Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘poor’

Running Into the Past

Life Happens On The Stairs by Amy J. Markstahler.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

61yvbeR9oJL._SY346_Seventeen-year-old Elsie’s dad is dying, she’s falling for an amazing guy (Tyler), and the divide between rich and poor in Hardin County Tennessee has never been wider. Elsie’s mother (Claire) cleans the house of stuck up and wealthy Mrs. Vaughn, and Tyler is her smart-as-a-whip grandson. Life Happens On The Stairs has hints of the classic The Prince and the Pauper, with an intense love story in the contemporary south. Ms. Markstahler takes us into the mind, heart, and body, of this young teen whose father brought her and her family back from Illinois to his families land.

Here’s a little of what happens when Elsie fills in for her mother at Mrs. Vaughns and meets her in the hallway. “For the next few hours, I vacuumed, dusted, scoured the bathroom and polished the glass on the upper level. Mom always cleaned when she was mad or frustrated. Now I understood why. As the day moved on, I started feeling better. At one-thirty, I walked down the hallway towards Mrs. Vaughn’s bedroom. The passage seemed to narrow as apprehension overwhelmed me. I slowed my steps. Why did I feel like sprinting out of the house? A doorknob clicked. The hair stood up on my arms. That’s why.”

The tension and conflict between Elsie and her mother, and Elsie and her brother (Mark), are spot on and completely relatable. The growing bond between Tyler and Elsie is well developed, with each of them pushing the other to experiences, and memories, they may never have explored, or remembered, left to their own devices, family backgrounds and expectations. Ms. Markstahler also knows how to describe what it’s like when carrying for someone you love who is dying. Life Happens On The Stairs is an excellent story about love and family, for both young and older adults.

Cinderella’s Question

From the wily Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Master Tarantino Toshiba always believed in equality and freedom for all. She freely taught to one and all — young, old, men, women, children, smart, stupid, rich, poor, and even the middle-class. There was a little girl named Cinderella who had been taken in at the monastery after her parents had died. By the time she was of age, she started noticing that all the nuns would visit their master daily for a private session. She was told that these sessions were called nodzen and were designed for each student to be given a special koan (or mind problem) for them to solve and reach enlightenment. Cinderella said she “reeeeally” wanted to participate in nodzen as well, and asked for permission to do so. She was now of age, so her Master could not refuse.

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Cinderella approached Master Tarantino Toshiba’s room the next morning and banged loudly on the door (as she had been instructed). She was invited in and asked to squat in the middle of the room.

“Tell me,” asked the Abbess. “Why are you here?”

“I have come to receive my koan Master.”

“Why are you here?”

“Because I want to be enlightened and find peace.”

“Why are you here?”

“I told you before,” Cinderella replied, somewhat annoyed. “I’m here…”

“Why . . . are . . . you . . . here?”

“How many times do I have to say it? I’m . . .”

“Stop!” exclaimed The Master. “This IS your koan. Why are you here? Not here in this room, but here on the planet. Why are you alive? What’s your purpose? What does it all mean? Why are you here?”

Cinderella rolled her eyes. “Oh. Now I see.”

“Not sure about that,” the Abbess whispered quietly.

“Thank you,” Cinderella said. She stood and bowed several times and then departed.

Cinderella pondered her koan deeply night and day. She watched the water in the stream flowing by and contemplated upon its existence. When her time for nodzen was upon her the following week, she entered The Master’s room with great excitement, certain that she’d solved the problem.

“Why are you here?” asked the Abbess.

“My existence is temporary. Like water, we come and go.”

“That is not the question. Yes, we are all transient, but why are we here?”

Making sure to avoid water the following week (and getting quite smelly as a result), Cinderella sat in the town square and watched and listened to the people living their lives. One afternoon, after seeing a farmer receive some turmeric in exchange for her chicken’s eggs, she knew she had discovered life’s purpose. She could hardly wait until it was her turn to visit the Abbess.

“I am here . . . we are all here,” Cinderella bubbled, when she next saw The Master, “to share what we have and help one another with what we need.”

The Master rolled her eyes and then smiled. “You think you’re hot, but you’re getting colder by the minute. The tinniest forms of life make exchanges for their existence, but why are they here? Why are you here?”

