Today, at a middle school in town where my co-workers kids go to school, a child was choking and the principal stepped and gave the student the Heimlich maneuver. The student was fine.
Another friend of mine gave a virtual stranger a hug who was crying and really appeared to need it.
There’s so much that people do for others that we aren’t always aware of. Things people to do help others who are struggling. This, to me, is the essence of what makes people good. It’s the kind of thing that makes me able to deal with difficult news stories and hard days and look forward to the future.
Sometimes, we do things for others without really thinking about it. Our taxes, for example, go to help pay for things like unemployment and welfare for those who are down on their luck. In the depression, everyone was down on their luck. People worked to help each other. They found ways to survive, together.
I have been the recipient of public assistance twice in my life thus far. Once when I was in high school and my mother received it. Due to an acrimonious divorce, she ended up with ruined credit and had a very difficult time finding a job because my father worked to make sure nobody in town would hire her. At one point, she worked as a short order cook in a diner making minimum wage. It was hard to buy me any Jordache jeans or pay for field trips. I ran a business out of my locker selling hall passes I had stolen from the office, dirty newspapers, and snack bags of stuff like Doritos and Cheetos I got mom to buy me for my lunch money. She was grateful for the assistance money. I was grateful for the spaghetti and sharp American cheese we got from her standing in line. It was filling and tasty.
When I graduated from college, I was extremely sick. I knew nothing of things like Medicaid and held a series of part-time jobs I would have to quit when my illness interfered with the work. I was on public assistance then, and was very grateful for it. I made such terrible money. Food stamps enabled me to eat really great foods I couldn’t have bought on my own. And while I lived on credit for most of the rest of my existence, I was glad I had the help when I needed it for the food. I worked to get better and better jobs. My benefits were cut little by little and eventually, I was no longer eligible, though I wasn’t exactly raking in the dough. I make quite a bit more than that now. For the last 24 years, I’ve worked harder and harder to get better and better jobs, but I’ve never forgotten how humbling it is to take help when you need it.
I am glad that some of my paycheck now goes towards helping people who are down on their luck, towards people who need healthcare and couldn’t get it before. Some will be more down on their luck than I was, and for a longer period of time. They may struggle with addiction, not have great friends and family to help lift them up. They may not have been able to benefit from a college education, which helped me understand better how the world works and give me skills that let me work harder and smarter to improve myself. Hell, they may not even be able to read that well. They may have children to support because they didn’t know you could go to Planned Parenthood and get free birth control if you were broke enough. At least, you can for now. Some folks are working hard to change that.
As we proceed in this bitter, nasty election year, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that you’re either the kind of person who will help people who are less fortunate, or the type of person that puts their boot on the neck of the human who is down and loudly complains to them and anyone else who will listen about how they are interfering with the bootholder’s better-off existence.
Frankly, it makes me sick.
I’m working pretty hard to make sure I don’t raise one of those people.