I did my stint at the community fair.
As expected, I only made a couple of referrals. But over 100 people showed up -- even with the most minimal of local publicity.
My observations of the crowd: Many -- many clients were developmentally disabled. I saw evidence of substance abuse in others. Sadly, in both cases there seemed to be an intergenerational component. And there were families just down on their luck -- a lot of younger families with lots of kids.
Some visitors were grateful for the help available. Someone had donated several cases of laundry detergent and toothpaste, and those of us with display tables had to reassure fairgoers that they could take what they needed, without cost. I was happy to see many young mothers taking multiple copies of free parenting magazines and children's books. Many people were happy to get free haircuts.
But some visitors' behavior was inexplicable. The folks helping with food distribution said that a lot of fairgoers passed up the very good food being given away -- cartons of bananas, bags of potatoes, noodles and fresh eggs, just to name a few of the groceries. "We just didn't seem to have what they wanted," noted a volunteer sadly. I could imagine my mother -- who as a child really did go hungry at the start of the Depression, until her family could get out of the city and grow some of their own food -- watching in horror as people turned down bananas and eggs: "They are not hungry. We were hungry." Other people took a bite out of the free hotdogs -- grilled, with a variety of condiments available -- and immediately tossed the rest into the trash. Oh, God, I thought, if some of our perpetually riled local taxpayers saw this, it would only underscore their contempt for the underclass -- lazy, ungrateful "welfare people."
Then again, they didn't see the woman who cried when she got her free food. Or the young girl, in grungy hand-me-down clothes, proudly sporting a new haircut. Or the mom in the wheelchair carefully balancing free kids' coats and books on her lap.
I just heard on the news this morning that social workers have one of the highest rates of depression among all employed persons. I can understand this -- the overwhelming scope of people's problems and their systemic nature, as well as some peole's resistance to, or sheer inability in, achieving independence.
I went home depressed.
And last night I dreamt that, at a family holiday gathering, one of my siblings (note: I don't have any siblings in real life) came by with twelve tiny, crying babies adopted from the developing world, all with various health problems, and just gave them to me: "They're really not that hard to take care of."