My baby cries tears and asks me why and I ask myself: how can I possibly explain injustice to her when I, myself, cannot understand? How can I comfort her when I cry and am in need of comfort? I feel so helpless. How do I explain injustice to my child and how can I comfort her?
My daycare assistance was terminated and will not be recovered ONLY because when I faxed in the papers for redetermination, I didn’t save the confirmation letter. I usually do. I didn’t. Don’t ask me why. It was Friday. I wanted to go home. The paper said it sent. I was not thinking. I did my part. The government failed me. A system set up supposedly to help people like me shifted my entire world.
For redetermination, clients can make more money and their weekly copay will raise. However, initially, upon first applying, the person has to make incredibly little for their gross monthly income. Because they claimed they never got my paperwork, I had to reapply. Because I had to reapply and the library had given us huge raises to try to be fair, the unfair government decided between my part time job and my disability check (even the new, lower amount as it too had been cut because of the raises) I barely overqualified and was denied childcare benefits.
The letter came in on my birthday. I went straight to my church and into my pastor’s office and began to sob helplessly. It was the start of a 5 day vacation that I had been looking forward to. Now it felt like hell and I thought for sure I would have to quit my job and that thought was too much for me to bear. I sobbed painful, angry, completely helpless tears. We prayed, I left, but the tears never stopped.
I love my job. My coworkers are the only reason I am doing as well with my recovery as I am. I doubt I would have ever made it a year without cutting if it weren’t for them, let alone be closing in on my fourth year. I get judged so much for my invisible illness and social awkwardness everywhere. I don’t really know how to not speak my mind, but I never mean to be rude or hurtful (though I’m told my compliments are unique…I guess complimenting someone’s shiny arms or Waldo-like glasses aren’t normal compliments, but it’s what I observe; I am always observing). When I tell my coworkers I had my pastor anoint my rock that spoke to me that I carry around, they simply smile and joke my rock is more holy than they are. They don’t judge me. They don’t try to change me. They don’t try to make me blend in. Instead, they allow me to stand out. They support me. They celebrate my differences. When I’m scared and need to be reassured of my safety, they always do kindly. When I feel disconnected from reality and need help figuring out what’s real and what’s not, they help me. When I am at my limit and break down and sob, even my branch manager has been there for me reassuring me of my strength and ability. They might frustrate me sometimes and I know I can drive them nuts too, but I love them. They are my support. They are my family. When I thought even for a few days I was going to lose that, I couldn’t cope. My invisible illness suddenly engulfed me and all I could do was sob.
I prayed too. I prayed non stop. I prayed alone. I prayed with my pastor. I prayed at church. I prayed at the park.
The day after I had gotten the letter, I was at my private place at the park and anger and frustration over the injustice overtook me and I began hurling rocks into the water. I chose big rocks that I had to thrust with all my might. Again and again. Until I was exhausted. I began to pace the water’s edge until I noticed a beautiful small pink flower that had somehow managed to push its way through the rocks and bloom despite all odds. I found this so beautiful so I decided to build an altar around it to celebrate its beauty. It was then one rock in particular spoke me to, the aforementioned and later anointed rock, and I knew it was meant for me to keep. I set it carefully aside and finished my altar with extreme care.
When I finished, I stood beside it and prayed again with all my might. It was in that moment a large buck jumped from the river bank only a few yards in front of me, stopped, looked directly past my eyes straight into my soul knowingly, and then two more jumps disappeared on the other side. I cried over the beauty of the moment and over the instant wash of relief I felt. I knew somehow this would all be okay even though I didn’t know how.
I told my friend and neighbor what happened. I choked on tears trying not to think about what I might lose. She was angry over the injustice. I simply felt defeated. She is a single mother to three beautiful children and has been through hell but like me is a fighter. I’m so blessed to have her as a friend and it was through this equally struggling person God used to answer my prayers.
My friend is the assistant director at the daycare next to our complex. It’s a small, private daycare run by an angel familiar with the system and its injustice. My friend wanted so badly to help me and pleaded my case to the director and this incredible woman agreed take my daughter and only charge us a little over $15 more per week than what we were paying even though she’s taking a huge financial loss on us. Because of my friend and this angel, even though it seemed impossible, I don’t have to leave my job. My helpless tears turned to tears of humility and gratitude. I do not take lightly what they have done for me because I know so many people aren’t so fortunate. If I had quit, I would not have looked for another job. My spirit was crushed and I spent a month being degraded and humiliated by government workers and chastised and ignorantly advised by people who don’t understand the system or how hard and painful it is to work with and how contaminated it is with injustice.
So I don’t have to leave the people I love but my daughter still does. She has to leave her daycare that has been such a huge and important part of her life since I started working again three years ago. They coparented with me. They potty trained her. They taught her to talk and write. They fixed her hair when I sent her in with it a mess. They have been family and while I am so sad to lose them, my daughter is hurting worse.
As an adult and parent, I am aware she will be okay. I know she’ll make new friends and the teachers will love her too. I get this. What I also get is my daughter is sad and hurting. What I don’t get and can’t explain is when she asks me why she has to leave. Thus my question: how do you explain injustice to a child? She may be crying because she has to leave daycare, but her tears are the same as my tears. They are the tears of oppression.
Do not reason and rationalize this. I refuse to tell my child this is okay. I don’t comfort her by telling her it’s okay and that sometimes things happen but we move on. No. This is wrong. It is not fair. It is not just. It is not okay. What I do tell her is I will find a way to change this one day. My child is being taught the world is unjust but also that she can change it. I will continue to speak out and share my story and educate not for myself but because I am fortunate but so many more aren’t and no child should be forced to cry the tears of oppression and injustice. If you can’t justify something to a child, it’s not just, and if it’s not just, it needs changed. I’m not going to wait for someone else. You can help by listening and educating yourself. The system is wrong and unfair. Us poor people need help to change this. We don’t need drug tested or forced to work; we need compassion and understanding. We need our stories shared and our voices heard. We need our pain and anger validated. We need more people to fight with us and for us because so many more are fighting against us. Help us free our children from our oppression.