I used to work for a community development organization. I would help poor people buy houses, prepare for jobs, build relationships and improve their lives. I would raise money for community economic development projects, set up co-operatives, guide volunteers and organize community leaders towards working for the people in their neighbourhood. In their neighbourhood. In their neigh-bour-hood HEY
Today I finished up what was supposed to be a two day meeting a half a day early. Since I was sure the meeting would go most of the day, I had ordered lunch for everyone. Consequently, there was a lot of food leftover since most people jumped ship as soon as the meeting was done.
I thought it would be a nice gesture to take the leftover sandwiches and veggie tray to the mission. So I packaged up the food, jumped in my car and drove to the ‘hood to feed the poor. Aren’t I thoughtful?
I arrived at the doors and got out of my 2008 Nissan Pathfinder SUV wearing my business suit and heels. I opened the hatch and moved my golf clubs out of the way (they were still in there because I spent Monday afternoon golfing in a corporate golf tournament on a beautiful private course), and took the food into the building.
There were a couple of people sitting outside of the doors having a smoke and they smiled politely. I walked in and handed the food to the first staff person I saw, and they thanked me politely.
Then I got in my giant SUV and drove back to my office located on the top floor of my tall downtown office building.
I felt like a complete asshole.
The definition of obnoxious - dropping sandwiches off at the shelter in an SUV and having to move golf clubs out of the way to get the food out. While wearing heels and a suit.
How did I get here? When did I move from making fun of ‘those’ people to being one of ‘those’ people?
Seven years ago I was the one smiling politely to the business suit people when they decided to slum it for an hour and make their way to the ‘hood to drop something off they felt the poor and withering masses needed or wanted.
Now I am the one being smiled at.
The trade off, of course, is ease of life. I left working non-profit because in order to work for poor people, you have to chose to be poor. In 2008 I paid more in income tax than I earned while working community development in an entire year. It was too hard to be poor. I had the ability to get out..... so I did.
Most poor people can’t get out of poverty whenever they like. Most of them have to battle through addiction, mental health problems, abuse, racism, a long family history of poverty and a complete absence of education or opportunity. I didn’t have those barriers, so I was able to change my circumstances a lot faster than most people can.
So, I left them and moved on up to a de-luxe apartment in the sky. It’s much more comfortable up here. I really like having a car – grocery shopping without one when it’s 40 below really sucks. I love being able to buy new shoes when I want them. I like taking my family on vacation and feeding them whatever I feel like cooking that day. We even go out for dinner from time to time.
I’m grateful for all of this, but….. today just kind of sucked. I miss the poor people. I feel like I have abandoned them. I miss doing something that really matters with my days and I fucking HATE the fact that I’m one of *those* people now.
Yeah, I know I can volunteer, but it’s really not the same. Working on the ground and being a real member of that community is what I miss. I want to be sitting on that step smoking a cigarette and smiling politely to the suits as they show up to donate some random thing in order to balance their karma and get into heaven.
Sorry, this post was kind of a bummer. I’ll try to be more entertaining tomorrow.