Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Twenty-two

Day 22 - Helping Others
I have a friend in San Francisco who is going through a really tough time, and he has brought me a little clarity about my own situation.
My friend is from Venezuela, and recently became a naturalized citizen.  We met five years ago at a street fair I attended in the South of Market area, and we have stayed in touch since.  He has worked hard to be a good citizen, earning his bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State in International Business.  Unfortunately, the economy tanked before he could get a job.  He has been unemployed for long enough he has literally no money left.  He goes hungry; he cleans buses to earn a Muni pass so he can get to his next interview.  He says he has no friends, and that his family is so homophobic that he hasn’t come out to any of them (though he thinks his sister knows; I think more than his sister knows, but I digress...).  He is afraid he will have to live with them if he can’t find a way to pay his rent.  His food stamps sometimes don’t buy enough food to last until the next check; who can blame him for not wanting to use food stamps in the first place, the way people can be so cruel....  He endures the most demeaning experiences just to survive.  
I have given him some coaching on interviewing and resume writing as he has asked for assistance.  I’m delighted to do what I can.
He talks about himself in the most defeatist terms, and as I try to help him see a better side of himself, two things occur to me: first, he is saying exactly the same things I have said about myself; I understand precisely what he is feeling.  Second, I wonder if I am helping him in part because these are things I don’t want to believe about myself, and if what he says about himself were true, would what I say about myself also be true?  The words of my BFF, Stephanie, come flying into my consciousness and I start to say to my friend the same thing Stephanie said to me.  I understand it from both sides.
I understand completely the frustration and anger he feels.  Although I have not yet gone hungry or cleaned buses to earn transportation, I KNOW the panic he deals with every day.  And there is nothing I can do but be as supportive as possible.
I have tried to introduce him to others I know in his vicinity who can help him expand his network.  But will he do his part?  We’ll see.  Still, in trying to help him, I feel better about my own situation, and for that I am grateful. 

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