During a job interview I had yesterday, I was asked this question, "Do you feel fortunate?" I can honestly say I have never been asked this question by anyone where I have applied for a job. The question had me stumped for a moment. Not because I didn't know my answer, but because it was even asked by someone representing a global company. The company gave the questions for the interviewer to ask. She asked me questions from a list given to her on a piece of paper, and wrote down my responses in the space provided. I got the feeling the interviewer herself didn't really care what my answers were. She was just there to ask them, and would then turn the list, and my answers, over to someone who does care.
My answer? Yes, I feel fortunate. She then asked, "How so?" I didn't tell her all that I am about to say here, but I did give her the short of it. So I told her in so many words...
Many people would look at my life the past several years and wonder how it is I can say I feel fortunate, and mean it. For I have lived in a state of poverty, not having any means of supporting myself. I haven't worked, couldn't find a job, or anyone to hire me. Most of the time I didn't even have any money to put fuel in my car to go out there to find work. So I used the internet. I was fortunate to have access to the internet, saving what fuel I did have for the drive to a prospective job opportunity. Other than that, I really didn't drive anywhere. I was pretty much house bound. Which, for those who know me well, was like a kind of torture in itself. I love to go for a drive...just because. From day to day, I literally didn't know where my next dollar was going to come from. Yet my basic needs were met. They were met by the good graces of people who cared.
I walked through a devastating divorce, then my mother had a debilitating stroke, and so I lived in a family of people who were nearly as poor as I was. My mother was not receiving the care she could have, and it grieved me beyond words that I could not provide for her what she needed for healing. My daughter and her husband struggled with finding jobs as well. We had people, family who had an opportunity, and the means, to help us in so many ways, yet chose to "help" by letting us know what we had done wrong to get where we were instead, while also pointing out what we needed to do, and of course, anything we were doing was all wrong in their eyes...all good reasons, they told themselves from afar, for not giving, not reaching out a helping hand to those in need.
Yet they didn't see us as "those in need." We were just poor relations, failures, losers who were looking to "take" from them of their precious material good. I sensed an almost palpable feeling of gladness in them that we had actually fallen. Proof that "giving" leads people to where we were. They were right about not giving, and we, my mother, were the perfect example of why they were right. Like they could finally be proven right about what a mess we all were, which gave them the opportunity to say what they'd wanted to say for years.
I've often wondered what the definition for "those in need" is to them...these good Christian folk they pretend to be. How is it they can live their lives helping those in need from their church or political affiliation, and completely ignore those on their very doorstep? Well, that's too messy isn't it? No, they judged instead. What they did actually give they expected a return. Oh, not money, but a say in how to lead our lives. The message behind the giving, "do what I say or you don't get anything from me." Like folks who will give to a poor man on the street only if he doesn't buy booze with it. Whose to say that that drink he buys isn't the very thing to keep him alive for one more day, giving him Grace, until one day he wakes up and says, "I'm done. I'm getting help." You could be the one to help him stay alive one more day to reach that day of awakening. So...Fuck you. Not one actually listened. Not one. You were too busy wanting to hear the sound of your own voice.
Through it all we faced judgment and were attacked on all fronts, while our lives reeled out of control. We got talk...that's all we received from these folks who claimed to give a shit. Talk. Not one stepped out of their nice comfort zone to give anything but talk. Thanks.
And my mother...my mother was slowly waking up to the fact that not one of you gave a damn about her. Not where it counts. Her greatest fear was realized on so many levels I don't know how she remained standing. Her strength and perserverence inspires me. Perhaps she did put it into play, perhaps she did bring it about, who am I to say? But that doesn't mean that she is not allowed Grace. That doesn't mean that when she falls, there is no one there to pick her back up. She and I have had our battles, and we've not ever really seen eye to eye, but she is, at the bottom of it all, a human being just like the rest of us, fumbling along, trying to get it right, hoping for the best, even when the best never shows itself. And you judged her for being too giving! Even stated that if she got rid of her children...her children!...then you'd be more willing to help her. Again...fuck you! Do you have any idea what you were asking of her?! The love for us has been, and continues to be the very thing she needs to keep going. You suggested she rip out her heart! Who are you to judge her, and what she does? Even if you do not agree with what she does, or how she does it, or to whom she gives it, it is not, has never been, and will never be, for you to judge, and let that be your reason for not giving when she takes a fall. I'll say it again...fuck you!
So I left, for many reasons I left. I considered my action carefully. I prayed for the highest good of all of us. Yet my hope was that by leaving, then maybe, just maybe you would stand forth and finally give her the help she so needed. I left so you would not have any more excuses for not giving. You still found excuses. You still did not help. So I came back. I came back to help the only way I could.
By being present.
For my mother. For my daughter. For my son-in-law. For my own conscience. If I could give nothing else, then I could give my presence, to show that I gave a damn. And you know what? I learned, through it all, I learned that even if I have nothing else to contribute monetarily, I still have something of value to give. I can give myself, my very presence, and all the love I have to bring, whatever that looks like. And that means more than any thing this world has to give. I can stand for my daughter and son-in-law. I can be the voice of encouragement, the voice of "can do," the voice that says yes to their dreams, the touch, the massage, the hug, the voice of compassion and forgiveness. I can stand for my mother, and be the silent presence that loves her even when she doesn't believe it. I can be the voice of hope in her hopelessness and despair. I can be the tear that cries when she cannot. I can voice the prayer of her heart when she has lost all words. I can be her words. I can be the one who sees she can stand up again. I can be her faith when her own faith has faltered. I can be there by her side holding a hand out to her when she finds the strength to lift herself up and reach out. I can let go when she needs to learn to walk again on her own, even if it pisses her off. I can stand there and take it when her anger and rage over her situation needs an outlet. It is no less than she gave to me years ago.
I can stand. I can stand for those I love until help comes. I can give what I understand to be Grace until the real Grace shows up. And it did come. It came through my brother, and my neighbors who are not much better financially than we are. It came through my friends who saw me through it all, even when they could do nothing because they themselves had little, but they gave me a voice to vent, to work out my own shit. They gave me a pocket of time and space so I could heal and restore, so I wouldn't burden my family with it. It came through my roommates who moved mountains to bring me here when the time had come for me to leave. It has come through Ben, the man who owns the house in which I live, who provides a space of such peace to be unequaled anywhere in this day and age. He guards this space well, sacred is his way, and I am now a guardian of it as well. It came through his mother, whose generosity is what moves her. It has come through the people I work with at Mcdonalds, who love me and my presence, in such a short amount of time, and are not afraid to show it and say so. They have already moved in ways to keep me close to them, keep me on their shift. They have no idea the balm they've provided for my soul. Grace came through the poor in spirit, those who give for Giving's sake, because they care, who expect nothing in return.
Blessed are they.
Do I feel fortunate? Oh yes, I do indeed. For while it was tempting to lose my own faith, to give up hope, to see all that I don't have, I had the capacity and presence of mind to face each day with gratitude for what I had. I am thankful for the practice of gratitude, and for God revealing it to me so many years ago. I am thankful that I can even be thankful. I am thankful for my ability to see that in the midst of seeming lack, I have something of way more value than any material thing on this planet. I have Love and Grace. I live and breathe, have my being, within It...and from there I have more than enough to contribute to this world and to fellow human beings. I can care, I can give a shit what happens to you, and do more than even that, I can show it, manifest it.
Yes, I am fortunate indeed.