Wednesday, June 27, 2007

bad attitude

If there's one thing I don't like about non-profits it's their tendency to move towards rules and regulations for the sake of order and at the expense of the person they're purporting help. When everyone wants a pair of socks and we only have a limited number...rules come into play to keep people from taking two...or lying about the kid they don't have that needs a second pancake. I've been at COA enough times now that I recognize the faces and know when someone's sneaking back through the line for seconds. And for the most part I just look them in the eye (I suppose as some sort of subconscious power trip to let them know I know) and I give them another pancake anyways and say goodmorning with as much sincerity as I can muster. Because when it comes down to it, WHO CARES if they are cheating the system? It already sucks for them that there has to be a system in place just so they can eat. Today Guy tried to pull a very large man's plate away from him because he jumped back in line...and the next time he came into the line I plopped another pancake on for a grand total of 4. I'm not sure why. Walk 700 miles when they ask for 7 I guess. But in a wierd way I was also thinking, kill'em with does that work?? Luckily the eruption that followed this incident was short lived. A community service worker came in before all this at about 6:20am (new guy I didn't recognize) wanting coffee. I did as I had been taught and told him we didn't open till 7:30 (I thought he was coming in to eat, not work). He had such a look of desperation for a cup of coffee. Once we all figured out he was working we were happy to give him a cup...and he said "every man and woman has a right to a cup of coffee". and I felt horrible for treating him like he was entitled to less if he was a guy off the street than if I knew he was there to do community service. I don't think Jesus was ever selective with who he was willing to be generous or kind to.

p.s. if you're reading this, I like conversations more than I like diaries.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

first day with the Franklins

I went to Franklin Middle School today for about 4 hours. Tough stuff. We started out (me and Chris) rearranging the letters on a bulletin board, dusting off and moving a filing cabinet...ya know, very meaningful jobs. I was getting discouraged, but suprisingly kept a good attitude about the prospect of being a teacher's aid/errand slave. Then we got to jump into some group discussions. Chris and I were talking to about 7 kids about positive thinking vs. negative thinking. Who controls their our thoughts lead to action...thoughts=power and other very true, but very cliche ideas that this program was teaching them. and they all rolled their eyes and in various, um...colorful, but nonetheless unanimous ways said, "yeah right". they tried to explain to these two WHITE 20 somethings that we just don't get it. and we don't. i've never been beaten up and I've never really been tempted to beat anyone else up. although I'm sure a fight at Pt. Loma Naz. would have made headlines in the Point Weekly... I don't get where they're coming from and that makes it hard. We left with questions unresolved and probably some frustrated kids who are tired of being talked at about how to be good and followed and pressured by parole officers who are making sure that they don't do anything bad.
One interesting tangent in the conversation came about when one girl mentioned that she hates black people...for various reasons she had no problem listing off to all of her hispanic peers. I immediately questioned whether she realized she was talking about individuals as if all black people shared identical qualities...and asked whether she would make the same statement about her African American teacher were she sitting in our group instead of the other group directly behind us. She of course retracted her statement and said things like "some" and "most" black people are loud, cocky, etc. The real fun began when I asked her what she hates about white people. "I can't say"..."why not"..."because you're sitting right there". I told her I could take it and she proceded with a pretty good "air head" impersonation. Problem is, not all white girls are air heads. And the one Asian girl, who of course was a bit marginalized by an all hispanic group, and all hispanic class actually was more accurately identified by our group as Vietnamese. I remember last summer talking to the very wealthy boys I was babysitting on sunset cliffs that homeless people aren't scum (even if that's the term their dad used). They're people who happen to be homeless...but people first. my friend hanna's taught me over the past few years that if you look into peoples eyes, it absolutely changes your world...Christ lives in all of us...and it's AMAZING when you really get that.
I don't know if I'm helping here at Franklin or just frustrating a few of these kids towards further rebellion and trouble. It was definitely a first day. I hope the next few weeks can be more about compassion and listening and understanding....
It is encouraging to see the teachers and principals who care and have earned the respect that precedes a friendship with a lot of these kids.

Monday, June 25, 2007

COA and Hillcrest

I started out the morning at COA. 6am came and went and we still had no breakfast, Susie, the guys and I were getting a little scared...possibly panicky. We finally got the eggs only to discover they were frozen and it was yet again "oatmeal day". The people we serve aren't particularly fond of oatmeal...but they take it with a smile when you really sincerely wish them a good morning along with a strong cup of very hot coffee.

I've learned a lot from "the guys" down there. Most of them live at COA and are recovering from something or just doing required community service. Enrique, or "chef Enrique Suave" as Susie and I like to call him, is such a cheerful man. He was talking to me today about his job before he was assigned community service. He was the managing chef down at the Hyatt Hotel. He's gone to 5 or so different culinary schools and took such joy in creating a beautiful feast for his guests. He remembers his dad's advice, treat people well and you'll be treated well in return. He used to put on monthly picinics for his emoployees...all food and drinks on him (but if they wanted any alcohol that was on them. ;) He won the Manager of the Year Award and had all of his employees on their feet...and all the other managers wanted to know how he did it. He jokes with Susie and I, and probably protects us just a little. He's got 2 kids and a sparkle in his eyes.
I was confronted with an issue today that I've always been frustrated with. I'm a girl. yep. secret's out. And this frustrates the heck out of the ministry I want to do. There were two incidents today that would have been much easier or non existent if I were simply a boy. I'm still working this out, but I'm grateful for "the guys" that are our brothers in Christ.

At Hillcrest an hour later I faced my fears. I was put in this position because I have a psychology background. But I feel SO unqualified and young to be working with these patients. MS is a weird thing...many times a person's mental capacities are completely in tact well past the time that their legs and arms and facial muscles lose control. So the last thing I want to do is walk in with some sort of patronizing solution for these people who I'm sure are frustrated every single day at their disease. I've done a little bit of research, hoping to have some sort of understanding...came across a few ideas. Remembering various objects by creating stories out of them rather than merely repeating lists. It was going okay. people were politely participating, but it felt like therapy...I felt like a teacher to a bunch of 35-55 year old, intelligent, charismatic, and at the time bored individuals. Lorda the nurse jumped in to play and came up with a ridiculous combination. and then the fun began...I wish I could remember the stories...but I can't...the point is we were all laughing hysterically. I realized that I was taking myself way too seriously. I had come to this with the idea that I had a solution to teach them...and who knows, maybe what I do will actually be useful...but regardless of whether it "works" or will someday be useful, it was wonderful to see a bunch of people really laughing together.