Shit Town

Heaps of firewood and artful hedge mazes
sharp accents and aging illiterate eyes
bars and churches are the only buildings
breaking up vast expanses of breathtaking nature
nothing to interfere with the majesty of the deep night sky

A common thread of rolling country
and the dozens of roaming dogs
that were discarded back to the open land
by careless hands, whipped clean, and well satisfied
with their clever plan for casting off of other beings

A city nestles behind the hillside a few hours away
and it's inhabitants keep the questions coming,
"Haven't you ever thought of moving?"
with an earnestness that is surprising
as much as it is saddening

Who would ever think of abandoning Eden?
this heaven hidden among the worst kinds of humans
harbors worlds of it's own within the intricate moss lattice
knit across acres of expanding woodlands
behind rustling leaves and a chorus of melded chirrups

The knowledge that so many lives haven't had
the privilege to know the earth so intimately
stings my heart in a way I can't put into words
even more animals kept in cages away from
the sweet medicine of sun and soil

My answer is no, I will never leave this place
even while I watch filthy industry moving in
my very essence is intertwined with these forests
I will fall with the trees and be burned up
like mere raw material with their lumber if I must
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Middle Class Values

Last Friday I went to a training and had the privilege of listening to Amy Jo Hutchison speak. If you aren’t familiar with that name, Amy is an economic justice advocate from West Virginia who has spoken before Congress about poverty and been a guest on Jon Stewart’s podcast, The Problem. Her keynote speech was about working with these struggling, underprivileged, poor communities.

I thoroughly enjoyed everything she had to say. I could have applauded after nearly every sentence. I was overwhelmed with gratitude to finally here someone stand up and say the things I have been saying to others in my field since I entered it six years ago. It never ceases to amaze me how many social workers disrespect, belittle, and even despise the very populations we are supposed to be serving. More coworkers of mine have voted against the wellbeing of our clients than vote to continue providing them with the social safety nets that they currently have, which are not nearly adequate.

During Amy Jo Hutchison’s keynote speech, she touched on stereotypes about poor people, the atrociously low minimum wage in America, and even the fact that we are not paying for “poor people to do nothing” with our taxes. We are paying for corporations to continue to not pay their employees fair wages. She had excellent real life examples of the impossible burden of trying to “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” in this country. I was deeply touched by her words, and was more than grateful to be in attendance to hear her speak.

However, there was one phrase that Amy said two different times throughout her talk that left a sour taste in my mouth. That phrase was “middle class values.” I couldn’t help but frown as these words left her lips. What are “middle class values”? Your values have nothing to do with your social or economic status. Middle class people do not have better values than people in poverty. Yet this is what she seemed to imply as she explained a scenario with a woman she knew who was complaining, as so many do, about people taking advantage of the system.

When this woman talked about mom’s getting food stamps and SSI that don’t have a job, Amy would speak up and say that she was one of those mom’s. The woman would quickly dismiss this and assure her that she “wasn’t talking about her.” Amy explained this disconnect as having to do with her having “middle class values.” She was able to blend in with people who were more financially well off than herself because she was privileged enough to spend time in their circles. I’m paraphrasing, but this is roughly what she was saying.

Now don’t get me wrong, Amy didn’t seem to be trying to put herself in a category above those who didn’t have “middle class values.” She wasn’t blaming people for the circumstances they were in, but she was making a statement that I felt showed remnants of unconscious, internalized classism. She didn’t even seem to realize how bad this part of her speech sounded. I wish I would have had the opportunity to speak to her privately and explain how I viewed that situation she described differently.

I would have told Amy that, from my perspective, “middle class values” was not what made this woman distinguish Amy from these other “lazy” poor mothers. The one and only difference was that this woman knew Amy. That’s it. That is the only distinction. I guarantee she wouldn’t be able to maintain her stereotypes toward anyone that she actually had the opportunity to know. It’s so much easier to demonize and disregard a person or group of people when they are just a caricature. Once you meet a person, it becomes apparent that they are in fact trying their best. That they have reasons for the decisions they’ve made. That they have struggles and intricate, complex lives which you have no right to judge them for.

I highly doubt Amy Jo Hutchison will ever come across this blog post. But if she ever did, I hope that she would appreciate what I’ve said here. I respect and admire her deeply. She is doing the world a great service by speaking about these important issues on the national stage. However, we all maintain insidious, unconscious biases that manage to slip by us. Despite all the speaking Amy has done to combat negative stereotypes about poor people, she still missed this one bit of classism in her speech. There is no such thing as “middle class values.” Middle class people do not have higher values, better manners, more intelligence, etc. than lower class people. I’m sure Amy would agree with this statement, and I hope she makes just that one little change in her future speaking engagements.

