I think that lately I’ve lost myself amongst political arguments and strife. I think that perhaps my self-righteousness has clouded my judgement. I say this because, while out in downtown Lawrence, KS, as I was going bar-hopping with my friends, I found myself greatly humbled after a conversation with one of them in particular.
Her name is Chelsie Ellenbecker. She’s an intern in the field of social work. We got to talking about some of her cases and the kids she works with. I got a well-needed reality slap from it all. What’s worse is that I shouldn’t have needed it, I know that there are kids suffering deplorable situations all the time, but it’s like I’ve almost forgotten. My cynicism has kept me hyper-focused on obtaining a prosperous career rather than remembering that others are not as fortunate as me. I had two parents that did a good job at raising me with a comfortable roof over my head and three square meals a day. The kids Chelsie would tell me about might have a convicted felon for a father (or a mother), lived in a destitute part of town, been molested when they were younger, or been sodomized with a water bottle by their friends because they were gay. It was the water bottle story that, for obvious reasons, really hit home and got me thinking about all the other cases too. There was one point in time that I would have dropped everything and pleaded for the opportunity to be of some help right there in the bar. I think I almost lost that fire, and it was saved from extinction that eve.
Those stories weren’t the only catalyst, however. The final motion that put me on the road to humiliation and newfound respect for others was the fact that Miss Ellenbecker also shared stories of her favorite kid(s). One of them in particular still managed to be her favorite despite the fact that the kid had developed the rude social habit of grabbing chest-bearing lady parts that shouldn’t exactly be grabbed on any old occasion. It takes a lot of patience to handle such a thing and still be a considerate, understanding person.
It’s always unspoken that helping a kid in such a predicament is putting too much of yourself at risk for hurt and heartbreak, or that it will take up so much of your time that you’ll have nothing left for yourself, or that involvement with such a case is a futile measure that will only result in failure. Yet here I was, staring and talking to a walking, breathing example of someone who was willing enough to put all that aside and help those less fortunate. Someone that was more determined than I to make a difference at the expense of personal glory. I hardly hear a peep from Chelsie when it comes to things like convincing others of a political opinion or seeking notoriety for something she’s done. Then it dawned on me. If one’s life is truly about helping others and making a difference, notoriety or influence don’t mean a damned thing. I knew this, but have become so engrossed in glamorizing and supporting my opinions that I allowed myself to forget. Children are being violated by their peers, and here I am complaining about the lack of religious acceptance for evolution, intolerance of homosexuality in the church, or some other menial issue that means little when compared to the suffering of innocent kids. As Chelsie said about the bottle incident, “This shit still happens.” I think then, more work needs to be done over the more basic things before I get carried away with myself.
As my final words for this little blurb for today, I must say this: I’ll be damned if I don’t show my support for social workers and other public counselors that attend to the problems still going on that most of us don’t care about. The problems these kids face can’t be helped by temporary volunteers or by a school assembly on bullying. They require someone who is dedicated and whose entire career is devoted to helping kids. I’ll always be happy to chip in to make sure people like my friend Chelsie get enough support that they’re career can monetarily support them and allow them to continue their work. And I’ll always be glad that there are people like this out in the world, reminding us that our sheltered worlds are a far cry from the problems so many more have to deal with, that way I won’t forget my obligations as a human being and obsess with that of which is trivial.