On June 19th I attended the pow-wow at Gage Park here in Hamilton; there I received a notice of the new Aboriginal Concurrent Disorders Certificate program that will be running at Mohawk College this fall. What a great program I thought, (so many street people suffer from concurrent disorders and I have a deep commitment to my urban Native clients) when I go back out west this will be invaluable. So I called the coordinator, and discovered the program would cost $3,000. Where am I going to get that kind of money? As a part-time nanny earning minimum wage (I don't get paid for my work with street people), it is all I can do to pay the bills. So I called the career centre at Ontario Works and was told they only cover funding for full-time schooling. Because of a bankruptcy I would not be eligible for student loans (or any other loan for that matter)… there were no bursaries or scholarships that would cover the full cost. By the college’s standards I don’t even qualify for a senior’s discount LOL. All hope was lost. Then I found out about the I Can Achieve contest…. even 3rd place would give me enough money to take the ACDC course. What could be more inspiring then a middle-aged woman who would give up everything to live and work among our poorest and most disenfranchised population? Surely this was God’s way of getting me the money I needed to take the class….
As I watch my profile stall out in the vote count between 80th and 124th place, I found myself confused by what is ahead of me in the polls. I get Dionne…she has an amazing life view, but a lot of the stories seem mundane to me… Someone had a struggle and they overcame it to move forward with their life. Abusive childhood…stepping in for an absent parent, teen pregnancy / finished high-school, teen marriage, divorce, back to university at 40ish, single parent, poverty, depression, relocating, starting a new career in midlife , while these things are challenging I did not see them a extraordinary or inspiring. I was telling my son about my confusion and he said, “Haven’t you done all that?” My response was, “All that and a few more…lol”.
I guess my whole life has been one struggle after another, I have just never seen it that way. I have mostly seen myself as blessed, with learning experiences. My personal hero is Linda Crabtree, a woman who while living with a lifelong degenerative disorder (CMT) has fought valiantly and tirelessly for disabled rights and accessibility. She is an amazing artist, writer, advocate, and has never allowed her struggles hold her back. I love visiting with her…she encourages me in my own quest for social justice, and a kinder, gentler world. When my faith seems a little shaky and the work seems daunting, I just think of Linda (lindacrabtree.com).
Perhaps the reason I work with street people (especially Natives) is because I respect caving under a lifetime of abuse and neglect… if I had not had my Grandmother’s wisdom to guided me I could have been lost in that same jungle of addiction and self-loathing. I bring to them (street people) what she brought to me… I guess that I’m just paying it forward.
Sadly I’m beginning to think bringing me to the I Can Achieve contest isn’t about getting tuition for my course; perhaps God simply brought me here to show me how the rest of society sees adversity. How relative, struggle is to each of us. My Granny used to say, “Shit Happens, deal with it”. I guess it is like anything else, practice makes perfect… it must be hard to deal with adversity, if your life has been relatively easy (or uneventful). It is wrong of me to judge others by my standards; I am well practiced at survival. To all the contestants, congratulations on every victory you have…always know that what doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger. And I am once again grateful to the universe for a lesson learned. Have a joyous day my friends.