Thursday, March 05, 2009

An Observation: Politics & Poverty

I'm a practicing psychotherapist these days. And I have an observation.
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In my career I've been a counselor in one form or another. But for the last year I've been working with clients who do not own cars, who receive public assistance, who barely have furniture, and who don't seem to have much hope or motivation that much will change for themselves or their children. I've been working in an urban city in bankruptcy, therapist to give-or-take 15 clients: some adults with histories of incredible neglect and abuse, some teens honestly trying to figure out the role of sex and opportunity in their lives, some children with sad eyes who have been taken from their mothers and live day-to-day in foster care.
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Before I tell you my observation, I'd like to present my "credentials". I have an advanced degree in counseling, but I am also a small business owner who at one point employed nearly a hundred people in my own private human services firm. I've owned a restaurant, marketed a movie theatre, managed real estate, developed an artisan cooperative, published a book, served on several Board of Directors, and back in the day co-managed an Army Education Center. I've paid my high share of taxes and I've made plenty of wise and not-so-wise financial decisions.
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I've also moved from liberal to moderate politics, and I'm not very pleased with the sprawling huge budget my new President has just submitted.
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That's the back-story. Oh, one more thing: I rarely if ever use my blog for political purposes.
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So here is my observation. In the last month, something has changed with some of my adult clients. It has not been uncommon for their poverty to be discussed in relation to their depression, or low self esteem, or inability to make decisions or stabilize their lives. I ask them in one way or another to look beyond poverty--to imagine a different life where there is not the intrusion of and reliance on welfare agencies and there is the freedom and ability to take the kids to a restaurant or a movie once or twice a month.
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For the year that I've been at this job, I've kept asking my clients to look beyond. But we both knew there were no real prospects for jobs. The job market was dire. Here's my observation: The landscape is shifting. Changing. This week alone, three of my clients--three--mentioned working again. For the first time. One way or another they said if they could work they could start to do things differently.
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There's a ton of controversy about the U.S. President's plan to create public service jobs. It'll certainly add to record high deficits on top of already record-high deficits. And yet, I'm confident I help these three clients work again. I have this skill. And in my small caseload in my small corner of the world, if I can contribute to the return of work and dignity, three people and three families will then take care of themselves.
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So this is my observation: Hope. Somehow it's filtered down and reached three people who didn't have it three months ago. While the accountants mumble-jumble the management of more money with more zeros than I can ever relate to, how important is it that three adults in a caseload of ten adults--33%--will have the means to find their way back to work? And have started to think about it, to put words to it, to hope for it? Can show their children something different? Might be able to get off the government rolls altogether.
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Is it important enough to include in a balance sheet?
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And could it be contagious??

13 comments:

  1. a post that i sorely needed... u structure it so well, and yes, Hope is an important thing to have... a VERY important thing to have. I really do hope that this gets backed up by some action. Some real action.

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  2. Hope can move mountains.

    Fingers crossed it is contagious.

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  3. Thank you, KJ -- in all this confusion and worry and uncertainty your post and those three clients are showing a light that can only get stronger if we all keep at it! TGIF, my friend, I hope you have a super weekend.

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  4. Hope is a wonderful thing!

    I'm happy for these three families. It's a good start, right?

    They're lucky to have you in their corner ;)

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  5. Well kj I don't think any of us have seen the worst of this economic crisis yet despite Governments all over the world injecting enormous amounts of funding. Things are still percolating but I'm a glass half full person most of the time . . if these people can get jobs, then anyone can. We forget sometimes that 7% unemployment means 93% full employment! Just depends how you look at it but I'm glad the social services are there as a safety net. Time will tell. And well done on your ability to turn their attitudes around . . .I might need a little counselling myself soon!

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  6. Oh yes, hope is a wonderful thing - good on you for promoting and spreading it my friend! Thanks for this, it's given me encouragement that the world is turning on a different axis to that the media would have us believe.

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  7. hb, everything seems to be spinning in unknown directions right now. i hope intention will and can deliver opportunity.

    mildaysa, my fingers are crossed too.

    melissa, i have the best job...

    lolo, it's a start. i hope it's real...

    baino, any counseling you need from me, just ask and consider it done. funny to have saved for years and see literally half of it now gone. it says alot about security and false security and i'm not sure what else.

    kay, it is such a relief to have george bush gone. i have high hope for the u.s. new president, though i hope he knows what's he's doing. the debt is now enormous beyond imagination.

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  8. Tipping theory would say that in fact, it is something that can spread by leaps and bounds iif enough people believe there is something to be hopeful about. I've even had some patients on disability lately talking about wantign to return to work.

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  9. Bless you for what you do. What's that saying about somewhere a butterfly beating its wings??? You've helped make a major difference in a lot of lives, and that's huge.

    I enjoyed reading your list of 10. Number 8 moved me. And you've been arrested? I'm sure there's a story there worth telling.

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  10. Thank you for the wonderful post.

    Hope is, without a doubt, my favorite word. Without hope, we have nothing.

    Peace,

    ~j

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  11. interesting. thanks for sharing this...

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  12. Hi KJ!

    Some of us are planning a virtual birthday celebration for Renee Khan. We are calling it "Renee Day" (not Rainy Day :D) It will be March 28th and to celebrate the day, we are planning on creating an award called "The Renee's Love Award". The first recipient of the award will be Renee herself, for it is obvious that she touches the heart of every blogger who connects with her. It will come with a meme so that it will spread throughout blogland. The award is a collaborative piece and will be virtually delivered to Renee on her birthday.

    As part of the celebration we thought it would be nice if you could post a special birthday greeting on your blog on March 28th. Since it seems Renee visits and comments on every visitor's or commenter's blog, she will be tickled to find a birthday surprise on your blog. This arrangement allows mass virtual celebration but preserves the personal bond that you establish with Renee.

    This is optional, but we hope you will participate and make March 28th a special day for Renee.

    Thank you very much!

    Bella Sinclair

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  13. Hello everyone! Who knows where to upload the film Avatar?
    I even bought the film Avatar for a SMS to http://rsskino.ru/kinofilm/avatar.html , the link was, but download fails, the system will boot quite strange cocoa something.
    Men, advise where to normal as quickly download film avatar?

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