musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: September 2018

But for the grace of god

Dear Diary,

I had a ‘but for the grace of god goes I’ moment today.

For many months, I’ve been absorbed in my life, my self-doubts, my madness. And then I was forced off my little island, away from the comfort of my lair and into the big, bad world.

Julie, the spoiled; Julie, the privileged; Julie, she with her head up her ass
with her first world problems and neuroses.

I was in the Lynn Economic Opportunity office. I had no business being there, among the truly needy — single moms struggling with multiple jobs to keep their kids fed, clothed and relatively healthy; older folks trying to get by with meager, monthly social security payments.

Why was I there? I was trying to get income verified for a Barrier Mitigation Grant, a program administered by Mass Save and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources for middle-income homeowners so they could grab a chunk of money from the state to get rid of asbestos containing materials during a home improvement project.

As I sat down to wait my turn, it occured to me that many of those who came into this office were likely homeless or living in section 8 housing. There were WIC brochures and information about Head Start and fuel assistance programs in kiosks on the wall.

And here I was, with my canvas bag full of mortgage papers, account statements from my brokerage, a passport, a list of estate debts and an inheritance.

Julie, the non-hispanic white caucasion; Julie, the fortunate;
Julie, the loathsome.

When it came time, I took a seat at the woman’s desk and prefaced my financial story with a lame apology, something to the effect of “I’m a bit embarrassed to be here, as I’m much better off than many,” followed quickly by, “I just want to say, you’re doing very important work here. Thank you.”

It sounded ridiculous, and I felt like the pathetic, self-righteous, holier than thou white girl that she was no doubt sizing me up as. But she handled my awkwardness graciously and seemed pleased with the compliment.

I wonder now how those in the Lynn Economic Opportunities office feel about acting as a clearinghouse for what’s certainly a stream of middle-class folks trying to get those elusive cash grants. She was polite enough not to let on.

What was more embarrassing was that, taking just my income into consideration, she said it looked like I was in their low-income range. Surely not! I have substantial stock and IRA portfolios, my own house, and last year, before mom and dad passed away, they supplemented my income whenever I had trouble paying the bills. But because I was a freelance worker, they immediately knocked 40% off my wages for their calculations. That’s the rules. It seemed wrong somehow.

Dad would say, jokingly, “We never should have raised you to be so honest. That will be your undoing.” Perhaps. But they also raised me to be compassionate towards others, and to recognize injustices, however slight.

They both worked in the medical field, helping people in large and small ways. Mom was a registered nurse. Dad was a medical equipment researcher, with patents for light and sound scanning devices that could detect breast and prostate cancers. They both served in the Navy during World War II. After retirement, Mom volunteered at the local blood bank and cared for an elderly neighbor whose own family had abandoned. She became my adopted grandmother. When I was young, Mom brought me along to collect old clothing for the Revitalization Corp, a charity group in Hartford. Me? I’m a wannabe writer with a few clients and a half-baked notion to write novels “someday.”

Julie — the underachiever, the anxious, the unwashed.

Helping people afford asbestos abatement, whether they’re low income or middle income isn’t really a big deal. It’s expensive work, and many people earning even $45,000 a year, especially in the Boston area, won’t have $10,000 available for a home improvement project, even for one that could have health ramifications. Truth be told, a $7,000 abatement grant is nothing compared to the special treatment in place for the wealthy, from tax loopholes to offshore bank accounts, so that they can hold onto more of their money.

Do the wealthy also ponder the unfairness of it all?

Maybe I’ll get some assistance. Maybe I won’t. But one thing I do realize now is that I must find a way to give back, somehow, to those not as fortunate as I. This is the real reason I was in that office this morning.

Julie, the awakened; Julie, the humbled; Julie, the grateful.

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Seattle’s Becoming Bristol addresses suicide and promises brighter days

BecomingBristol_2018

Becoming Bristol gives us upbeat alternative pop songs that contain important messages. Their latest single, “Brighter Days,” was written by their singer/frontman Britt Espinosa, and is about an experience he had with a friend who was contemplating suicide (fortunately, they’re still with us). September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and the band will be donating 100% of all sales and streaming proceeds during the month to Anthem of Hope, a non-profit that’s “dedicated to illuminating hope for those battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide and addiction.”

“Brighter Days” is available for streaming and purchase. The song has a snappy beat that’s definitely danceable, and even more importantly, its lyrics are comforting and hopeful in times of great difficulty.

We all know what the poets say
Pain only ends when your dead
I don’t think it’s got to be that way
I think there’s brighter days ahead
I know life’s not okay
It aches beyond any words
But my friend this will only make it worse

It’s easy to throw away
A life riddled with cuts and scars
There’s something still left to save
It’s at the core of who you are
So push on to the brighter days
You don’t know what you’re worth
Oh my friend, you don’t know what you’re worth
– “Brighter Days”

The single was produced and mixed by Brooks Paschal at Mockingbird Studios.

Formerly known as The Exchange, Becoming Bristol is a pair of brothers (Britt and Jack), along with Tyler Mays and Manny Gounder. They began touring when Britt was 16, and the band is completely self-booked and self-managed. They’ve performed at more than 500 shows, with 8+ national tours.

Previous singles include “Sort Myself Out” (with producer AKA Wolves, released in June) and “Liars and Thieves” (released in July). The former is about taking responsibility for where you end up in life, rather than blaming someone or something else, and the latter addresses the idea that good and evil exists within all of us, and the need for empathy.Important messages for these perilous times.

The line between right and wrong cuts through all of us… the face of god is hiding inside

For the rest of 2018, the band will be releasing a new song each month.

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