As you are no doubt aware the holidays are in full swing and there is a frantic push to make ready for Christmas. When you depend on SNAP or WIC or food commodities you tend to be in survival mode. It’s almost painful to think of helping others because you may be fretting about your OWN situation.
A wonderful message about this very issue awaited me in my Inbox this morning. I just HAD to share it with you:
“Today was the first day in forever that I felt well enough to go to the Farmer’s Market with my family, especially since I am till weak and fragile. Who would I run into than the little “all too young mother” that I have written you about. She’s passed her GED and is working “almost full time” for a national retailer. But OHHHH the PAIN when she hugged me! My family knows how sore I am, but how can I complain? Please do not praise me, but it seems that this is what happens to me.
Anyway, she told me that there was a homeless family in the park across the street and even the street-folk were shunning them. I was weak and so frail; still I followed her across the street only to discover that this was the indeed rare homeless family who is homeless due to economic circumstances that do not include the plethora of “choice” based homelessness. He had a skill, was trying to find work, and they had lost their home etc. In other words, this is the basic middle class family who does not know how to be poor. The community was shunning them because they had become infested with head and body lice, and the only treatment that they knew would cost them hundreds of dollars that they did not have.
I had my son-in-law drive me over to the dollar store where I got 4 bottles of shampoo, 2 pounds of table salt and a bottle of laundry detergent. The total was under $6.00. I asked “all too young mother” to go to the farmer’s market and gather all the food that had fallen off the tables and was under the trucks and otherwise set to be disposed. Anything that could be eaten, and even ask some farmers for the food they might be throwing away.
That gave her a mission that did not include hugging me. I taught the parents that by mixing half salt and shampoo that it would kill the lice. They had to put it on their hair undiluted, and body then wait 30-45 minutes until rinsing it off. They took advantage of the free access to the American river to rinse off, but I told them that they had to do this every day for the next 6 days because it did not kill eggs. What courage! The American River is icy right now! I gave them the comb I had in my bag. But the littlest was sick, and once we got her mother and her lice free, I put mom on the light rail wearing some of my daughter-in-law’s clothes which were going to be on their way to resale stores, but she was clean and lice controlled, and on her way to the emergency room with the littlest.
I taught dad to boil all of the clothes and bedding in his 22 qt pot for not less than 5 minutes, and then take the whole thing to the laundry that was 2 blocks away. I bought a can of insecticide to treat the car and the tent. Then he and the older child washed all the laundry with the soap and dried it with the quarters I gave them.
I do not know how things turned out for this family because I was too sick and weak to follow through. I gave them the list of community resources that I always have with me and I hope that they follow up with employment and resources. my “all too young mother” came back with a bunch of vegetables and fruit for the family.
I think that the moral of this story is that it is a skill to survive being poor. Knowing how to treat lice and make a meal from the veggies that the farmer’s market would otherwise throw away is another skill. Sure, I spent $10.00 or so of my own money, but hopefully this family will survive.
I came home and went to sleep for a while. Anyway, I do not want you to praise me for this, but maybe you can use the lice killing salt and shampoo in your mission as well. I hope you have a happy holiday season. Take care.
If someone who is in abject agony can help a homeless family, it makes me wonder what I might be able to do for any of my fellow human beings.
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