Category Archives: Poverty

‘Tis the Seasons

Ah yes – Black Friday and the official opening of the Season of Greed and its companion Seasons ‘it’s about ME’ and ‘Wasteful Plenty’.

The Season of ‘it’s about ME’ where people are phoning around looking for someplace to volunteer – early in December so they can get it done before they get busy. No, it cannot be January or June or October but must be December.

Should the organization be unable to accommodate the December, preferably early December, timetable …… it’s “Thanks but I’ll try somewhere else”. Should the organization be so … ungrateful as to suggest volunteering in another month at a different time of year … egad, that’s just not on.

The Season of ‘it’s about ME’ where it is not about the year round needs of others or the organizations that serve the community and those needs 52 weeks a year but about the needs of ME’s December.

Soon after the opening of the Season of ‘it’s about ME’ we will be into the Season of Wasteful Plenty, a sub-Season of the ‘it’s about ME’ Season.

The Season of Wasteful takes place during the two to three weeks before Christmas when the homeless are buried under so much Plenty they cannot carry it all.

Giving those to whom sharing or a generous heart is an anathema the opportunity to bemoan “See, the homeless are throwing away what was so generously given to them. So ungrateful; there is no point in trying to help them obviously don’t appreciate/deserve/want help.”

Both critics and givers overlooking or ignoring the reality that when you are homeless, you have no convenient storage for excess items; that when you travel from place to place by walking every ounce of weight gets heavier over the course of the day; that winter, with the need for warm clothing and its inclement weather, is the time of year the homeless can carry the least.

During the short 2 – 3 weeks of the Season of Wasteful Plenty the homeless are loaded down with so much stuff they either need a pack animal to carry it all or must chose the items most useful to their survival – and abandon the rest.

Then the High Holy Day(s) of the Season of Greed – Boxing Day and Boxing Week – arrive and the Spirit is switched off and thoughts of the homeless and giving are relegated to the scrap-heap of indifference – until the arrival of Black Friday once again signals the opening of the new Season’s of Greed, ‘it’s about ME’ and Wasteful Plenty.

Watching this cycle year after year, knowing how useful the items abandoned during the Season of Wasteful Plenty would be in the days, weeks and months following December 25th – if they were to be distributed in the New Year.

Watching people scramble to get their volunteering in, making themselves feel good or be able to say “oh yes, I volunteered at ******. Knowing what could be accomplished if volunteerism, generosity and the Spirit could truly be kindled in the hearts year round.

It is the season that, rather than bring out the Light in the human race, too often speaks to the worst in the human race.

It is the season that would have me despairing of the future of the human race was it not for …

The dental professionals who give their time to the Abbotsford Food Bank‘s dental clinic so those with the need, but not the means, can have dental care; the volunteers who not only faithfully come in to prepare and serve lunch throughout the year, but give up their holidays (i.e. thanksgiving) to come in to prepare and serve lunch so that holidays are not a day of hunger for those in need; the varied group of people who come together year round on Thursday evening to donate, prepare and serve a meal to those who hunger – outside in sun, rain or snow ; the congregations of Peace Lutheran and St. Matthews who one Sunday a month serve dinner; those who give their time as big brothers/sisters, to coach the Special Olympics, to coach soccer or hockey or baseball; the two friends who preserved my mobility (my car) and the benefits that flow from that mobility; others who struggle to meet the need in our community.

Behaviours and people remoulding the despair for the future into a search for the words to inspire others to think, to reflect and to change – choosing enlightened self-interest over greed.

Johnny Winter – Livin’ the Blues

It had been so long since I had been able to go to a venue to enjoy a musician I liked live that I had forgotten the sheer pleasure, the joy, to be found in great music played LOUD. Played at a volume where the music hammers into and through you and sets your very core to vibrating in tune with the music.

From the moment that Johnny Winter’s band of Paul Nelson (guitar), Scott Spray (bass) and Vito Liuzzi (drums) were introduced and began to play – before Mr. Winter joined them on stage at the end of that first number – you knew you were in for a treat for the ears and the soul.

The first notes they played drove all thoughts but ‘man, are they tight’ out of your mind and made for an evening of spectacular music.

It was not the quality of the music that was the most impressive part of the evening. You expect great music from Johnny Winter. What strikes you is the seeming effortlessness with which Mr. Winter displays his mastery of the guitar, calling forth the musical sound that affirms him as a virtuoso.

