Summer is finally here! It seems like it took its own sweet time getting here, but it finally made it! Everyone likes different things about the summer. Some people like the sunshine, some people like the warm temperatures (ugh), and we all like the laid back attitude that seems to permeate everything.
As I rode into work today, I had a serious thought session on some recent events in my life. For several years, we have battled with the keepers of the keys over an issue pertaining to our child. The people who were supposed to help her instead looked at her, made their assessment and dismissed her.
Today, as I sit to write, thoughts of the anticipated “Artic Blast” and people are floating around mercilessly in my mind. As I try to form these thoughts into something coherent, the one thing that keeps coming to my mind is the word dignity. Mainly, because there is no dignity in people being cold.
Community Action spends a lot of time focusing on poverty- it’s our job, it what we do. “How do we eradicate it?” “How do we help people to overcome the barriers that poverty presents?” “How do we give people a hand up out of poverty instead of a hand out that enables poverty?” While all of these topics are critical to dealing with the complex issues that encompass poverty, there is another aspect of poverty that we need to always keep in mind: People are in poverty.
The July 4th is just around the corner. I’m not sure at what point I started referring to the day as July 4th, as opposed to Independence Day, but I became aware of it sometime this weekend. I making a conscious effort to retrain myself to thinking of the holiday as Independence Day. You may be thinking “What’s the big deal? – it’s just a matter of semantics.” After all, Shakespeare, master crafter of words, wrote “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet” Right?
But it is a big deal! The whole reason we celebrate on July 4th is because it is the day our founding fathers, representative of ‘we the people’, declared our independence from the tyranny and oppression of the mother country Great Britain. July 4th commemorates a pivotal moment in time that birthed what would become the greatest nation in the world: A nation based on the premise that all men are created equal and are granted by the creator with certain ‘unalienable rights’- Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because of this guarantee to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, America has become legendary for its Horatio Alger stories: tales of men and women rising from the ashes of poverty and despair and through hard work and sheer determination acquiring a prosperous and secure life for themselves and their families. People from all corners of the world flock to our shores because of the opportunities that are present in THIS country that are non-existent in most other nations.
50 years ago Community Action was created in the Horatio Alger vein: Community Action Agencies would go out and equip the impoverished with the skills and resources they needed to rise up out of poverty and move on to self- sufficient lives. 50 years ago, the American dream was alive and real: people dreamed of a better and brighter day for their families: people understood that you work hard, live responsibly, and give back to your community.
Now in 2014, people question the American Dream. We have been conditioned to think that the American Dream is shallow and obnoxious. Why are we so worried about securing a ranch home in a nice neighborhood when there are 3rd world countries that lack fresh water? American’s have been convinced that to be better people we need to lengthen our focus to include the entire world. While it is applaud worthy to have a world view humanitarian focus, by lengthening our focus, we overlook what is going on in our own back yards.
Study after study indicates that following the Great Recession in 2008, poverty is once again on the rise. Further reports seem to indicate that income inequality is at larger rate than any previous time in our nation’s history. For many, these dismal indicators of the health of the American class system present the optimal time to transition America into a more cooperative economy. In this economic utopia the government pays for our homes, the government pays for our food, the government pays for everything, and we are all equal. You have what I have and I have what you have. Sounds fabulous doesn’t it?
Did you know that 2014 is the 50th Anniversary of Community Action in America? In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared ‘war on poverty’. Not only did the historic “Great Society” speech result in the creation of Community Action Agencies but Head Start was launched in 1965 as an instrument to level the developmental playing field for economically disadvantaged children. Head Start programs are typically administered by CAA’s.
This past Thursday was Clean Up Day at MCCAA. This is the day when we clean out our storage room-out with the old and in with the new. Why do we designate a day for this? Imagine if you can: MCCAA serves approximately 10,000 households on an annual basis, resulting in over 10,000 files accumulated annually.
Last week, I spent three days at training based on ROMA- Results Oriented Management and Accountability. Community Action Agencies are being asked to build their management and delivery framework on ROMA principles. ROMA is about two main things- excellence in management processes and excellence in delivery of services.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. It is the particularly appointed day of the year that we are supposed to take the time to reflect on all of the things in our lives that we are thankful for. And really, no matter what our particular situation, we all have so much to be thankful for. So let’s get started.
Yesterday morning as I rushed through my usual morning activities, I took a minute to look outside the window. And guess what? It was snowing!! I know that the forecast called for light flurry activity, but these were fat fluffy snowflakes! Amazing that just 15 hours prior, I had to turn the ac on in the car because the afternoon sun was so warm. Even after 8 years in Tennessee, the weather here never ceases to amaze me!!!
Halloween is over, and the Holiday Season has officially begun. Now, before the Thanksgiving purists get all over me, let me clarify: in my mind the next two months are just collectively referred to as “The Holiday Season”. I think that the main reason is because around here the Holiday Season, Thanksgiving and Christmas, is a flurry of activity. The Holiday Season is my favorite time of the year at MCCAA because there are so many opportunities to participate in something that can put a song in your heart and a smile on your face for weeks to come. Before you know it, you catch yourself humming Jingle Bells and playing with baby dolls, feeling all wrapped up in merriment.
I first came to work at MCCAA in the late fall of 2006. In my early days with MCCAA, I was so green-every client, every situation broke my heart, and I just knew that we could save the world. I sometimes wondered what would be our goal as an agency once we eradicated poverty in Middle Tennessee. Years later, I have changed. I am far less naïve and know that our mission as a human services anti-poverty agency will never be truly complete. Poverty is perpetual, like the incoming tide: as soon as you clear one wave, here comes the next.
One of the outcomes that MCCAA diligently focuses on is providing resources and services that help equip vulnerable low-income populations, such as the elderly and disabled, to maintain an independent living situation. The Elderly and Disabled Services Program, LIHEAP, and Commodities are a few of the programs that MCCAA offers that are focused or are geared towards providing services to these people.