Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Culturally Challenged

Though I am white, the line from Maya Angelou's book, "I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings," resonates with me:  "Of all the needs (there are none imaginary) a lonely child has, that must be satisfied, is the unshaking need for an unshakable God." p.26.  Maya's brother served that purpose for her. My God, in my youth, took a more traditional Christian view being that of Jesus.  I never prayed to God as a child, I prayed directly to Jesus.

My father's traditional stop to the chapel religiously at the orphanage reinforced the need to pray.  In his day God was an almighty being filled with fire an brimstone for the common man.  Masses were said in Latin.  My God, never, had those images, as the Nuns taught me of a loving Jesus who would be sympathetic to the common man.  Father Tom, who would say mass once a week at the orphanage served as the visual equivalent of what Jesus must have looked like.

One sermon of his, in particular, stood out with me then as it does with me now. He told the story by Shel Silverstein's, "The Giving Tree."  I remember how the tree gave everything to the little boy, finally offering no more than a stump to rest his body upon.  In my life, I lost everything including my home.  It took time, but good people helped me get to the point I am in my life, and now I have an apartment.  Another story, from the Bible, that Father Tom spoke about, was the one of three individuals with various given gifts.  One of those mentioned buries his gift so it is unable to prosper. Sometimes, I most identify with this person, as in my youth I wrote songs and played guitar.  I chose at the time a path, I felt was more secure for a family by working as a substitute teacher and writing for local papers. Time will tell if I made the right choice.

I also recall the story of Easter as taught by Father Tom.  We would have a reenactment of the Easter Vigil including a donkey, which Father Tom would ride. One year at Easter, the orphanage had a flood, and the children were brought out on the donkey.

Reflecting again on Ms. Angelou's book, "All adults had to be addressed Mister, Miss, Auntie, Unk, Uncle..."p. 28, which we were also taught at the orphanage in the 60's and 70's.  All of the maids were to be addressed as Miss like Miss May, Mr. Willie and Miss June M. Brown who was their daughter, and was sixteen. I loved her as an older playmate, and she taught me not to get angry like the Nuns did as well.

In my days at the orphanage, I only had one black social worker.  There was no such term as African American being promoted back then.  There had been a cultural shift from the use of the term negro to black and black power, black panthers and other terms of solidarity and strength were beginning to be used.  I liked her and her name was Mrs. Espy.  My twin brothers, played with her name and called her Mrs. Espionage.  They were only a year older, and I didn't even know what espionage meant.  I don't know if the name calling originated with them, or if started with older boys, because I was only about five at the time.

Around 1974, I had my first black cottage worker, or, as they are called now child care worker.  Her name was Miss Butch.  She was very young and had a baby.  I liked her as well.  I was beginning to learn about the black experience and the struggles of slavery.  I asked her if she was able to know anything about her black heritage.  She acknowledged that it was difficult.

Something I have always regretted from my childhood was an incident while I lived in St. Vincent's Cottage.  I really did not think it was wrong to have a knife from home because my Dad gave it to me.  It was a Girl Scout knife.  I knew other girls who had knives over the years, and I never said anything because I figured it was what they grew up with, and we all understood they were not to be used for violence.  My one friend in Immaculata showed me her sharpening stone.  I believe she was Native American though, I may be wrong.  We were taught many Native American traditions.

My friend Marilyn, saw that I had a knife and apparently reported it to Miss Butch. By this time, I was going home on weekends.  I simply took the knife back home when I realized that Marilyn had reported me.  Marilyn was upset with me because Miss Butch could not find the knife.  I didn't want to be in trouble so I played dumb.

Later when I went to see my social worker at the time.  Somehow Miss Butch came up in the subject. I always felt like maybe I cost her her job because I alluded to Miss Butch being prejudiced when asked, which she was not.  To tell you the truth, I don't know if Miss Butch lost her job or not.  I just always felt badly about what I had done.

