The Poor Will Suffer

Rochester, NY

Nearly half of all children in Rochester live in poverty, second-highest rate in the nation. ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Nearly half of all children in Rochester live in poverty according to the U.S Census Bureau. That ranks second highest in the nation of areas with a population of 100,000 or more.Mar 28, 2022

In spite of all the money in Rochester, our city children are suffering. I have spent the last ten years working in a city church and I have seen the results of this poverty. A two year old child came to our food shelf in a stroller totally listless and glassy eyed. I could go on.

Birth Control Pills vary in cost from $0 – $50 per month depending on if you qualify for assistance. They also require a prescription which means you have to have time to go to the doctor and money to pay the doctor. If women can get to a Planned Parenthood, they can help women prevent pregnancies. But Planned Parenthood locations are disappearing.

It’s always the poor that suffer. People with means can go to a doctor, get prescriptions, and travel if they need an abortion to a state that provides it. People who are living on the edge, just trying to provide food for their families are way more likely to experience an unwanted pregnancy because they haven’t been able to afford birth control that might have prevented it. Now there is no help.

I am pro choice not pro abortion. I have given birth to three children. I know what it’s like to be pregnant and to raise children. I have been a single mother. Luckily, I have always had enough money to meet my needs and those of my children. Why? Because I had the advantage of a great education and a middle class upbringing. I didn’t have to endure the trauma of poverty, the ravages of a drugged out parent, or a society that created an environment that took away any chance of getting ahead.

I have heard countless stories from people stuck in the cycle of poverty. One woman told me how she had been sexually abused by her Uncle. Her father was in jail and her mother was a drug addict. He got her pregnant at 14, 16 and 17. When she found out she was pregnant the third time she ran away with two kids (both with special needs) and had an abortion. She lived in shelters and worked menial jobs since she didn’t have a high school education until she met a woman who took her under her wing and helped her get on her feet. A third child at 18 would have made me suicidal she told me. When I got pregnant the third time, I realized I had to get out. I knew I could not have a third child.

I know I am not going to convince anyone who is pro life to become pro choice. However, I do wonder if those who are adamantly pro life are out helping those women who will be forced to have a child they don’t want and can’t afford. What will life be like for these children?

I will be out campaigning for a woman’s right to choose just like I will continue to work for gun control and worker’s rights.

I will also continue to support the programs for children in Rochester. How can we just standby with half of our cities children living in poverty???????

We are enough

The gospel this weekend talked about the demons. Jesus called out a number of demons named “Legion” and sent them into a herd of pigs that then went over a cliff.

We all have demons. They are the voices in our heads that we’ve heard since we were little. We get the message that we aren’t good enough. Some of the advice is well-meaning. An older adult might say, you can’t make money writing novels. There are only a few authors that become best-selling authors. (You aren’t good enough). You can’t be a doctor and a mother. (You aren’t good enough). You can’t be a priest in the church you grew up in. (You aren’t a man and therefore you aren’t good enough).

These demons peck away at our psyche. Messages we get over the years accumulate and form themselves into the voice in our heads that get louder and louder. We may try to ignore them but the feelings they produce can cause bad behavior on our part. We drink too much, eat too much, become critical of others, and feel depressed and sad without even knowing why.

There are societal demons that pile on – racism, homophobia, and misogyny, all telling us we are not enough because of our race, our sexual preferences, or our gender.

But we are enough.

We are the beloved children of God who loves us as we are. Really embracing the love of God for ourselves can take time. We have to open ourselves up through prayer and allow the love to penetrate and heal the layers of messaging we have received through time. I spent years hearing a priest tell the congregation that God loves us and made us who we are. That we are enough. It took years for me to believe it but I believe it now.

I still have the thoughts that I’m not good enough but I don’t entertain them. The thoughts enter my mind unbidden like a bird that lands on a tree branch. I refuse to let the thought build a nest in my mind. I shoo it away by praying and renewing my sense of God’s love for me. I repeat my affirmation – I am a beloved child of God and I am enough.

Buy Nothing FaceBook

There are times when I lose my faith in humanity and then something happens that restores it. Lately, most of my grace-filled moments come from my experience with “Buy Nothing FaceBook.” My husband and I are cleaning out our house. We have so much stuff that we no longer need but is still in good condition. Our kids don’t need or want what we are trying to give away. Since we try to be conscious of the planet and not just throw usable items away, I was stumped. Of course, I know about GoodWill but I’m not sure what they throw away. Then someone told me about “Buy Nothing Facebook”

There are multiple pages of Buy Nothing Facebook. I belong to the West Webster page. You have to join the page that is local to you. This way when you put your items up on the page to give away, the person that wants them is a short drive away. Your items have to be free. There is no selling on this page. It works like this. You post your item. “Give, a crib with attached changing table in good condition. Used for babies staying or napping at Grandma’s house.” People who are interested post a comment “Interested”. The person giving away the item sends a Facebook direct message (DM) to whoever they pick to receive the item.

You can also ask for things on the page. We wanted to paint some fences in our church gardens. We asked for paint and people were happy to give us half-filled cans of paint from their basement!

