Gratitude Sunday: The System Is Broken

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have too little.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 2nd Inaugural Address, January 20, 1937

Sunday Haiku
Yellow wings, black stripes,
spread upon green pine branches,
drying in the sun.

Sunday Musings
Fifty percent of Americans live with incomes below the poverty live. Half of us. Most of those people are food insecure, meaning they don’t have access to healthful foods or money to afford three meals a day. Many people can’t afford rent or a mortgage. It takes four working adults in one household to be able to rent a two bedroom apartment. You have to be good friends to make that happen successfully, but honestly, that’s not the norm for Americans. Usually the second bedroom is for the kids.

These people are not welfare abusers. You know these people. We are your neighbors, friends, and family. We work at your grocery store, at your gas station, we serve you over the counter at the library, and check you in at the doctor’s office. We sell you your clothing, serve you your drinks and dinner, teach your yoga or continuing education class. We work 40 hours a week, sometimes as many as three jobs to make the 40 hours, and our spouses do the same. We are trying to raise children. We are retired and volunteer to help serve lunches at your child’s school, or at the Home Instead group helping folks older than us in our neighborhoods, or at the local police national Night Out event. We don’t ask for much other than the dignity of a modest home and food on the table for our families. We are hard working, honest people. You can’t expect people to work harder when there aren’t any more hours in the week. Do you know how hard it is to be presentable for work or a volunteer position when you don’t have a home to sleep in and clean up in?

For example, I learned from the single 40ish assistant manager of our local corporate-owned grocery store she has not one penny of her own savings toward retirement and can barely make her rent, and this is a woman who has worked her way upward into management. No, they don’t give her a discount on groceries; she will have a small retirement package and Social Security to retire on, but she doesn’t plan on retiring. She’ll still be standing behind the counter ringing a cash register until her dying day whenever that is. She’s still able to work, and of course I encouraged her to start putting away that few dollars a month for if she is forced to stop working. Physical challenges happen to most people in service jobs at younger ages than in white collar jobs. She was startled when I reminded her Medicare requires a premium every month after she turns 65 whether she is working or not; she didn’t realize and like most people thought Medicare was “free”.

Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t see those who live with less. Maybe you live where the houses are freshly painted and the yards well kept, and every driver in the household has a car with a garage for it. Drive down the street or to the other side of town and you will see people living moment to moment, who would love to paint their house, or have the time between three jobs to tidy the yard. You may see families who have only one car and five jobs between them to get to. You might see families who leave the ten year old at home in charge of the littles because there is not money for childcare once they pay for food. Perhaps you drive past a homeless camp and wonder what is wrong with them that they don’t have a home. It isn’t necessarily a racial thing, but it is incrementally that much harder for people of color. Count your blessings if you are more than one paycheck or injury away from homelessness yourself.

It is not what people do wrong. Sometimes we make poor choices. Sometimes weird stuff happens. Nationwide we haven’t had this level of poverty, homelessness, and hunger since the 1930s. Unfortunately our “booming” economy in 2018 is rigged against forward growth for the average person no matter how hard we work. In America, if you are not born into money, or one of the few for whom the fluke of success actually happened, you are likely struggling to make ends meet.

I am sad when I go through the check stand of our local Fred Meyer/Kroger store (Fred Meyer was a big man back in his day when he opened his first store in 1931 in the Hollywood district of Portland Oregon; he’s gone many years now, and his stores are owned now by the Kroger corporation) and every check stand is staffed by people over sixty. I have such mixed feelings. It’s good these people are still able to work and they likely are experienced and don’t need training. But are they really still able to work or are they working because they have to, to pay for health care or rent or food? Where are the young employees? I’m hoping they have the early morning and late night shifts, so the olders get the prime hours. Certainly, the youngers have families to feed as well, and they can’t all be in white collar, college graduate work. Oh wait, there’s the young college graduate, the barista at the in-store Starbucks. See, mixed feelings.

So many job openings are available in my area, all minimum wage. All these jobs are entry level, customer service jobs. My personal opinion is everybody should work a customer service job at some point in their life to understand how hard the work is. It’s a great starting point for learning work ethics, like how to be at work on time, how not to yell back at the customers who are yelling at you, and how to play well with co-workers. Most of these jobs are part-time with a fluctuating schedule. Read this to say: part-time equals not enough to live on and no benefits, and fluctuating equals irregular hours that change from week to week, making it difficult to take a second job to make a consistent 40 hour week. These jobs are all about the employer: you work for us, we own you, you are at our beck and call, and we don’t care what happens to you or how difficult it is for you.

