Thursday, March 13, 2008

In the motel room

As I was driving down the very long Beach Blvd. I noticed the change in the scenery when I entered the "different" part of town. The car models became older, the street trash increased and there was an increase in wall art. I started passing by little beat up Motels with names such as "Rainbow", "Pacific" and "Royal". I finally turned into one of them and parked my car. The motel was old, run down and crowded. There were two young boys in white undershirts sitting outside of one of the rooms and watching me park my still new car. I tried to act aloof while making 100% certain to lock the car door and to take all of my valuables with me. As I walked down the path to my destination I passed by numerous children ages 2-14 playing, talking, shouting and running. They made way for me and quieted down when they noticed by my attire and attitude that I was a "visitor".
I arrived at room 201 where I had a scheduled meeting and knocked. I walked into the little room containing two small beds, one bed stand in between them, an armoir with a TV on it and a doorway to a tiny bathroom. The room was dark, had a strong scent of cigarettes and all of the table surfaces were covered with clothes, food and other "things". The room contained many things because a mother and son lived in it and that was their home. They are lucky that it is only the two of them as the rest of the families living in that motel and other similar motels fit a parent and 4-5 children in one room (very different than my bubble in Irvine). The mother and son were joined by the father who was new to the family after being absent for many years. We sat on the beds which were made neatly for this hour and had our meeting.
The mother works as a housekeeper, however her income is no where close to making the motel payments. She is missing some teeth and the rest of them are in bad shape. Her voice is so coarse and deep due to a lifetime of smoking. She reported missing many days of work due to continuous illness, therefore unable to pay for her housing.
The father was recently released from prison after years of incarceration. Since in prison he participated in a substance abuse program he was awarded a program for after his release. He is provided with housing, job training and a savings program, as well as continued substance abuse monitoring. He is motivated and ready for a new life, promising that he will be there for his family and start helping them financially when his program is completed.
The son is 11 years old and is diagnosed with ADHD. He cannot sit still to concentrate and participate in the meeting. He continues to be scolded, warned and attacked by his parents for either placing his feet on the bed or "messing around" with the different items in the room.
Before I left the meeting the parents agreed to be consistent with taking their child to therapy and for mother to make contributions to their weekly motel payments. Their goal is to move into permanent housing where they can sustain independently and for their son to attend school regularly, passing his classes. We all felt positive and motivated to move toward the beautiful goals, just like we did one year ago.
As I was walking back to my car, other than hoping that it is still there, I had an enormous feeling of satisfaction. I was awed for having the honor and privilege to come into these people's home and to get a chance to assist them in any way that I can. They welcome me into their private world and open up their home to me, trusting me with their vulnerabilities and problems. Problems so shameful that being invited into them is humbling. I am so lucky to have the power to help these families live better lives and to find goals and to possibly reach them.
To think that I have the power to change lives for the better is liberating to me. To help change the lives of the people who have been forgotten due to the fact that they are not wealthy or have not had the opportunities that the rest of us had. The people who others (selfish others) do not wish to hear about for "it is depressing". Not only it is not "depressing", it is a source of such a wonderful feeling, hope.
How many people have the privilege and this kind of satisfaction in their day to day work? To get paid for helping underprivileged people, how cool is that? Even though the financial reimbursement is not significant, the look on the families faces when you tell them that you will pay for their rent is more than enough.

2 comments:

Anahita said...

I was a little shaken up during my trip to Chicago. I saw things ("depressing things") that I hadn't seen for a looooooooooong time. Sometimes I wonder if they and I live on the same planet, let alone the same country.

You've got a great job girl!

Jasmine said...

Seeing what others don't have reminds us of what we do and makes us appreciate it that much more. When I was in social work, working with people in need made me realize that my situation wasn't as bad as it could be. That there are people who have a whole lot less than I do.