Thursday, January 30, 2014

More Blatherings about the Poor

I'll get off this anti-poverty kick in a few days, I'm sure. For one thing, I'm about to spend a couple of weeks in Ocala with my horse, which is pretty damn far away from helping the poor. Also, the Olympics are coming, and I'm planning a whole week of posts ramping up to the Olympics. I LOVE the Olympics. Warning: you'll find out why.

But. Yesterday I did haul my whining self to FIA. Good thing, too, because on a normal day we're staffed by the executive director, the program director, and 6 volunteers. Yesterday 2 of the volunteers didn't make it in, and another, who was just out of the hospital and should have known better than to even try to come in, bless her, had to go home partway through. All the clients with appointments showed up, and also quite a few more, and the phones never. stopped. ringing. We were flying.

About halfway through the day I paused long enough to post on Facebook, "Attention Bristolians: Bristol Faith in Action needs your cold hard cash." I'm always an advocate for BFIA, but I rarely solicit directly like that. Only, yesterday has become typical for us, in terms of need. At the start of 2014 we upped the number of interviews we do (for financial assistance, as opposed to commodities like diapers) from 10-12 per day to 12-15. We're still booked solid until next Friday. Not tomorrow--the week after that. And since people typically call us within a few days of being in real trouble (such as having their lights cut off) this sort of lead time means that some people won't even bother to make appointments. We're bracing ourselves for next month, when the electricity bills associated with this round of cold weather come in.

[As an aside, down here in the South we mostly heat with heat pumps. They're quite efficient as air conditioners, and pretty good heaters until it gets below 20 degrees, when they really can't keep up. So even people with very energy-efficient homes are going to get some staggering bills next month.]

So. I threw out the bat-signal, and people responded. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but I was. The only time I started to cry yesterday was not in front of a client, or when telling our director about a client. It was when my phone beeped and a long-time friend who lives a long way from Bristol emailed to tell me she'd decided to make regular monthly donations to FIA. It was so unexpected, and so loving--though I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, as I've seen evidence of her heart before. Her initials are the same as mine, and we've always called each other by them. So thanks, KBB. You know who you are.

Here's the only client story from yesterday that I'll share. I call a man (substantially younger than me) in from the waiting room, and notice he limps. "Oh no," I say, "did you sprain your ankle?"

"No, ma'am," he says politely. "It's from a few years back. Combat injury."

P.S. Just before I left the house yesterday morning, my sleepy tousled daughter came down the stairs reading my blog post on her phone. "Oh, Mama," she said, "we'll have tea and cookies and watch Downton when you get home." And we did.