These jobs often go unfilled or are quickly turned over. Employers want skilled workers for entry level jobs, but how do you get the skills? They aren’t taught in high school. Employers say the applicants don’t fit in, or don’t have the work ethic or skills. Employers don’t want to invest time training the employee, so where does an employee develop those skills? Employers, especially corporations, could offer paid probationary training periods as an incentive to applicants. Every job requires a learning curve.

Employers miss the boat here on a couple of points. When employees have regular schedules they are better employees. When employees are paid enough money to live on they are better employees. In general the happier your employee is, the better your business will be and the happier your customers will be. It is to the advantage of employers to pay their workers better, because workers then spend that money right back into the economy. If consumers have no money to spend, the economy is not supported, nor booming. Amazing how that works. When it works. Right now the system is broken. If it was working well we would not have a 50 percent poverty rate.

I understand with small businesses or building a new business, how you need to be conservative with your budget. I don’t understand corporations where the CEO makes billions of dollars a year, while their employees live in their cars and have to use food stamps.

My mom always told me life is not fair. I’ve learned how very right she was. We don’t have the same choices, opportunities, or advantages. But I think life, or at least the employment and making a living so you can raise your family in a consumer capitalistic society part of it, could be a little more fair. If the happiness or contentment of the people around you or who work for you is a priority rather than the money you can make off them, I suspect your revenues would be increased. Happy employees work harder, come in earlier, stay later, and deliver increased productivity and better customer service. Putting employees first is to everybody’s advantage.

There’s today’s two cents on the booming economy. With inflation that’s probably only worth about .0002 cents. In my budget every penny still counts.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Fireburst orange and yellow coreopsis. Lovely yellow spears I don’t know the name of. Shades of pink sweet Williams. I love me a yellow rose.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} For D-Day, June 6th, I watched Operation Dunkirk (2017, not rated) while waiting for Dunkirk which has a long queue. History movies are tough, especially when based on a true story. Two things bothered me about this film. First, though the Brits were running from the Nazis, literally through the woods and for their lives, it seemed like there was always plenty of time to get themselves out of whatever new calamity befell them, like the time they find a booby trap and have to escape the rigged grenade while the Nazis are right behind them. Second, wherever we are in the film (note the movie is during a war, in the woods out in the middle of nowhere), in every scene the female protagonist (an operative who has a code needed to thwart the enemy) always has freshly applied lipstick, and no matter what muck or mire they’d been through her “uniform” (specially tailored to be form fitting) was immaculate and well pressed. Meh. * Binged through the one available season of Deep Water (2016, rated TV – MA), with Yael Stone (Morello in Orange is the New Black). Set in Bondi Beach, Australia, gay men are being murdered, but it’s being put down as suicides, and it’s a 30 year pattern. * The Code (2014, TV – MA), another Australian production with Lucy Lawless (Zena: Warrior Princess). A teenaged girl is murdered, and a journalist and his brother who is an autistic computer code savant are pivotal to solving the murder. I have surely been enjoying these Australian productions.

Currently ReadingBluebeard’s Egg (1983, fiction and memoir) by Margaret Atwood. Another artist I am always impressed with, no matter what I’ve read of hers. * Noir (2017, fiction) by Christopher Moore. Moore is the rare writer who can make a point and be funny at the same time. His sense of humor is foremost in everything I’ve read by him. This novel is a tongue-in-cheek rendition of the old black and white film noir movie genre. I’m talking bust-a-gut laugh-out-loud so the other people in the room look at you weird funny. And it takes place in San Francisco; I enjoy stories about San Francisco, having a had a few adventures there myself.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Running into a retired pastor friend at the farmers market and enjoying a lengthy conversation upon the state of the world and the failings of American leadership.
  • Earrings. I’ve not worn earrings for years and I have a beautiful variety to wear. My ears are pierced and I’m grateful the holes didn’t close up. I’ve seen the prettiest earrings out there lately.
  • The two women who went out of their way to stop me at the farmers market and tell me how much they missed me serving them at my last place of employment. Since leaving was not my choice and done under duress, I was grateful to them for saying so, which I told them as well.
  • A beautiful day of rain after two dry months. Keeping Oregon green.
  • The monarch butterfly who spread his wings to dry in the fir tree outside my kitchen window. I watched him for the longest time.
  • The music of rain.
  • Birds singing when the sprinkles started, rain coming, birds quieting, rains harder, birds silent, rain eases, birds singing again.
  • After the rainfall, the smell of pine trees, blackberries, and scotch broom evaporating the water they just took on.
  • Getting back into the swing of my tai chi exercises after falling out with a broken toe last winter. Back to square one, a great place to start. Start where you are.
  • Ibuprofen and microwave hot packs.
  • Watching the Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade on TV. They got rained on this year, but the participants had nothing but smiles.
  • Marching bands.
  • Still having my own home.
  • Oregon cherries.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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This entry was posted in abundance, Food, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Housing, Photography, Poetry, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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