From the opening notes played by the three members of Johnny Winter’s band to the final notes of Highway 61 the evening was a musical tour de force that left you energized, with a huge smile on your face and a joy that could be heard in your voice.

Nanaimo’s Mr. David Gogo’s solo acoustic blues was the perfect opening act for the evening. His solo acoustic performance allowed him to demonstrate his own mastery of the blues and the guitar without competing or being contrasted with Johnny Winter.

Switching back and forth between his two acoustic guitars Mr. Gogo demonstrated why he has ten albums under his belt and an impressive list of nominations and awards.

Mr. Gogo’s set was such that the first thing I did upon returning home was to go online to the Library to see which of Mr. Gogo’s ten CDs were available to be reserved, taken out and listened to.

It was a greatly enjoyable evening of outstanding music enhanced by the venue, Mission’s Clarke Theatre, were there were nothing but good seats.

One of the reasons that poverty grinds away at the spirit is that the revitalization of one’s soul and spirit that simple pleasures such as this evening of great Blues music with Johnny Winter and David Gogo provide is beyond one’s reach. While the price was incredibly reasonable for the music delivered by the performers, it might just have as well have been $10,000 for its lack of affordability on my budget.

The pleasure, joy, relaxation and memories provided me by the evening’s music came to me courtesy of an early Christmas present. Meaning that whatever else happens Christmas 2010 is already a great success in terms of gifts.

Thanks to Mr. Winter, Mr. Gogo and Mr. Earl for a most joyful, exhilarating evening of Smokin’ Blues.

Magnificent Nonperformance


Preferred Option – someway to have the Cavalier examined and adjusted so that it can pass Aircare, runs well and hopefully save gas $$$;


Secondary Option – a functional vehicle capable of passing Aircare as replacement for the Cavalier.

Either option must be reflective of financial reality – I am so tapped out that I don’t have/cannot afford the gas to drive someone to the West Coast Express to catch the 5:27 AM train to get to the hospital in Richmond for a knee operation. While careful budgeting and spending could free up a little cash flow it is highly unlikely to exceed $50 a month and is subject to being needed for any unanticipated expense.

In other words I need a repair or a vehicle that falls at the extreme luck/miracle end of the spectrum.

At this point it should be clear that the Cavalier failed Aircare – but at least it did so spectacularly. On the hydrocarbon idle test were the maximum allowable limit is 101 ppm the Cavalier was at 2000 ppm.

I do not know why but with such a spectacular failure I found myself more philosophical than anxious and panicky. Since it was not even close there were no ‘if only I had done this or that’ thoughts to beat myself up with.

I remember the mental horror show I went through when the VW that had been my home through several years of homelessness barely failed Aircare. The mental meltdown, the anxiety and panic, took days to run their course. If fortune had not smiled, made available a Plymouth Duster for $100 and interrupted the mental downward spiral it could well have led to a full blown relapse into the darkness of mental illness.

This time the failure to pass Aircare left me a little shaken and stirred but not nonfunctional. People complaining about the exhaust from the Cavalier resulting in the suspecion it would not pass Aircare so it was not a total shock. Although dealing with the anxiety this possibility caused, keeping it from becoming a consuming anxiety and blossoming into panic resulted in an ongoing struggle with its own mental ups and downs.

Anxiety and panic threaten my mental health on this matter because I depend on this vehicle to get to work, to food, to the pool to swim (a mainstay of my mental and physical health), to group, to volunteer commitments, to committees (housing, homelessness, mental health etc.), to a myriad of other commitments and involvements.

The limited, impractical nature of the bus service in Abbotsford means that the only way to get to where I need to be when I need to be there is to have my own vehicle for transportation. In particular a work shift that ends at 1:30 AM across town from my abode.

The job that enables me to pay for my housing and without which I would quickly be homeless and on the streets of Abbotsford once again.

As is the case for many citizens, a car is not a luxury but a necessity.

Fortune has smiled in that, thanks to a friend, I was able to pay for the full three months of insurance I could get because the Cavalier passed Aircare last time. Fortune because, unlike a year of insurance where you can get on a monthly payment plan, all three months of insurance must be paid up front.

I had the $100 set aside in my budget for the monthly insurance payment but needed a total of $282. A good friend loaned me the difference so that I could have three months to deal with this issue. Fortune may have smiled a little there as he was so busy he had not been to bed in over 24 hours.