I have met the nicest people who live just a few miles away by posting on the page. We had thirty-year-old outdoor furniture that a couple took to refinish. They live a mile from our house and we knew people in common but had never met them.

There was a family who live close by who took some furniture for a refugee family.

There was the woman who took my old rocking chair. She was young and moving into her first apartment. She told me she was going to paint it white and put plants on it.

And there was the woman who was struggling with a baby born with a cleft palate. She had nothing. A woman in my Facebook group was collecting baby furniture for her. She got our crib with the attached changing table.

This has been a wonderful way to meet people who live fairly close by and find out how they are helping others. Who knew getting rid of stuff could provide such grace-filled moments of connection?

Ghost Bikes

Ghost Bike for Deaveon Davis on the corner of Linden Ave. and Glen Road in Brighton, NY

Deaveon Davis rode his bike to work almost every day. He was biking to his girlfriend’s house to get his car keys one early morning in March and he was struck and killed by an SUV at the corner of Linden Ave and Glen Road in Brighton. His friends and family were devastated.

The cycling community in Rochester decided to take action. There have been too many cyclists killed by cars in our community. The installation of a Ghost Bike serves two purposes. The first is to honor and memorialize the dead. Deaveon’s family gathered to pray at the corner where he was killed. His name was written on the white ghost bike. The second purpose of this installation is to raise the level of awareness of cyclists on the road. We need to learn to share the road and look out for cyclists. Drivers are distracted by cell phone notifications, trying to text and drive, trying to make calls and drive, and a myriad of other little things that use up the instant they need to avoid a fatal collision. Since we don’t have bike lanes, we tend not to expect to see cyclists on the road, especially at multi-lane busy intersections.

In the Netherlands, the pedestrian is King, the cyclists are queens, and the car comes in as a lowly commoner. Bike lanes are everywhere and they have their own stop lights.

Most people ride their bikes to work, school, the store, and even to the golf course. For all the months we were there, I never saw an accident. Drivers are vigilant.

I officiated at the installation of the ghost bike for Deaveon. I have done countless funerals but the devastation of his friends and family was intense. They were still trying to fathom how a young man with everything going for him in the prime of his life was gone. His life was snuffed out in a matter of seconds.

My son rides a bike to work because it’s fun and he’s trying to help save the planet. I worry about him. I would love to see our community embrace this wonderful mode of transportation. If you want to help in this endeavor, check out Reconnect Rochester. https://reconnectrochester.org/

Nothing Will Happen Unless…

This information is actually incorrect. I’m in the State Assembly district 135 and the State Senatorial district 54. Check your information!

Nothing will happen unless we do something.

I couldn’t sleep after the mass shooting in Buffalo or Texas. The tragedy was horrific and we all have spent time picturing our loved ones or ourselves suffering through it. That alone is enough to keep us up at night but the idea that nothing will change as a result is truly heart-wrenching.

We have a voice and our voice matters. For years, I have worked with Rural and Migrant Ministry to address the unjust laws for farmworkers. Farmworkers did not have the same rights as the rest of us in New York State. They were not given overtime or even a day off. They were denied the right to organize. It wasn’t until 1996 that a law was passed requiring employees to provide drinking water to workers and it was 1998 before toilets were mandated for workers. (https://documentedny.com/2021/10/13/12-workers-make-history-forming-new-yorks-first-farmworkers-union/)

Finally, in 2021, farmworkers were given most of the rights the rest of us take for granted but they still need to work 60 hours before receiving overtime pay. We are still working to change that law.

I tell you about farmworkers because I know firsthand how long it takes and what has to happen to get the attention of our elected officials. But it can be done.

We all have to make our views known to our elected officials. I am against assault weapons being sold to the general public. There should be red flag checks. I am planning on starting with my town officials, then my state representatives, and my federal representatives. I’ve had their offices on speed dial for the last twenty years.

Here’s what to expect, when you contact the office you may get lucky and speak to a staffer. If you call often enough, they will come to know you. If you write, you might receive a form letter from their office. If you email, you will get an acknowledgment email. This can be discouraging but it takes time and repetition.

If only a few people take action by contacting their representatives, nothing will happen. It will be business as usual, both sides not listening to the other side. Meanwhile, 20 more mass shootings have happened since TX.

But if we ALL take action and rally our friends and family and thousands of letters, emails, and phone calls start happening, something might happen. If we all get out and vote, things could change.

Identify your representatives and contact them. https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative, https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-

contact.htmhttps://www.nysenate.gov/registration/nojs/form/start/find-my-senator. If you are outside of New York State, google “How do I find my state senator”

https://nyassembly.gov/mem/search/. (If you are outside of NY, google “How do I find my state representative)

If you are a teacher, organize and barrage your representatives with pleas to make changes! How many more deaths will it take? Use your VOICE!!!!!!

Are we in trouble?

Hiking has changed in the last 40 -50 years. We used to get a guide for the areas we wanted to hike. The guide would tell us where the trailhead was and then narrate the hike. I remember my father reading the description of the trail from the guidebook. “Follow the brook for two miles through a pine forest before ascending a steep rocky trail for one mile, etc.”

