Each day is new and wonderful. What inspired me today? Find out here.
|Well phooey. I certainly intended to write in this journal on a daily basis. But the old habit of grabbing a pen and notebook has been a hard one to change. Besides, when I thought about writing my thoughts on the computer, I’ve discovered my son in front of the screen. Sharing a computer with a 19-year-old is rather challenging sometimes. Oh well.
It’s hard to believe that an entire week has gone by since my last entry. But, indeed, it has.
Last week was rather disappointing. I’m actually a bit frightened at what the future holds or doesn’t hold at this point.
For the past 5 years, I’ve trusted God more than at any other time in my life, and He has always provided. But my resources have never been this low before. After paying the rent yesterday, my bank account balance was a whole $240 to last the month. I don’t have a job, nor the ability to work right now, so only God knows how the rent will be paid next month.
My knee surgery was a done a year ago, and I’m still not able to work. An evaluator has decided that I have reached "maximum medical improvement" and my compensation pay ended with his proclamation.
My knee doctor, though, insists I’m not really ready to work again and refuses to sign a release to work. He’s right, of course. Just standing at the kitchen sink rinsing dishes makes the pains shoot from my hip to my foot.
I wear an ugly and bulky brace, from my thigh to my ankle, which helps support my weak knee and muscles. Without the brace, my knee either buckles or locks in place. With it, I’m betting my chances of gaining employment, even if my doctor authorizes it, are pretty slim.
My knee is still swollen, after an entire year has gone by. It throbs, almost constantly, and at the end of the day, my back is sore from walking with an "altered gait" and my foot is swollen as well. (That's a malady my worker's comp knee doctor refuses to acknowledge might be caused by my knee problems. My attorney disagrees. I'm left as "monkey in the middle.")
While the doctors, insurance company, my attorney, and the Worker’s Compensation Commission argue and disagree about my fate and my abilities, I am left hanging without any income. They all have regular income, and don’t seem much concerned that I do not.
Working with other government agencies to get some assistance has been a real education too.
I wrote these words a few years ago:
"Living in the United States, we are generally thankful for the level of prosperity our land of opportunity offers. And we truly believe that those who have not succeeded or reached our own level of worth have done something wrong or have chosen poverty over wealth. How wrong we are to feel that way.
I read recently that we define poverty in the United States as a family of four making less than $17,000. That means that every single parent with three children who earns a minimum wage is far below poverty level. People like this are all around us, and yet we choose not to see them. If we do see them, we believe they have chosen this poverty."
When I penned those words, I really thought I understood them. I had worked in a church office, and saw poor people on a daily basis. They came for assistance in paying the rent or utilities or for food, and their stories were painful.
Although we had a huge food pantry in our area, people chose to visit our church instead, picking and choosing from our meager offerings. At the food pantry, they were made to feel inferior. At another non-profit which offered rent and utility assistance, they were treated rudely. Dozens often lined up at the door of our church seeking help. And my other regular church duties were often pushed aside.
Once, a woman arrived with three children in tow. Being without a job and a home was something new to her. She and her children were living at the Salvation Army while she sought gainful employment. Word on the streets was that our church was helpful to the poor and she showed up.
It was in the middle of the summer, and the Salvation Army insisted that all residents leave during the day, even though the heat had reached over 90 degrees. This mom did still have a car, an older one, but one with air conditioning. She drove the kids to the park, then put them back in the car for a while to get cool. Sometimes, she’d use one of the few dollars she had left to buy one cold drink for them all to share at a local fast food restaurant. The kids played on the playground equipment for a while, then they found relief in the air conditioned restaurant while they all took turns sipping that one soft drink. Funds were getting low, and the Salvation Army was disappointed that this woman had not located a job yet. And so they showed up at the church.
I sat the woman at an extra desk and gave her the newspaper help wanted ads, as well as a few names and phone numbers of people whom I knew who might be looking for employees. I placed the kids in a cool room and gave them crayons and paper to occupy them. When I asked if they were hungry, they answered in unison, eagerly, "Yes!" I decided to cook a decent lunch for this mother and her kids in the kitchen next to the room where the kids colored.
The youngest child, a boy, joined me in the kitchen to pick and choose the foods they liked best. He was concerned that his mother would have a meal she liked. As Salvation Army residents, they received a good evening meal. They also received a small breakfast, but the mother had been sharing her breakfast with her children. In essence, the mom had only been eating one meal a day. And this little boy was concerned that his mother wasn’t getting enough to eat.
The woman did get a job from the leads I provided. And another kind soul helped get them into a nearby apartment complex. They were on my mind when I wrote the words above, just before Thanksgiving, as I watched a woman leave the store with a few turkeys as a hungry mom and her kids watched.
Yes, the church experience made me think that I understood what it was like to be poor – from afar. But living an experience is much more educational that watching it.
I keep thinking that God has allowed this to happen so that I can help others. The Worker’s Compensation system in Texas is horrible. Really horrible. And that’s not something the average person knows until he or she has a work injury.
I understand why our Worker’s Comp system was changed. In the past, workers who probably didn’t deserve it received huge settlements for minor injuries. Attorneys got huge fees as well. Something surely had to be done to change the system.
But what has happened is that the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. For having a knee that I can no longer stand upon to work, for having constant pain and swelling, for having a permanent physical problem, my compensation will most likely be four weeks of compensation pay (which was only 80% of my regular pay). From that money, 25% will be given to my attorney.
It’s hardly worth it for attorneys to help with worker’s compensation claims, and most attorneys refuse to take them any more. And in my opinion, having a permanent knee problem which also affects my back should result in compensation of more than $1,000. (It’s interesting to note that if I had been injured in a car accident, my permanent knee injury would probably be worth lots more.)
So, perhaps that’s what this is all about - letting people know what a horrible worker’s comp system exists in the state of Texas.
Meanwhile, I have no income. And I wonder how in the world I will pay the rent next month.
I was receiving $11 a month in food stamps, but that stopped while my case is being re-evaluated. I’ve been informed that I might receive $139 per month, since I no longer have any income. I wonder how long it will take for them to decide my case.
Sometimes I just want to shout to myself, "Get off the pity train! You've been a sucessful regional sales director, a successful marketing manager. You've had your writing published many times since you were a teen!" It's all true, of course. But Ms. Merry Sunshine's glow and good cheer slowly erodes each day, as she fights the system, as she tries desparately to gain back her self-confidence.
Each day, my empathy for the poor grows. It has to for I’m one of them now.
Next Sunday another birthday will come and go. Gaining another year gives me another challenge in getting work. They say age discrimination doesn't exist, but they lie. And that is another story for another time.