That week, Marilyn was furious with me when Miss Butch could not find the knife, and Sr. Helen was afraid she was going to beat me up.  I don't know if  Sister knew about the knife incident, as she never asked me.  Sr. Helen sent me to another cottage where I took care of an adorable little black baby named Christmas. She had ebony eyes and a beautiful smile.  She also had a cast from hips down.  I was good with children, and I learned then how much I enjoyed taking care of kids. When I asked Sister what happened to Christmas, she told me her father had thrown her against the wall.  I couldn't believe that a little innocent baby would be harmed by her own father.

Marilyn and I stayed friends, as eventually she got over being angry with me.  I left from St. Vincent's Cottage to come home for good in 1975.  The period is semi-vague.  I remember going to my social worker's house and being told I was going home.  My two friends Edna and Angel were with me at the time.  Sr. Helen also took me to another girl's home where the girl had been a resident of ours.  She had a broken back and was now living at home.  For some crazy reason her brother beat her up and caused her broken back.  I never asked her the details.  Her younger sister and I had been good friends.

In the ten years, I lived there, I never volunteered why I lived there, nor did I ask anyone why they were living at the orphanage.  There were times by happenstance that I learned things, but I never divulged the information.

I pray, that if I ever meet Miss Butch or Marilyn again, I can say I am sorry for what I did as a child. It was a crazy era.  When I was very young and really hadn't been out of the orphanage, some of the kids had taught me a rhyme that I didn't know the meaning of when a white kid and a black kid got into a fight it was said, and I sang it on the bus when were headed to a camp we used to attend.  Miss Lucille knew I had no idea what I was saying and said do you know what that means, and I replied, "no."  The terrible taunt, was, "there's a fight, there's a fight between a n and a white." To this day, I have to ask myself, why was it that when I had almost no exposure to the outside world at that time and was not even in first grade, why did I know this taunt.  Like everything else, I guess, I must have learned it from the other kids.  Thankfully, Miss Lucille who was stern didn't get angry with me, but she made me aware that it was really a bad thing to do.

Miss Lucille, did on occasion get mad with me and on one occasion during lunch hour,  she put me in a small closet in the room next door that was completely dark.  I don't know what I had done.  Mrs. Buckley, who was from India and was my teacher, never knew, as I did not tell her.  Miss Lucille used to make us sing hymns on the bus when we went to camp, otherwise, it was to be quiet. Miss Lucille never shared anything with me about her personal life.  I just knew she watched us at nap time at the orphanage and road with us on the bus.  Some of the kids were really afraid of Miss Lucille.  I think it was just her way.

Miss Angelou's book states, "Nobody with a smidgen of training, not even the worst roustabout, would look right in a grown person's face.  It meant the person was trying to take the words out before they were formed." p.29.  I have been misunderstood before because I would not look one in the eye.  I was taught it was disrespectful.  It was extremely confusing to me when I had two doctors from India.  One was a doctor, who had lived and practiced in the States for some time.  He would tell me to look him in the eye.  I could not, and I told him it made me uncomfortable.  A younger doctor also from India, but a traditionalist became my treating psychiatrist with whom I could relate much better.  He never forced me to look him in the eyes, and I felt much more at ease with him.

To this day, I have difficulty with people wanting me to look them straight in the eye,  as if it were a window of honesty, I think that is a US thing..  I experienced this most recently with a woman.  I felt like in order to look her in the eye, I would have to look through her, into the eyes of the abyss. Though it made me uncomfortable, I got through it.

I studied business at both Oakland Community College and Eastern Michigan University.  My Professor at Eastern asked for someone to come up and shake his hand.  I didn't know there was a business handshake even for women.  I shook his hand like the Queen of England does.  He said that was not how to do it, and kindly explained in business you extend your hand out and shake the other person's firmly.