My mechanically adept friend Thomas recommended I take it to Hub Motors (he trusts their work and service) to have them ‘put it on the machine’ and determine exactly what the problem is. Which is why having the full three months allowed is so important – it gives time to scrape up the cash for an automobile visit to Hub Motors.

In the meantime Thomas and others will be keeping their eyes peeled for a super bargain on a vehicle of some type to meet my need to get to work, to food, to the pool, to group, to committees, et al.

Should you see me around Abbotsford with my tambourine panhandling, it is to address these transportation needs.

The Shadow of Hunger

A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, ‘Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.’

The Lord led the holy man to two doors.

He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water. The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.

The Lord said, ‘You have seen Hell.’

They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The holy man said, ‘I don’t understand.’

It is simple,’ said the Lord. ‘It requires but one skill. You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.’

The shelves at the Abbotsford Food Bank are nearly bare. Yet the number of seniors, families and children who depend on the Food Bank grows.

July and August are traditionally the slowest months for donations to the food bank. This year, between the growing demand and the bare shelves, the Food Bank simply cannot afford this traditional downturn. Without generous help from the community, hunger will triumph this summer in our city.

Will you share your spoon with Abbotsford’s hungry?

Just when did I board the SS Minnow?

My life is starting to feel as if I am sailing aboard the SS Minnow where, no matter how creatively I patch the holes, the water keeps finding new ways of leaking in, threatening to drag me down into homelessness once more.

The difference in the number of pay periods (26/2 = 13) versus disability cheque issues (12 X 2 = 24) resulted in an extra paycheque being included in a cheque period (3 cheques instead of the usual 2). The result was that $280 was clawed back off the disability cheque leaving me short $250 to pay June’s rent.

‘Delaying payment’ of the monthly bills provided $100 towards June’s rent. Of course the price of using the $100 to pay June’s rent is the need to struggle for at least the next three months to squeeze $100 out of my budget to bring the accounts of the monthly bills back to current from delinquent. On a budget were even a 2kg jar of peanut butter is a major expenditure finding the $100 feels more like one is paying in blood or having it carved out of one’s hide.

With no discretionary spending in the budget each ‘savings’ is a decision made at the expense of something else.

If Fate or The Universe had not intervened to return a damage deposit, three years late and in the precise month (May 2010) it was needed, the car I am writing this sitting in would have been providing me shelter during my return to homelessness.

I am sitting in the car writing this waiting for a free supper to be served because I cannot afford the gas to drive home and then return for supper. I am a member of a Fraser Mental Health committee that exists to advise Fraser Mental Health, from the point of view of someone using the services provided by Fraser Mental Health, about its the services and delivery methods it uses. I was forced to miss June’s meeting because there was no money to pay for gas to drive to and from Surrey.

My car provides the only form of transportation that allows me to get to the places I need to be at the times I need to be there. Being unable to get to work and get home from work at 1:30 in the morning would mean I could not afford my current lodgings, could not afford the rent on any safe and healthy housing. Volunteer activities, Fraser Mental Health committees (Surrey, Coquitlam), Housing and Homeless working groups, mental health groups to facilitate (Abbotsford, Mission and Chilliwack) are among the commitments only a car allows me to keep. A car is not a convenience but a necessity.

I am so tapped out that the other day when I found a British made ink pen with four different nibs and ink cartridges in a Thrift Store for the bargain price of $0.65, a pen I needed to replace one that had ceased to write, I had to borrow $0.30 to have enough to pay for it. Repaying the $0.30 was accomplished through cashing 6 pop cans in at the bottle depot.

So of course, when your life begins to feel more and more like you are a passenger on the SS Minnow or are transferring to the Titanic, when one is financially past the point of being tapped out and the car you need and depend on needs to be aircared … that is when said automobile starts running rough and spewing out fumes that have people in the vicinity of the exhaust pipe choking and gasping for fresh air.

With my current financial situation, pretty much penniless, the need for a tune-up (or whatever the Cavalier requires to pass Aircare) requires the benefaction of a mechanic and parts required at a cost of … zero, zip, nada, $0.00 OR the philanthropy of a vehicle with a price at the same level of zero, zip, nada, $0.00.

Finding the future, Housed or Homeless, once again out of my hands and consigned to Fate …

… well, not only is life feeling as if I am a passenger on the SS Minnow but this latest twist has me feeling as if I have been tossed an anchor instead of a life jacket.

Continue reading Just when did I board the SS Minnow?