Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Taking Responsibility In Our Crumbling Society.

I have been shaken up badly to realize I am now treating others the way some professionals treated me. They treated me harshly when I was strong enough to start accepting responsibility for my life. At church I got tricked by a homeless person, who spun a tale of family suicide. She conveniently neglected the details of her resent hospital release, destitution and homelessness.

I assumed I was dealing with a middle class person being rocked by the suicide of her 11-year-old grand daughter. I now question whether that actually happened to this lady.

I started receiving calls from her in various states of hysterics. "I have no place to go. No one cares." Being I've lived among the very poor I recognized this ploy. I refused to buy into the idea that I was now totally responsible for her well being.

She managed to secure a temporary hotel extension from the hospital she was released from. Her check comes in next week. I then get the call this morning that she has no food. I heard that Lilt of victory in her voice as if to proclaim: "Now you HAVE to do something!" Again, I had to decline to assist her. I gave her information I had about various feeding programs in Oakland, but beyond that, I will do no more.

I have that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I have food, money and a place to stay. If-I-were-really-a-good-Christian... Common sense redirects my flight into unrealistic guilt.

Neither I, or my church are equipped to handle a person in such desperate straights. We can refer her to The Red Cross, The Salvation Army or The Lighthouse Mission. These groups are set up to render emergency assistance. True to the nature of the mentally ill and or very immature, this woman refused all three options. She ran down everything that was wrong with each group. At that point, I hung up the phone.

Oh how I remember my own battles with agencies and doctors. Here I was a seriously messed-up mental patient ((self-committed, but now only able to leave when someone else judged me sane). I had all the answers for everything except my life and current circumstances.

Yes, I was suicidal. I'd been that way for years and knew that played right, someone would do something to make it stop. So, I dragged myself into yet another doctor and showed him my drawings depicting my desire to die.

I whipped the drawings out as a kind of victory. I thrust them into his hands with the triumphant feeling of: "Now, even a dumb-ass like you will see how badly I need YOU TO DO SOMETHING!"

The doctor's response shocked me into stunned reevaluation.

He rudely threw the papers on the floor at my feet and angrily growled: "So? What do you want me to do with these? Its your problem, not mine." He then walked out of the conference room. As cruel as this may sound, at first, it was a continuation of my real recovery.  This man was the beginning of my understanding that I was responsible for my own life and problems. Oh, what a series of painful lessons I had to endure before embracing the idea of carrying my own butt through life.

I truly hurt for this homeless and obviously troubled woman. But part of what Christianity is preparing us to become is leaders. We will rule and reign with Christ. What are the qualities of leadership? One big one is knowing that you can't be everything, everywhere to everyone.

If I have information the Director of the FBI needs, I'd go through the phone-channels and eventually I'd be put in touch with the Director, or one of his close associates. You have to go through channels. The Director of the FBI can't field every request for his attention, he no doubt receives.

Our 50-member church has limits as to what we can have and do. We can and do give occasional emergency food and or hotel stays. One night with the related referrals given to the people the next day. If they refuse to act on our information, we don't continue to give them aid. It can get ugly, but sanity dictates that our church isn't taken for a ride by people who refuse to seek out appropriate forms of assistance.

Leadership demands that one knows their skills, weaknesses and very real limits. I have a friend back east. It would be totally unreasonable and unrealistic for me to request him to fly across the country because I'm lonely. While he would be happy to speak to me on the phone, he would no doubt refer me to my local sources of assistance. This isn't being cruel, or irresponsible. He has a family of five to support and precious little time which isn't accounted for. When you are friends with busy people and they give of their time and resources, it is a truly loving act of friendship. 

As a writer I know always acknowledges to his readers. He tries to make his work worthy of our TIME. Once time is given to something, you can't get it back. Before my life got busy I used to laugh at such a statement. Now I thank God for the loving friends I have who are always there when I'm going through a rough spot. Thankfully, those times are becoming fewer and farther apart.

I also must manage my time. I have several types of part-time work, needs for rest and study as well as needs for some "down" time. I get overtired and ill, when I ignore these limits.

I no longer will give my phone number to strangers. I don't have the time, or resources to adequately help them. When I give out my number, I'm implying that I have the time and resources to help.

It is painful to see my old self for what it truly was: mentally ill and desperately immature. I thank God, He didn't give up on me. I knew I'd changed, but it was a shock to realize that I've come full circle. I am now acting like some of the professionals who used to work with me. I repent for some of the nasty things I thought about them at the time they were introducing me to that nasty concept of taking responsibility for my own life.

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