A. would not intervene because the dog was on the Reserve, she felt it was the only recourse.
Meg was told that they would sell her the dog for $600.00. Six dollars would've been difficult for her to scrape up. Six hundred was impossible. Initially, Meg felt completely defeated but the dog's situation wouldn't leave her mind. Knowing that she had her diamond engagement ring and wedding ring sitting in her drawer would never be worn again, she made an offer to trade them for the dog, rather than pawn them for extra money to pay for more food and other needed items for herself. They accepted the offer. Willie was given to Meg.
When she returned, her friends at the trailer park fell in love with the dog as well Since then, they have helped her pay for dog food and vet bills. Willie is safe and secure. He has brought joy to many kids and people in that small community.
Meg's openness in telling me that story made me feel honoured to have heard it. When it was time for me to leave, I felt that I had made a new friend.
Full of many thoughts of Meg and her struggles, I continued on my morning. The next stop was supposed to be a short visit where I was to meet a young man who needed to sign a form in order for a government employee to review his case/situation......... Normally this process is completed in the office, but since I was on the road and he had no money to make the trip into the office, I told him I would swing by to get his signature.
John lives in a boarding house situated above a gasbar/convenience store that I pass often oblivious to the fact that 15 men live there..........until today. We met in the back parking lot free of other's ears. Rooming houses and emergency shelters are completely void of privacy. So is being a welfare recipient.
I knew little of John's background, though enough to know that he had a history of run-ins with the law. Notes indicated that he had "anger" issues, however, I was confident based on the conversations I had had with him over the phone that this wasn't going to be an issue during my contact with him. I was right, and my 5 minute signature capturing turned into an hour and a half of talking.
John is a 32 year old single man with several health issues as well. He inherited a heart condition which killed his own father at 35. This fact troubles him deeply as he struggles (on $490.00 a month) to try to eat a proper diet etc in order to combat the inevitable. He also has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which has manifested itself in various bizarre ways all his life. He grew up in group homes, foster homes, and youth "training" centres. His petty crime ways kept him in and out of trouble and jail until his mid-20's when he "woke up" and has been trying to find his purpose in the work world. What struck me about John was his intelligence...........creative, intuitive, street smart, and filled with legitimate "business ideas." Our conversation ran the gamut and lasted close to 2 hours........... he and I standing the parking lot in the back of a boarding house along the old Trans Canada highway chatting...........
Though most of our topics were serious in nature, we did manage to share a couple of laughs at the absurdity of life, at the frustrations of trying to deal with bureaucracy, at the struggles we find ourselves in. When I finally had to curtail our conversation, which easily could've carried on for another marathon run, I saw before me a very different person than I had when we first introduced ourselves. This big burly unshaven angry man with so many issues had relaxed and softened. With honesty, we both admitted to one another how much we enjoyed our conversation and made plans for him to contact me in the fall to continue where we left off.
A morning of relearning many things for me.........................that was reinforced when reading later about the Gospel that tells the story of the fishes and the loaves.
You give a little, or what little you have and it expands and grows in ways that can fulfill both you and many others..................in abundance. Who needs grand ambitions when one makes more of an impact by sharing and connecting with another human being?
I need to rethink my ambitions......................