I played the YMCA song for one of my reports, but I didn't have the lettering on my poster board stenciled, so I received a lower grade.  I learned the lettering had to be professional.  I had been the store manager at YMCA Camp Ohiyesa,  Dakota, and had to organize the small store at the camp.  I was doing fine selling the items and making change in my head.  Then low and behold a register came.  I was only taught one day by an outsider, a man with little patience, on how to use the register, and I didn't get it.  I tried studying the book all night, but I needed a teacher, who would have gone more slowly with me.  So I resorted to what I understood, type in the exact amount as though they had given it to you that way, and make sure you give the correct change.  I let the office know what I had done, so they could do whatever they did to account for the money.  Fortunately, my first reporting job came up, and I was able to quit.  I am afraid of registers to this day because I don't feel I can learn them fast enough.

I was also taught by the same Professor at Eastern to either keep the soles of your feet on the ground or cross your legs without ever showing a heel, as that is a sign of disrespect in many cultures, especially in the Middle East.  If you have short legs and may be a little chubby, perhaps it is easier to keep your legs together and your feet directly on the ground.

I never had business outfits.  I never had the money, so I would struggle when I was trying to work. Thankfully, in my news reporting positions, I could get away with jeans.  Although, one time in Brighton I was embarrassed as I did not know they televised their council meetings, but I posed my question anyways.

I do have some slacks now and some tops, so hopefully, my situation in seeking employment will improve.  I still believe there is a God, I just can't assign my God to any particular religion or give him any ethnicity.  I guess I still give my God gender.  I don't know if that practice will ever go away.

I respect Pope Francis for his efforts, I just can't believe in the Church especially when they are teaching things about Saints and blessing dogs.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Global Tel Link Is A Racket

I received a letter from my son today who should be hospitalized, instead, he is sitting in jail deteriorating as I write this blog.  His letter is convoluted and lacks cohesiveness.  The jails in the "U.S. have 10 x the population with mental illness housed in 5,000 jails and prisons." http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/31/us/a-psychologist-as-warden-jail-and-mental-illness-intersect-in-chicago.html?ref=topics&_r=0

A tremendous mistake was made when the U.S. collectively made a decision to close mental hospitals.  Many of the mental hospitals were horrible and lacked humanity; however, now a great populace is without proper mental health services and no place to properly care for the mentally ill.

To add insult to misery, family members are treated poorly by the system.  Global Tel Link is the service provider for family members to provide credit card information to, if an individual is to receive phone calls.  Here is the horrendous injustice.  If one, such as myself, owns a cell phone with unlimited minutes, which I have paid for, Global Tel Link wants their share of the pie and being that I am out of state, the charges escalate.  The amount of money to start is $25.00 + 4.10 taxes + $8.00 service fee for a ten minute call, which initially the guy said was for a fifteen minute call.

If, Global Tel Link, is incapable of having their facts straight from the get go.  One must realize there is a racket involved.  It is pathetic that supposedly in the U.S., we have a capitalist society, which does not permit monopolies.  Hmm, mm, I guess this does not include jails or prisons.

Global Tel Link, profits from individuals who have done no wrong.  They are the lone provider for telephone services.  Additionally, if I set-up an account with them, I would not be able to call to the jail, I would have to wait for my son to call. By the way, I made the decision based on my income that I could not afford this ridiculous set-up.  What pains me, is that I received a letter from my son, where it is apparent his health is declining. I can only pray that he will receive care and is moved to a hospital soon.

Once, he is moved to a hospital using my cell phone without additional fees, I can call him.  What kind of world are we living in?  I know, provided an opportunity, my son can turn his life around. All my siblings and myself have attained higher education.  I have struggled the most, but I am not knocking myself out of the game.  I know what it takes to bounce back, and I must be the example for my son and daughter.

Watch out world, my children are diamonds in the rough.  With proper support, they will thrive.  I know, they are mine. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/global-tel-link/  Copy and Paste to web browser for this news story.