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Poverty and Personal Crisis

Wed, Oct 15, 2008

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Early this morning I stood in the shower, letting the water–as hot as I could stand it–cascade over my aching neck and shoulders.”This will probably be the most peaceful moment I have today,” I thought, lingering much longer than usual.

After only a couple of hours of sleep, I’d been awakened by a text message from my sister, Laurie. She had fallen and injured her “good” arm, the one she can lift above her head, and was on the way to the ER–1,300 miles away. A lifetime of rheumatoid arthritis has left Laurie’s bones brittle; she has steroid-induced osteoporosis.

Laurie puts in long hours as executive director of the Alliance for Paired Donation, a nonprofit oganization that significantly reduces the waiting time for a life-saving transplant through kidney paired donation. She is in Toledo, Ohio to oversee this weekend’s celebration of the one-year anniversary of the group’s first NEAD (Never-Ending Altruistic Donor) chain. It’s a personal and professional accomplishment, an event Laurie has been looking forward to for months.

And now this. Why?

And then I remembered my colleague, Mike Chapman, who had slept on the streets of Austin as part of a 24-hour Street Retreat, an immersion in the experience of being homeless. I’m so proud of his taking on this challenge and had been following his “embedded” tweets from the streets. Just before 1:00 a.m. he’d written –

We found a place near the courthouse to crash for a while. Outside but safe. Hopefully it doesn’t rain.

The last one I’d read before crashing had been sent at 3:54 a.m. –

Good morning from the rainy streets of Austin. I guess the rain means it’s time to wake up!

I was crying when I finally shut off the water and climbed out of the steamy shower. But they were tears of gratitude.

I was grateful that even though I’d only slept a couple of hours, they were spent in a comfortable bed while my friend Mike tried sleeping on the concrete in a downtown parking lot.

Grateful that I live in a beautiful home with my family in a nice, safe neighborhood.

Grateful that my brave sister, who has faced a lifetime of physical challenge, is able to work, and that she has a job with insurance.

Grateful that she works for a doctor who personally took her to the ER and will make sure she gets the finest medical care available.

Grateful that we have the resources for one of us to fly to Toledo and take care of Laurie.

Grateful that this personal crisis will be over in a few weeks. Broken bones will heal. Finances may be tight, but somehow medical bills will be paid.

I do not know what it is to live in poverty, and for this I am profoundly grateful.

On this Blog Action Day, I realize just how much our family is blessed, and how much we take for granted each day. One of our church members runs a homeless ministry and also helps low-income families with transitional housing. We are regular contributors–mostly through donations of clothing, household items, and food.

I can, and will, do more to help those who have nothing. What will you do?

UPDATE: My sister’s injury was pretty serious and will require othopedic surgery; she will need 24-hour care for a while. I’ve spent most of the day trying to make arrangements long distance. At this point we still don’t know if she will have surgery in Ohio or whether she will fly home for the operation. A dear friend is flying to Toledo in the morning to be with Laurie. We have family, friends, resources. And renewed compassion for those who don’t.

NOTE: See photos and blog postings from Mike’s immersion team at Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

This post was written by:

Connie Reece - who has written 152 posts on Every Dot Connects.


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14 Comments For This Post

  1. Leslie Baldwin Says:

    Prayers and good thoughts for your sister’s speedy and successful recovery! Your post reminds me to take time to be grateful for what I have. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Leslie in San Antonio

  2. Beth Harte Says:

    Connie, what a wonderful post. I really hope Laurie isn’t in too much pain, has a successful operation and recovers quickly.

    Thank you for pointing out that while poverty is global, we only need to look in our own backyards. Like you, I have never been poor (although by today’s standards, I think we would have been considered low-income) and I don’t know what it’s like to be without a home (@MikeChapman, it’s wonderful what you are doing!). Today’s Blog Action Day and all the great posts really opened up my eyes and made me so much more grateful for what I do have.

    Thanks again Connie.

  3. Gavin Heaton Says:

    You are so right, Connie. We don’t need to look far to see others who are less fortunate than we are. I hope your sister recovers speedily from her fall.

