Reflecting on “Those People”

Ever since Scary Mommy wrote her post on being one of “those people” who have had to depend on food banks at some point, there’s been some reflection going on around the blogosphere.  Some bloggers, like Jill of Life Is Not Bubble Wrapped, are focusing on helping “those people” in small ways that we can all do instead of condemning or demeaning them.

I already work to help “those people” as much as I can through my work with Cloth for a Cause.  There’s no shame in being one of “those people.”  Honestly, I pretty much agree with Matt Paxton of Hoarders: he’s said “we’re all three or four decisions away from pooping in a bucket.”  It can happen to anyone through a series of hard knocks.Reflecting on "Those People" (Cloth Diaper Addicts)

I’ve gone into sketchy neighborhoods in Prince George to deliver diaper packages and work with parents on how to use their diapers.  I’ve gone out to some pretty impoverished outlying regions for the same purpose.  It can be dangerous, even in small Prince George… which has the highest crime rate in Canada.  Even still, though, when I’m out in the hood, I never look around at “those people” and clutch my keys a little tighter.  I don’t feel threatened.  I don’t feel concerned about my own safety.  Even in most of the rougher areas in Prince George, I feel safe.

But I had a light bulb moment the other day.  It reminded me of the privilege that I take for granted because I’ve never been one of “those people” even when I could have been.  (Single mom who had a baby at 19?  Yeah, I very easily could have been one of “those people,” and would have been had I not stayed at home with my family.)

I was taking Norton to a playgroup for language delayed preschoolers.  It’s at the CDC, which means Child Development Centre here in Prince George.  The CDC has lots of great programs: occupational therapy, physiotherapy, child care and preschool, and countless others.  Some of the services (like Norton’s playgroup, which falls under the category of their speech and language pathology services in conjunction with the Northern Health Unit) have a fee associated with them.  Those fees, however, are reduced for low income families.

Or, you know, “those people.”

While we were parking in the sketchiest part of the ‘hood in an area that I’d be reluctant to go to alone (but have, with no problems ever), I was there with my two children.  As I was looking around at some unsavory types walking down the street, I found myself wishing that the CDC was in a better neighborhood.

Then I had a light bulb moment.

The simple fact is, as much as I’d rather that the CDC was located elsewhere, it’s in the place it needs to be.  It needs to be in the VLA (which officially stands for Veteran’s Land Act, but is also said to mean “violent living area”) because that’s where “those people” often are.

I have the resources to drive my child to the CDC.  Worst case scenario, I could take the bus because we do have bus routes here.  I could hop a cab if really desperate.  I do have that privilege.  In the VLA, people often do not have those resources available.  They may not have the extra funds to cab it.  There’s a good possibility that they don’t have a car.  They need to have services available to them in an area where they can access it.  After all, while it might be very convenient to have CDC services in my (much safer) neighborhood, it would not be of any help to “those people.”  Services are no good to them if they can’t get to them.

What does that mean for me?  I’m obviously not going to start a campaign to move the CDC.  I’ll obviously have to continue to suck it up and make the drive out to the CDC every week for Norton’s language delay playgroup.  I’ll also go out there with flyers for Cloth for a Cause and bring them to the desk at the CDC.  After all, there’s nothing wrong with being one of “those people.”  Maybe this can be something that will help.

Have you ever had a light bulb moment that made you realize how good you had it and how you can help others who don’t?
Image credits: By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.

Comments

  1. What a sweet thing for you to do. It can be scary traveling to neighborhoods and areas you don’t know. But you are doing it for a great cause. Just remember to be safe. Thanks for your help, I know that everyone else appreciates it too

  2. Growing up there were times when I did not have much, lived in the ghetto…but my family always encouraged us to give even when we had little. I guess I just knew that I was supposed to help others and “those people” where my friends, neighbors, and even family.

    However, when we grow up, there are those that give “those people” a pretty harsh label. We automatically group all of “those people” into this large thug/welfare abuser/etc. category, based upon one or two bad apples. We can break this ridiculous way of thinking by getting out there and help people even if in the back of our minds we may have the slightest suspicion that “those people” might not really need the help – but how are we to be the judges of that? We aren’t.

    Our world is a truly broken place, and everyone needs to resort to kindness vs. suspicion.
    AlannaB recently posted…A True One-Size Fits All Cloth Diaper – Greenline Diapers ReviewMy Profile

  3. I have had aha moments like you had. Especially as a young adult, my friends and I would get together and inspire each other to do everything and anything we could to help those struggling. Since getting married and having children, I have strayed from actively doing this. I am looking forward to when my girls are older, and as a family, we can do the little and the big things to help out humanity in any way we can. Thank you for sharing your honest story with us 🙂
    Jenna @ A Mama Collective recently posted…Selfless {What parenthood teaches us}My Profile

  4. I am with you. Although it sometimes is uncomfortable for us to visit some areas, they need to be easily accessible, especially for people who need it the most. We are incredibly lucky to be where we are, but like you said, a few bad decisions, and everything could be different!
    Cat @ TOTS recently posted…Quick Tip: Save Your BananasMy Profile

  5. I lived in New Haven for about 10 years. I lived in a nice neighborhood but there are several very scary parts of New Haven. Shootings are every day life in parts of New Haven and it’s sad. When I was laid off and a single mom I had to put my son on medicaid for a few months and bringing him to the dentist would have meant bringing him to the ‘hood which considering that shootings can be daily there, I chose to wait it out. I wished the Community Health Center was somewhere else, but understood that it was exactly where it needed to be. Accessible to those without a vehicle.