Now there is an App. So I downloaded it. The App connects to google maps and guides you right to the trailhead. At least that is what is supposed to happen. I started driving following the directions of the App. My screen lit up with a question. Do you want to take a shortcut? Without even hesitating, I pressed yes and continued following the directions which took us to a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. There was no trailhead in sight. The map said we were there but “there” was a dirt road in the middle of a steep hill with ditches instead of shoulders on the side. Even with our Jeep Wrangler’s tight turning radius, I didn’t think I could turn around. We stopped, set the emergency brake, and got out to find the elusive trailhead.

There was a deep rumbling sound and I saw a huge dump truck climbing the hill. He went roaring by us and then at the top of the hill he slammed on his brakes and screeched to a stop. The door flew open and the driver jumped out and started running down the hill.

Uh oh, I thought. We are in trouble. We shouldn’t be here, we are parked illegally, this is someone’s private property, why did I buy that App? Was it because I pressed shortcut? All I wanted to do was take a lousy hike? Is he going to yell at us?

We watched as the driver slid to a stop on the heels of his work boots. He bent down and picked something up and held it over his head like an athlete who just won a gold medal. It was a bag of garbage – a French fries container, a hamburger wrapper, a plastic cup complete with a straw sticking out of the lid, all falling out of a torn bag.

The driver had stopped to pick up trash.

The driver of this very large construction vehicle obviously on his way to a job had stopped to pick up someone else’s trash in the middle of nowhere.

Who does that?

We watched him jog up the hill with his trash, climb into his truck, and drive away.

We stood there, the trailhead forgotten as we looked at the pristine landscape surrounding us giving thanks for the steward in the dump truck who took a few minutes to keep it that way.

I Can’t Imagine

There is no image for this post that could possibly express the anguish I feel.

I can’t imagine why that young man shot ten people in the Top’s.

I know what the reporters say. He drove from just outside of Binghamton and targeted African Americans. It was a racist act of hate. I’m sure it was.

I can’t imagine what happened to this person that made him drive hundreds of miles to shoot innocent people at a grocery store,

I know there are people who encourage violence and use every means of communication to inflame young minds generating the emotions that cause them to take heinous actions.

I can’t imagine what he was thinking as he drove.

I know we need to all work together to take action. We need to decide what action to take. Everyone needs to get involved.

I can’t imagine what the victims families are going through today. How does a trip to the grocery store result in death?

I know the lives of the people in the community are changed forever. The horror of not feeling safe. The idea of being targeted.

I can’t imagine how he went from someone’s baby boy to a toddler, to a boy, and then a shooter.

I know I will support anti racism training, leadership development for youth, and policies that work toward creating a peaceful and just society. We need to work together. We have to stop the rhetoric that tears us apart. We need to be open to hearing one another. We can’t just write about it.

What specific action will we take?

Too much stuff

We had to empty out our kitchen recently since we are having it remodeled. It’s humbling to realize how much stuff we have.

I’ve watched both seasons of the “Home Edit” on Netflix. We are a nation with too much stuff. No matter how large the home, closets, and cupboards are bulging. Mine included.

This remodeling of the kitchen presented an opportunity to let stuff go, give it away, or repurpose it. The first step is the edit step and the majority of people have trouble with this step. I keep thinking about the one piece of clothing I gave away because I never wore it and then the perfect event happened six months later and I really wanted that dress back. Just that one experience makes me second-guess giving anything away. The second reason, I don’t want to let anything go is the sentimental value I attach to objects. For example, I bought this pitcher in the Netherlands because I needed a pitcher. At home, I have six pitchers. How many do I need? All the others have memories attached as well. Which one do I get rid of? I’ve been told to keep the one that sparks the most joy but none of the pitchers spark joy for me but I do need a pitcher! Round and round I go.

I have made a discovery about myself. It takes me two iterations to edit. On the first pass, I am quick and decisive. My husband watches me fill boxes and as soon as they seem full he runs them out to the truck and he’s off to the donation sites.

I’ve met some wonderful people on “Buy Nothing West Webster” Facebook page. They come and take away my stuff and are elated. It’s easy to offer up my 40-year-old furniture that is still in great shape.

The second pass is tough. I hem and haw over little things that I haven’t touched or used in the past two years. I just like having some of this stuff.

On the Home Edit show, they have a saying, you can have the stuff or you can have the space. I want space.

Life is less stressful when there is space. I had four sets of measuring cups, 6 scotch tape dispensers, lids that had no matching pots, and don’t get me started on the plastic storage containers and lids. I consolidated and found out that I might enjoy cooking.

My son and daughter-in-law are getting rid of all their stuff. They sold their house and they bought a twenty-two-foot trailer. They plan on living in it indefinitely with their five-year-old daughter and two dogs. They are letting go of everything they own from their house except what will fit in a 5′ X 5′ storage container and their trailer.

My husband and I lived in a 30-foot RV for five months. I told my son, you’ll figure out what is most important to you. It’s not the stuff.

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