Can Poverty be Re-branded?

“Sometimes when it feels like things are falling apart it’s just things falling into place”.

This inspirational saying brought to mind the Monty Python skit of “Catch that prize!” where if a contestant could catch, say a refrigerator, dropped from a fourth story window he could keep it. It is annoying how many pithy sayings there are for things falling apart.

I went to a lecture titled, “Is poverty a disease? Could treating poverty work like medicine?” Dr. Gary Bloch, a nice young  doctor who works out of a hospital in T.O. in an area with a lot of homeless people using the ER. *

I am biased, three times around the big C has introduced me to lots of doctors, I have found many doctors, young white males in particular but not exclusively, to possess large egos if not pugnacious attitudes of entitlement. I have read a bit about what internships are like, so I add exhaustion as an excuse for some of them, and then there are the ones who really want to do good… and this guy is one of them. But he is still coming from a culture (medical professionals) that looks at everyone as a set of symptoms.  It is also a culture that is very difficult to enter because of the costs of medical school. Why money should be allowed to be a deciding factor in who might want to be, or might be able to be, a doctor is another question. Most doctors tell me that I can discuss only two things per visit. However, if one of them is about O.H.I.P. the clock seems to fly out the window. Sorry I am griping. 😛

At the very end of the lecture I got to say my two cents worth. My heart was pounding so hard once I decided to try to speak that I might have not heard all of his lecture.  I brought up the Harris government, 25 years ago in Ontario targeting single mothers, reducing their family benefits by 1/3 OVER NIGHT and then standing back to watch the fallout. All the tax payers who could accept the cost of constant road repairs before they accepted the cost of social repairs? Well, if driving over the bodies of welfare mom’s had caused a bumpy ride to work they still might have supported this bludeoning of Family Benefits. I’m not sure but the effects were not as immediate as a bitter cold winter on ashphalt so they weren’t too bothersome. But a large number of women and children fell through the cracks. “Falling through the cracks” meant they went missing in the minds and hearts of the society that they belonged to. And many ended up in peril.

Harris’ cuts weren’t even cost effective, they shifted the expenses to totally ineffective services and removed large numbers from the data for political purposes only.  Add mismanagement of support payments, often those coming after a forced combative situation, a stipulation of receiving benefits was legal action against the absent partner, and voila, many families found themselves unable to pay rent. Their next step was into homelessness. There were piles of cheques for support that were months late and yet they sat unprocessed. Miscommunication, hostility and ineptitude turned up the heat on fathers who were labeled and threatened for being “dead-beat dads” which did not help moms and kids either. Many of my peers who didn’t have any other support network to help them were lost as the stress of jumping through hoops and sorting through requirements turned them back either to abusive situations or bad choices or emotional collapse and mental breakdown. The resulting years have led to the cost to taxpayers in law enforcement, incarceration, emergency services and health costs all skyrocketing and all caused by the repercussions of what were applauded as reforms twenty-five years ago.

I ended my diatribe with “Poverty is not a disease, it is a crime.” and I got applause.  (That was a bit frightening actually).

However quietly, fearfully we do it, we need to speak up about the things that maintain poverty so we can talk about the things that can alleviate it. Poverty is a crime being committed against the most vulnerable, and it is global. It is endorsed by the most wealthy and most priviledged. Poverty makes possible all sorts of abuses of human rights and so often leads to violence and even war. But I worry about calling it a disease. People living with poverty are already in isolation.

*I wrote this draft perhaps five years ago never publishing it.  If you go to the link for Dr. Gary Bloch you will see he is doing many positive and constructive things and lecturing other doctors. Maybe he is changing the culture from within? As I said, he is one of the good ones.

Dora the Explorer

We didn’t have a map but if we had a map it would have said, “Follow the path along the fence, cross a sea of wood chips in a boat, take the path through the forest, come to a big red number two.” (I didn’t get a picture of it but it was big and red, two things that are very significant to an almost two year old it would seem.)

Face Painting!

I got to do some face-painting at a street party in the east end of the city on Friday. The first “client” was a very smart little girl of four who knew exactly what she wanted. “I want to look like a tennis ball.”

Fortunately there was a tennis ball nearby that I could work from.

I like to get people, especially kids, talking about what they have chosen, sort of expanding on their imaginations, which are generally huge, so it begged the question, “so you like playing tennis?”

“No. I just like tennis balls.”

I didn’t get any pictures that day not even of the “tennis ball” a first for me. What can I say, it got busy and no one took any pictures. Here instead is a picture from another day and another street party, just to give you an idea of the set-up. The makeup is hypoallergenic and water based, great for kids and I have a bunch of laminated pictures to get them thinking about what they would like.  I often find kids are wannabe artists too so I can talk about how to mix colours and blend.  It’s all good. 🙂

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It Ain’t Rocket Science

I realize that it “ain’t rocket science” as the woman who trained me said but it can be demanding, especially at rush hour at a four way intersection in a busy downtown area.

