"Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer."--Dorothy Day


Three (or more) Beautiful Things.

Beautiful things to begin the middle of the week...

(1) Instant friends. (Bring It!)

(2) Austin Public Radio.

(3) The fact that New Yorkers enjoy wearing scarves in August.

(4) Having a lovely roommate who will gladly bring me my keys rather than expecting me to sleep in the lobby.

(5) New friends having finally made it to NYC after an arduous move.

(6) A new tattoo.


On Illness...

At the beginning of May, as a means to combat my vocational frustration, I began facilitating a support group for people living with HIV and AIDS at the GMHC. It has a been a somewhat daunting but worthwhile endeavor. Each week I meet with between 2 and 10 people, and we talk about really anything you can imagine. I am sometimes shocked (i.e. on the days we talk about sex and drugs), sometimes frustrated (i.e. on the days we talk about insurance and medications), sometimes saddened (i.e. on the days we actually talk about living with AIDS). The past few weeks we have talked alot about the effect being diagnosed with HIV has on your life. Most every person in my group can tell you the day and time of their diagnosis. They can tell you what they wore that day, what they ate before their doctor's appointment, what the weather was like, who they talked to after they received the news. About the moment when they changed from person to patient. They talk about how despite the fact they might have no symptoms, they live each day knowing that they are sick, that they have a terminal illness.

I recently had a man in my group who was very newly diagnosed with HIV. When asked how he was doing with it, he answered that he felt like he had overcome alot in his life, and that this was just one more thing that he would conquer. He had beat a brain tumor and cancer, watched a parent die of a terrible disease. This would not be his greatest challenge. The others in the group were encouraging, but anxious, let him know about many of the trials he will face. After the group, I sat and talked with him one on one. He amazed me. He is armed for battle. But he is also nervous, and anxious, and guilt-ridden. And this is sadly how it goes.

There is something to be said for being prepared for what may come. This is why we have insurance and savings accounts. But there also needs to be space to live in the moment. To appreciate time with friends when you do not have to worry about what to do next. To feel great without worrying about when this will go away, and what will come after it. To live in the now. It is a difficult task though. You have to learn to change the things you say in your head. I feel terrible must be followed by but only for a moment. You must strive to remember what how you felt before your diagnosis, because oftentimes people take better care of themselves, and are in better health in the long run, because of their illnesses. Mind over matter is an important tenet of survival.

And this is where I come in. I am there to arm you for battle. I am there to fill your head with as much knowledge as you can handle. I am there to be your guide, and your advocate. To keep you active in the fight. I leave a meeting like the one with this gentleman somewhat overwhelmed. I left that meeting in dire need of either a hug or a cigarette. "What if I told him too much?" "What if that does not work out?" "What if he is already too far gone?" But meetings like these are why I do this work. I have been sick alot, with many things on the spectrum from life-threatening to annoying, so I feel I have a good amount of perspective on being ill. For alot of reasons, with my most serious illness, I felt like I had to go through much of it alone. When I was younger, I spent alot of time being angry about the cards I had been dealt with regard to my health, and it caused me alot sadness because I had no way to really understand what it was that could come of the trauma I had suffered. I still have days when I feel like that. But then there are days when I know very well. People need someone to help them understand paperwork, to know when to fight back, to walk them through what their days may look like, to be unafraid of the illness they are carrying, to listen indefinitely to their daily struggles, to be there for them when no one else can.

I don't talk about my job alot, because it is a party killer. I say "Oh, I'm a social worker," and the conversation can no longer be frivolous. It has to be about what we doing for a cause, and how difficult is it, and many times how the importance of the other person's job cannot compare to what I do. But know, that I could not do any of your jobs either. I am bad with numbers, overwhelmed by bureaucracy and philosophy. I cannot do chemistry to save my life. I've taken four physics classes and still cannot do vectors. I don't wear the proper footwear for corporate America. I am not armed for that kind of battle.


Indebted (2).

So, I've obviously been thinking alot about money lately. And after reading my last post, I know that I did not even touch the surface of what I really wanted to say. Where to begin?

As you can probably tell, I'm essentially a socialist. I do believe that it is our duty/privilege/responsibilty as human beings, let alone as Christians, to take care of one another. And we are clearly not doing this, as evidenced by our need for health insurance, and life insurance, and vast retirement savings, and by the fact that millions of people are homeless because their lives did not afford them the privilege of a safety net. I have spent alot of time thinking about this, as a large majority of the people I work with at my jobs have been homeless at some point. How is it that someone becomes homeless? You might say drugs, irresponsible life choices, or sadly, mental illness. But with all of these things what it boils down to is lack of a safety net. A job with no health insurance, so a minor ailment becomes a crippling one. A job that pays so little that they barely afford a place to live, let alone to save for a rainy day. Having fallen through the cracks so many times, that they are now senior citizens who cannot read or write, and do not have anywhere to turn to for help. In situations like these one thing goes wrong, and you are out on the streets, sleeping under overpasses, on doorsteps, in a chair at a shelter. But one of the most amazing things I have ever seen is how these people who have been let down by the system that is supposed to protect them then rise up to protect each other. Young, single mothers who babysit for each other so some of them have a chance to go to school or work. Homeless men and women who look out for each other, gathering information about what can be done to better their situation and keep them safe. Severely mentally ill people making sure that their neighbors, who may even be somewhat better off than they, are healthy and feel cared for.