Cinderella was crestfallen. She had been certain that she’d had the answer. The following week she spent in isolation in a dark cave. There was no water or people to disturb her meditation. In the darkness, her sense of hearing was amplified. She became aware of her breath as it moved in and out. After hours of sitting it seemed as if the air going in and out of her lungs was a title wave of energy and her body a receptacle of its life force. Upon this discovery, she made her way out of the cave (after running into a few walls) and went straight to see The Master without waiting for her appointment. She pounded loudly on the door, entered, and called out.

“Master! Master!” Master Toshiba stepped aside just in time, as the door swung her way. “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”

Master Toshiba stepped out from behind the door.

Cinderella looked around. “Oh, there you are. Master, I’ve got it!”

“I was just going out for some fresh air,” Master Toshiba replied. “Come with me.” Cinderella followed like an adoring puppy. “What is it you think you have?”

“Why I’m here. Why we’re here.”

“And why is that?”

“Because energy cannot exist in a vacuum. We are all interdependent.”

The Master stopped, put her hand on Cinderella’s shoulder and calmly said, “This is true, but you still do not understand why you are here.”

“Help me. I don’t know what to do.”

“Go,” the Abbott replied. “Go help yourself and don’t come back until you can answer the question.”

Cinderella’s head dropped and she started crying. “I give up.”

“That’s not why we are here, to give up.”

Four months later, while reading a children’s story, Cinderella asked, for the millionth time, why she was here. She realized that she would never know the answer and decided to tell the Abbess.

“There are so many stories Mistress and none of them can tell us why we are here or what our purpose is. I will never be able to answer your question. I’ll just live my life and do what I have to do to get by. I don’t need to know why in order to live.”

Mistress Toshiba smiled and kissed Cinderella on the forehead. “My dear little pumpkin. You got it.”

More questions at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

70% Of The Worlds Poor

Gabriel,

Did you know 70% of the world’s poor are women? Mothers, sisters, and daughters often face discriminatory barriers to education, well-paying jobs, and credit. Yet, despite limited access to opportunities of economic advancement, these women are often tasked with caring for children and extended families. This immense burden of responsibility should not have to be borne alone: Lend a Hand.

Join our unique online community of sponsors, and connect with resilient women and men around the world. Through Lend a Hand, you can browse through the stories of our featured borrowers and learn where they’re from, what business they’re in, and what they hope to accomplish with a FINCA loan. Once you select a client, you can choose a donation amount, and then track their progress towards their goals.

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One Woman + One Loan = Many Lives Changed.

Any donation will make a difference: as little as $50 can help a client build a business so she can pay school fees, employ neighbors, and provide goods and services to a local community. Your loan will empower women around the world. As one FINCA woman told us: “My knees are softer. I used to have to kneel to my husband to beg for money for every little thing. Now I don’t have to kneel much, so my knees are softer.”

All FINCA clients have a deep desire to work hard, support their families, and strengthen their communities. They are not looking for a hand out: all they need is a hand up. Change the lives of many: Connect with a FINCA woman today.

Thank you,

Soledad Gompf
Vice President
FINCA

Child Marriage

MAYBE SOMEDAY, BUT NOT TODAY
from CARE

Legally, Mukeshwari’s marriage should never even have been a possibility. She was only 15 years old. But Mukeshwari lived in Thuadabri, an isolated rural village where it is traditional to give girls in marriage soon after they reached puberty. And her grandfather insisted. “The boy is good; the family is good,” he said. “This chance may not come again.”

The groom was an older man, a driver living in a nearby village. Mukeshwari agreed that he might be a suitable match, but that was beside the point. “I didn’t want to get married,” she says. “I wanted to go to school.”

Early marriage poses a host of problems for girls like Mukeshwari. Girls who marry young are less likely to finish school and have fewer economic opportunities. They are more likely to undergo physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their husbands and in-laws. They often have little or no control over when they have sex or when they have children. And when they do become pregnant, adolescent girls have a much greater risk of complications and death than older women.

Under other circumstances, Mukeshwari’s parents might have intervened. But her family was poor, and her parents had left to look for work in the neighboring state of Maharashtra. So when she learned that her grandfather had arranged her marriage, she had no one to turn to but her friends – and Parwati Sahu.