There are many pleasant things about it, not the least of which are seeing all the everyday human interactions that are for the most part lovely. People can be very kind.

-a woman  tells me after I ask if she would like me to cross her that she went to the school as a child and crossed this very intersection with a crossing guard, and “here I am feeling eleven years old again!”
-an elderly lady says she doesn’t live around here anymore; Her friend and roommate died and so she came back to the old neighbourhood, because “you can’t be all alone feeling sad, you have to get out.” She had just been to visit the owner of the convenience store who she told me was “the nicest man on the planet.”
-people with walkers and canes and wheelchairs smiling and saying thank you and you can see that they are, despite pain and difficulty, grateful just to be out and pushing themselves to remain a part of the fabric of the neighbourhood, and people with issues with reality, with their minds, doing the same
-numerous and sundry people thanking me for being there, their hope that I would be placed there as a permanent crossing guard, (some introduced themselves and their children and asked my name)
-I see people parting for the day with kisses, I see people enjoying the sudden warm Autumn weather at the coffee shop patio reading their papers sitting in the Muskoka chairs that are lined along the wall. The gaggles of pre-teenage girls plotting and pruning and laughing, the boys perpetually uncomfortable and posturing, the dog walkers, the harried parents and bubbling babies and bouncing and fidgeting children, the late ones, the ones who keep their heads down, the ones who smile like other worldly beings, wise and gentle…

There is also a pretty awesome graffic on the the wall across from me.  Can’t post a pic but I will take note of the signature and pass it on later.

I find each rush hour intense. The drivers are in such a rush it is at times exhausting to keep an eye out for potential issues but I am sure it will come naturally after a time. It’s funny how some A.Hats will give me a WTF because I am walking as bright as an orange with my sign and vest to the curb as they are trying to WHAT? PUSH ME OUT OF THEIR WAY WITH THERE BIG STUPID HIGHLANDER TRUCK? because they Have to Make a Right TURN NOW!!!…? in a school zone when kids could run out at any time in front of their impatience and then change a whole bunch of lives for the worse? So I shrug my shoulders and make each step count as I step to the curb and lower the sign and smile.

Humans. But these are humans in large fast moving vehicles that weigh tonnes, trying to get to their next big mistake EVEN FASTER. 🙂

Getting to know a neighbourhood is like getting to know a person.

I hope I do go back to this crosswalk next week.

Happy safe Thanksgiving!

Did a spot of face painting!

Got invited again this year to face paint at a street party in the East End. Took it easy this year and kept it to only two and a half hours. A sign was posted ahead of time alerting the street to the hours, a much better approach as it avoided tears and breaking my back!  Still I have promised some kids to come back next year as they had SO MANY GOOD IDEAS and only one face to paint each.

I had two pumpkins this year.  I never had a request for a pumpkin face before!  Also the usual jungle camouflage, lots of those, several butterflies and angels.  The little girl in the picture showing me the heart she made was my favorite.  They had a painting station with an easel and paints and instead of freaking out when a smaller child put a mark on her page  she took my advice and incorporated it in her composition!  A happy happenstance!

I think I was talking about my concussion,

…meanwhile I am so dizzy and this is my day: sit down, think of something I need, get up to get it, start something else forget what I got up for, sit down and remember what it was, get up and get distracted…spin and repeat. After years of looking after my mother while she was in a similar state I am now in that state myself!  I feel like I am fighting through mashed potatoes.

finding myself waiting for a bus in the heat and the sun (the bus shack is like a solar cooker, what is the point of a clear roof?) A nice young woman said she would let me know when the bus came so I could stand in the door of the Egg Smart restaurant.  By that time my head was throbbing and I thought I’d throw up…the medication I am taking is not really helping, I feel like I am reduced to waiting for the moment the yogurt will expire

not original

I don’t see the neurologist again for two months.  The thing about seeing a neurologist is, how do you really know what she has said if you are brain impaired? A friend cut out an article for me about post concussion syndrome.  I feel like I should just carry it around with me as my saying, “I have a concussion” gets no real response other than “Yeah eh, but you look good, your nose is really healing…”  I cut my bangs so you can’t see the lump that is still on my forehead.

This concussion, like with migraine, makes it so I can’t gage my affect.  Am I too loud, too urgent too hysterical or have I over compensated too much until I am whispering, calm to the point of coma, and sitting in a burning house?

Avoid parties, bureaucrats, people with agendas, opinions, and or grievances,  real or imagined, sunlight, heat and humidity, the urge to buy dresses…

Is it an affront that I am asked to get my photo ID for OHIP and told if I don’t my doctor’s assistant won’t book an appointment for me?  How useful will the photo be when I won’t have bandages on my broken nose forever?  Am a reasonable to not want to listen to my doctor talk about how difficult OHIP is making it for her and then tell me that despite the fact that I am crying she has a lot of other people to see and there is no time to discuss what I am upset about?  Or is it my brain?

Is it my brain?

I want to spend all my time with my grandson and his dog. They seem to be the only people who do not confound me.   😛