West Virginia

There is no heaven I'd rather have
than the deep forests of West Virginia
Mother Nature manifested in
lush, rustling hillsides filled with life

My own soul disguised in blushing red and gold
and the dark, faithful hues of evergreens
a swelling awe that overwhelms the senses
and speaks to the divine seed inside us all

Burning billion year old lights engulf the sky every night
humbled and held in the vastness of this existence
how could I ever leave this perfect, peaceful pocket?
what more could I ask for than this majesty?

Winding roads I know so well
echo with all the heartbreak I've hurled
into the mountains to be absorbed
and transformed into new song

The very best parts of me are interwoven
into the dark earth and dirty rivers
profound connection can be felt
in every glance outside my window

Home has never been a house with four walls
it is here among the dense, ancient trees
that tower all around me and offer shelter
from the harsh realities of human life

I am so grateful that I am able
to intimately know this earth of mine
and recognize its soft, subtle sighs
as I allow her wind and water to carve into me

Part-time Jobs

Riesbecks Grocery sign

 

I know that I haven’t been posting a lot lately, but that is because I have been working. And I must say, I absolutely love my part-time job! Now, I can not speak for the rest of you, but to me, this seems hard to believe. Most of the part-time jobs I have acquired so far in life have been considerably awful. I was treated badly by customers and managers alike. I would be scheduled for long hours despite my requests for less and would never get a break unless it was required by law, and the company felt that they would be penalized if they did not give me one.

However, I have recently been employed at a somewhat small, family owned chain of grocery stores in the Ohio and West Virginia area called Riesbeck’s. Here, I am treated with the utmost kindness and consideration by my co-workers, managers, and costumers. Riesbeck’s pays their employees more than the law required minimum wage, gives raises every 6 months, and is even generous enough to give their workers a paid 15-min. break for every two hours of work. they even pay you $1.50 extra per hour when you work on Sunday. They always have enough people scheduled each day to make sure that everything can run smoothly and efficiently. I am never overwhelmed by my the tasks required of me, my requests for days off or more/less hours are always respected, and sometimes you even receive a token from a manager if you are performing especially well, which is good for a free drink or even lunch on Riesbeck’s!

For the first time in my life, I do not dread going to work. I do not feel drained and miserable after coming home. I feel happy. Some days going to work has even improved my mood! In my eyes, this is nothing short of incredible. Riesbeck’s does charge a bit more than other stores for it’s products, but that hasn’t affected their huge success throughout the years. They even have a wide variety of organic and vegan foods available, more than any other store in the area!

After having worked for Riesbeck’s for the past few weeks, I am alarmed and appalled at the conditions and wages that workers of other companies receive. Knowing that Riesbeck’s treats and pays it’s workers so well and still receives enough profit to make their family quite wealthy makes me disgusted in the amount of money companies such as Walmart must be raking in at the expense of their own employees and customers. They have no excuse for paying such low wages and providing such poor and impersonal service.

I never used to think much of it. I figured that they were just a business and they were being efficient in order to make the most money as possible. But now I realize just how much money they must be making. No one needs so much. The CEOs of these large companies must be gluttonous monsters to think nothing of the very people who work for and support their stores. 

I am so thankful to Riesbeck’s for helping me to gain this new perspective and giving me the most fulfilling job I have had thus far in life. I will not be supporting Walmart again any time soon. I would highly recommend trying to work for a smaller family owned business instead of a major corporation. They may actually be down to earth enough to treat you like a human being instead of just another digit in their bank account.

I hope that any of you reading this that happen to be near one of the following Riesbeck’s locations will consider spending a little more to support such a wonderful company:

  • Barnsville, OH
  • Bellaire, OH
  • Bridgeport, OH
  • Cambridge, OH
  • New Concord, OH
  • Shadyside, OH
  • South Zanesville,OH
  • Zanesville,OH
  • St. Clairsville,OH
  • Toronto, OH
  • Wintersville, OH
  • Woodsfield, OH
  • Elm Grove, WV
  • Follansbee, WV

Let me know what your part-time job experiences have been like or if their is a wholesome family owned business in your area that you would like to give some praise. 

Support local businesses & Stay peaceful, my sweets. ❤