  4. Elizabeth Naylor Says:

    Connie,

    I will be praying for your sister, and for you as well during this hard time. Your attitude through this is a beautiful testimony. Thank you for sharing. I have worked with a homeless ministry here in Austin as well and I am daily blown away with the blessings in my life.

    Thanks again!!

    Elizabeth

  5. Erica Ortiz Says:

    Thinking and praying for you and your family. It truly does put you in a different place to think how lucky we are to have the blessings we do in our lives.

    Thanks for the post!

  6. Susan Reynolds Says:

    We need to be reminded about the ways in which we’re blessed. But Laurie being injured is not the way I’d like to be reminded. She’s a darling person and as sweet as they come, so of course I started bawling when I read that she was hurt.

    What I’ve often wondered since I’ve been in cancer treatment is what’s happening this minute to people we “know” superficially but not well enough to understand the details of their lives. My neighbors for example know nothing of what’s happening with me. Without you writing about it, we’d have known nothing about Laurie’s crisis.

    Which leads me to wonder how many others that we see every day or interact with through social media are facing personal crises. Who – even among people we may know – are without medical care or good care for their children; have lost their jobs or relationships; are scrimping to be able to put food on the table, or see little hope for a future a day or a week ahead?

    And that’s just scraping the surface. Beyond all those issues, even beyond Laurie’s challenges, lie hardships that we’ll never know abut and which make my little problems seem petty.

    Tell Laurie we’re pulling for her.

  7. Toby Says:

    Connie – warmest thoughts to your sister for a speedy recovery. adding one more to your list .. grateful for wonderful friends (and sisters) like you!

  8. Michelle / chelpixie Says:

    Connie, I do hope that Laurie is doing okay, that the surgery goes well and she recovers quickly.

    Sometimes there are moments when we all have to stop and realize that we’re so very lucky to be in our homes, have good food to eat and are sleeping in warm beds. To give back, to reach out and make someone’s live a little better is a gift we get to give.

    Mike I am so very proud of you.

  9. Aruni Gunasegaram Says:

    Connie – So sorry to hear about your sister! I hope she recovers quickly and that you are able to be there with her.

    Mike – What a great and interesting thing to do to illustrate how it is to live in povert.

  10. Jackie Huba Says:

    Connie,
    First, great post. I was caught up in the work craziness today and your post really made me stop and remember what is really important in life. Thank you.

    Very sorry to hear about your sister. Hope the surgery goes well and she is feeling better soon.

  11. Ann Handley Says:

    Connie — I’m sorry I didn’t see this earlier, and like Jackie, this really made me stop and think. Thanks for that, and best wishes to your sister. I hope for a speedy recovery.

  12. mousewords Says:

    Connie, my thoughts and prayers are with your sister, your family, and you!

    Thank you for a meaningful post that made me appreciate, again, what I have.

  13. Drew McLellan Says:

    Connie,

    Big (but very gentle) hugs to you and your sister. Isn’t it odd that it often takes an event like your family is going through for us to pause long enough to recognize how incredibly fortunate we are.

    Sending prayers and healing thoughts to your whole clan.

    Drew

  14. Connie Reece Says:

    Thank you all so much for your comments. Rather than responding to each one, I think I’m going to write a follow-up blog post to carry on this conversation. I talked to Mike tonight, and he’s going to blog about his immersion experience soon–I’m really looking forward to that. If you haven’t already, please take time to read some of Rachel’s posts on the Mobile Loaves and Fishes blog. She wrote so eloquently about her experience and the effects it has had on her now that she’s back home.

    Update on Laurie: She is scheduled for surgery at noon on Friday. Doctor says she should be able to attend the big event on Saturday night. And she should be able to fly home as scheduled on Monday night. A very close friend has flown to Ohio to take care of Laurie’s personal needs — feeding her, brushing her teeth, helping her to the bathroom. What a gift. What an amazing gift.

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  1. Vibemetrix Daily Vibe - Fighting Poverty - Blog Action Day 2008 | VibeMetrix Blog Says:

    [...] Reece reflects on Blog Action Day and realizes she has a lot to be thankful for and talking about her partner Mike Chapman’s taking the challenge “24 Hour Street [...]