    While I have lived through a couple of hard times, I am thankful that I have always had access to good, safe medical care, food, and shelter. Because of this I do donate food around the holidays (maybe this year I will donate some quinoa) and do my best to help out at other times of the year as well.
    Regan recently posted…The Seasons According to My Cherry Tree {Wordless Wednesday}My Profile

  6. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of judging “those people” without knowing any of the facts of their lives. Your viewpoint, and willingness to share, are refreshing. Sometimes we have to remember that we may be the only Love and Light that “those people” get to see.
    Jeanae recently posted…Can’t We All Just Get Along?My Profile

  7. I had no idea Prince George had such a high crime rate! Wow. It is so true that it can happen to any of us. And those people can also be the ones with nice vehicles and nice houses. It can happen so quickly!

  8. jessica brown says:

    When we refer to vulnerable individuals living an impoverished lifestyle as ‘those people’, ‘unsavory types’ etc, then we are not only ignorant and egotistical but we are widening the gap between a group of human beings. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. People are people, we are all just people. There are many issues that people face in this life which may lead to a harder road to travel, but we are all still human and we all have our own story. Some peoples are more intense than others. Something to keep in mind when slipping into a narrow frame of mind regarding the whole concept of ‘us’ and ‘them’.

    • The whole use of “those people” was based on a blog post by Scary Mommy, which I’d linked to in the post. Just so you know, “those people” was something that was used by some other classist person, not something that I specifically coined. That’s what “those people” was in quotes.

  9. You don’t need to go into a bad neighborhood to find people receiving food stamps or other assistance. No matter what part of town you live in, you probably have some neighbors going through a difficult time, even though you can’t tell them from everyone else. Helping those less fortunate is admirable, but in my opinion we make bigger strides when we make an effort to get to know people in different circumstances from our own, as humans with feelings and problems just like ourselves, rather than just trying to “help” them.

    • I do have friends in a variety of situations and in a variety of circumstances. Some of the recipients of orgs I’ve worked with have become friends. I’ve also had jobs in sketchy areas of town, worked with people of all walks, ages, races, and religions. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’ve only stayed within the sheltered bubble of privilege.

      As for food stamps… this is Canada. Food stamps don’t exist here like they did in the States. Heck, even food stamps have changed since they did when I was first exposed to them.

  10. A lot of people I help at my job would be considered “those people”. I go to their neighborhoods, support them, etc, but I don’t think I always put myself in their shoes or consider them to be “like me”. It’s unfortunate that we tend to divide ourselves instead of pulling together.

  11. I am one of “those people”, and it frustrates me the perceptions that people have of “those people”. Of course, I also get frustrated at the pity that is evident in some people’s attitudes. Yeah, I bus everywhere. But so what? I save gas money, and I hate driving, and I believe in public transportation anyway. No, I don’t generally buy new things, and I can’t afford to spend $20+ per diaper. But again, so what? I believe in reusing perfectly good items, and that means thrift stores. I also reject consumerism and the industries and corporations that drive this world. No, I don’t have a huge place with lots of stupid amenities, but oh well. Guess what; that isn’t necessary either. I’ve lived in a dry cabin in Alaska, and would move back in a heartbeat if I could. With my infant daughter. In fact, I currently have a friend who is CDing her daughter in a dry cabin. And you know what else? I have food stamps, and that doesn’t bother me either. I also have a garden, and spent the summer canning and preserving. And also giving away as much as I could. Me, a “poor” person. After all, I believe that good, nutritious food should be free, and I don’t believe in keeping that to myself. Why is FOOD a political issue anyway?! I hate how much people seem to think that poor people need just that little bit of help so they too can live like the affluent people, as though that should be the goal of everyone. Furthermore, there is so much creativity and community and change that comes from “those neighborhoods”. The slam poetry scene, is a good example of this. What really needs to change are people’s perceptions of money in general.

    • I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with being “those people.” I grew up in feast or famine. There’s no reason to look down on anyone because of their socioeconomic status. That was kind of the point. Cloth for a Cause is a charity that was actually started by one of “those people.” People are from all walks of life. Creativity manages to thrive, regardless of what people have in their driveways.

  12. Jennifer A. says:

    I don’t know if I’ve ever had a “light bulb” moment per say. But, myself and my husband try to help out others in any way we can. We have been on the receiving end of food assistance, but I never felt ashamed. Sometimes you just need a leg up. I feel comfortable helping, and I am humbled to be helped.

  13. I got free lunch in elementary school based on income but if hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t even have known that we didn’t have much money during that time. I may not have had everything I wanted but my needs were met and really that’s all that matters! It’s really sad though, how many kids grow up in poverty now.

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