I do realize that I am in a very easy position. I am not married, I have no children, so therefore there is no one counting on me for really anything. So it is not necessary that I set aside 15% of my income, or that I have comprehensive life insurance, or that I worry about someday buying a home, or needing a car, and it goes on and on. And thus I have room to think about the way things should be. And I, because of my aforementioned debt, don't do all that I could or should do. But I like to imagine what the world would be like if money had no power. If need always trumped want. If equality actually mattered. If every child was allowed a joyful and uninterrupted childhood. And I know how naive I sound. Please know that I am not naive, but simply hopeful.



So, if you know me at all, you know that I am in alot of debt. I went to one minorly expensive, and one majorly expensive university. I moved to NYC without a job, during a national employment crisis. So yeah, I have alot of debt. And I have mostly just resigned myself to it. I have 30 years to pay off my student loans, which will be just in time for me to retire. And everyone in the United States is in debt. It's what we do. It's part of the American Dream.

This is what I told myself for a long time, and it mainly worked. I went to work, paid my bills, occasionally ran out of money before having paid all my bills, but this was the only way I knew how to live. It would occasionally overwhelm me, and I would call one of the friends who knew me well enough to know exactly how deeply mired in debt I was, and they would listen to my panic and my hopelessness at finding a way to stop it, probably growing tired of listening me over and over and over.

My best friend and I trade New Year's resolutions each year, as we have seen each other over the previous 12 months, and know what would be good for the other person. Most of the time. His resolutions for me range from clean out your car and be on time, to this year's be more proactive. Part of this proactivity for me was wrangling my finances. And another friend, in whose apartment I have had a financial melt-down, invited me to go with her to Financial Peace University, which was being led by a friend of ours from our small group at church. I reluctantly agreed, and here we are. I spoke in a previous post about the inner turmoil this class has brought to me, about my struggle to be someone focused on social justice and the needs of others, but to also be fiscally responsible to myself. I can't help but feel that there is an inherent element of selfishness in financial planning. It is a world of my needs first and then yours with whatever I have left. This is not necessarily the way of Dave Ramsey's program, but it leaves Giving to the very last lesson, and speaks very little to the relative wealth of even the most indebted American in comparison to that of almost every other person in the world.

At CCfB this week, we discussed Luke 12:13-21 and Mark 6:25-34, and the ramifications these scriptures should have on our lives. My minister/friend Joe put it up on his blog, and he and I have been e-discussing this a bit today, as he knows I am involved in, and feel extremely conflicted about, Financial Peace University. Dave Ramsey overwhelms me. Every week, I find myself shaking my head at so many of the things he says. But I also know very well, because of what I've watched many of my family and friends go through, that it is necessary to get all of this under control. While I sometimes find Dave greedy, and feel that he is often twisting the meanings of the scriptures he uses in the lessons, I can also see the good in the system he has set up for people. I have always been very open with those closest to me about my financial situation, and talking to many of them about this class, and my struggles with it has helped me to get some perspective on it, and to know that in the end, if I am able to find a way to pay off at least some of my debt, that it will be worth it. And with that I have had to find a way to do this without letting it change my priorities. While Dave Ramsey's goals may not be mine, his means to getting there can be helpful for my situation. And I am doing my best to look for ways to get ahead, but am trying to allow God to show me the way to do this without sacrificing my health, or my sanity, or my principles.

I started reading The Irresistible Revolution around the time I started this class, and while at first it was one of the things that made me want to chuck it all, after much thought it has become kind of a supplemental text to guide me--looking at Dave Ramsey's stuff through a lens of social responsibility in addition to personal/financial responsibility. There is something anti-consumerist about Financial Peace University, because every financial decision is to be made with much thought for the consequences/necessity of it. And if you look at wealth building as what you can give back rather than giving it all to creditors, it changes things a bit. So, all of that to say, I'm still trying to work it out. And to remember this:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.--Matthew 6:25-29



So I've got some questions for you that have crossed my mind over the last few days. Think of this like a college history final. You have several options, but only a few will be on the exam.

(1) Do you think it's cheating to read by audiobook? Answer, then read the
article. It is not yet avaible in audio form.

(2) What, if any, are the ethical ramifications of non-profit organizations spending copious amounts of money on office facilities?

(3) Is it hypocritical to put a Fur is Murder button on your leather bag?

(4) Clinton or Obama, who can take it home?

(5) Does the
risk of “[going] too far in federalizing health care” outweigh the benefits of insuring over 6 million children? I'm just saying.

(6) When will the TV world run out of things to make reality shows about? How far is too far (either in lameness, or in ethicality)?

(7) Is ethicality actually a word?