Sunday, December 7, 2014

Soft Voices-Hard World


Telephone Scammer

I fumbled through my bag to answer the phone. It was one ring away from voicemail kicking-in. I answered “hello” to the unrecognizable number displayed. On the other end, I heard in a thickly-accented young woman’s voice, “You have been chosen to receive a U.S. government grant…”

I was more annoyed than usual by this scam call. Having had another in a string of difficult days at work, I became angered. Rather than simply hanging up, I responded to the voice with, “So, you’re going to give me a U.S. grant from the Philippines? Yeah, right. Don’t you have anything better to do?”

The voice repeated the script from the beginning, “You have been chosen to receive a U.S. government grant…” This time I noticed the voice was not a woman’s voice but a girl’s. Instead of reacting to the script, I asked her how old she was. The small voice said, "13". I didn’t know how to respond. Being a former teacher, I asked if her parents knew what she was doing - and, at that, she hung-up.

That call followed me the rest of the day and into the next. I realized that of course her parents knew what she was doing. They likely encouraged it. As a matter of fact, her mother, father and siblings may have all been in the illegal call center with her. I wondered what kind of world creates circumstances where children must engage in illegal activities in order to eat.

I imagined the girl needed to choose between a sweatshop job of perhaps assembling sports shoes which pays its workers approximately ten cents per 100 pair of $80.00 shoes; or the more lucrative work of making harassing phone calls leading to identity theft. 

It was reasonably possible this young lady was simply trying to help herself and her family survive in an environment of few choices.


The Gentle Landlord

Health Care Cruelty

These last six plus years, I have spent dealing with more than my share of bureaucracies of one kind or another. It has gotten tiring to consistently be on the lookout for being taken advantage of and abused by large impersonal systems.

First, I had to fight for health care for my mother dying of end-stage lung cancer. To get her the appropriate care, I needed to be vigilant. 

I recall one terrible day when an employee at the nursing center told me Medicare wouldn’t cover my mother’s expenses unless we could prove she was making progress in her rehabilitation. “Progress? Rehabilitation?” I repeated dumbfounded. My mom was bedridden and not far from the end of her life.

To get her care covered, she had to walk eleven steps. With tears falling from my eyes, I forced my own mom to get up and walk so the nurse could count eleven slow and painful steps. All the while, I was apologizing to my mom for being so cruel. It broke my heart.

With the combination of oxygen deprivation and morphine, at the conclusion of this torture, my mom uttered four words, "Did I do OK?" “Oh, mom," I said as tears ran uncontrollably down my face, "You shouldn’t have had to go through that in the first place, but you did great."





Work Place Bullies

I was hired to teach in the public schools. I had wonderful students who worked diligently to get their education in an adult high school program for students who were unable to attain a high school diploma in their countries.

I worked hard for these students. They responded by surpassing my expectations with successful gains in their education. A sad state of affairs in public schools is work place bullying by power wielding administration and colleagues who don’t want your efforts to show them up. It is more common than you might to think.

In my brief tenure in the system, my program was transformed from non-performing to graduate producing. Instead of being thanked for all my effort along with the many long hours I put in, I was torn to shreds and ended my time by filing a grievance against my principal and one colleague who made my final year a living hell. If it weren’t for the students who were counting on me, I would have left sooner.


Aftermath

After contending with health care nightmares, bullies and other challenges. I had come to anticipate battles at every turn.

I ended up taking a job outside of public schools with a slight pay reduction for sanity’s sake. It helped. However, it meant I needed to reduce my rent payments. With my lease expiring, I found a sweet, little place further away from the city with an honest and warm-hearted landlord.

Due to the recent battles waged and losses suffered, I was experiencing reignited symptoms of high anxiety I brought with me from childhood. As a result, I needed peaceful surroundings to heal my soul. Unfortunately, my lovely condo attracted all the 12 or so year old boys in vicinity to play with the boy who lived below me. They play most afternoons and weekends.

After hearing what I wanted to be my last ball bounce, squeal, shriek and pouncing yell of pre-teen wild abandon right outside my window, I had had it. The yelling sounds emanating from deep within their lungs cut clear through to my bones.

With the same fight I had approached my mom’s health care needs and cruel work place bullying, I hit my gentle landlord with strong complaints and decisive words of dissatisfaction regarding the constant raucaus I was experiencing.

To a gentle soul, I am certain she felt as if a wall of anger had run rough shot over her. I understandably didn’t hear back from her right away. She came back to me a couple of week’s later with solutions to the problems.

I reflected on my actions and, without awareness, discovered I had adopted a hard voice in a hard world although my nature tended toward peaceful and gentle.

Although there are battles yet ahead, I hope to address each circumstance softly with a gentle voice because I no longer want to be part of the creation of a hard world.



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