Parwati is a CARE-trained volunteer health worker in Thuadabri. Though her primary responsibility and expertise is working with mothers and young children, Parwati and the other health volunteers CARE works with are also trained to be “change agents” – individuals who help transform the way their communities treat women and girls. Parwati had worked with Mukeshwari and other teenage girls in the village to discuss health issues, including family planning and early marriage. She knew right away that Mukeshwari’s marriage was wrong, and that something had to be done to stop it.

Parwati went with Mukeshwari, her friends and other volunteer health workers to confront Mukeshwari’s grandfather. But he was adamant: He had made an agreement with the boy’s mother and he intended to carry it through. So Parwati went to the panchayat, or village council, and presented the case.

Fortunately, Parwati and Mukeshwari had the law on their side. The panchayat voted to stop the marriage until Mukeshwari was at least 18. Faced with the community’s overwhelming decision, her grandfather had to give in.

This was the first time an early marriage had been stopped in Thuadabri, but it won’t be the last. With Parwati’s help, the village formed a committee on early marriage. The committee visits the houses of families with adolescent girls, discussing the problems of marrying young and making sure no early marriages are arranged.

As for Mukeshwari, she’s back in school and happy. “I don’t want to marry anyone right now,” she says. “I want to be a doctor. I’ll come back to Thuadabri and make sure everyone here stays healthy.”

It takes a lot of work, time and investment to become a doctor. But by staying in school, Mukeshwari has kept the opportunity open. With Parwati and the rest of Thuadabri firmly behind her, it is entirely possible she’ll succeed.

Help girls like Mukeshwari escape child marriage >

Women Not Intimidated

Dear Gabriel,

How easily do you scare? We all have a sense of the lines we won’t let bullies cross, and rightly so. For poor women in Guatemala, fighting for their dignity can be a daily struggle. But fight they do.

Poor women in Central America have often been refused service at “traditional” banks and even been manhandled out the door for having the audacity to enter the premises and apply for small loans.

Treating poor women this way is designed to humiliate and intimidate. It reinforces a poverty trap and reminds Central America’s most excluded women of “their place” at the bottom of a hierarchical society.

But, today, these women refuse to be intimidated; they will not accept second class status. And they take their business elsewhere. They come to FINCA.

Growing numbers of mothers and sisters and neighbors are finding FINCA’s doors open. We want their business, trust their financial management and believe in supporting small enterprises, morally and as reliable sustainable micro-businesses.

Ironically, we know that the average repayment rates for microfinance loans are better than those for “regular loans” in Guatemala, the US and most everywhere else.

More importantly, FINCA’s work is not just about financial services, it’s about empowering women to shatter the poverty trap and beat the bullies who would happily see them permanently excluded from access to financial services. We are proving, woman by woman, loan by loan. that people can fight their way out of poverty.

We believe in the poorest women from Central America and we’re asking you to believe in them too. Many of these women face poverty, the backdrop of a particularly violent society and gender-based exclusion day and daily. And they face it down, again and again. Please stand with them today.

Your support is more than symbolic. Your donation will help find and fund another microfinance client, potentially a women who’s been mistreated, but who will not accept exclusion.

Don’t accept second class citizenship. Take a stand. Support FINCA’s One In A Million campaign to find client one million and help her prove what women can achieve with access to small loans.

Please give generously,

Soledad Gompf
Vice President,
New Business Development
FINCA

Read React and Act

Dear Gabriel

A girl sick with hunger. A mother too poor to send her children to school. A farmer with weak, dying crops.

When the need is greatest, that’s when CARE steps in. The immediate and long-term solutions we provide and the lives we transform are possible through something immensely powerful: the generosity of our donors.

And now as a ferocious hunger crisis grips the Sahel region of Africa, and communities around the world are still in desperate need of help, a new matching gift fund has become available. Every dollar you give through August 22 will immediately be doubled, up to the match limit of $150,000.

There’s no secret formula to lifting people out of poverty: just the compassion and help of people like you. Please make your tax-deductible gift now and it will be matched.

I know that together, we can make extraordinary things happen. Last year, CARE reached more than 122 million people in 84 countries. There’s no way we would have been able to help individuals and families in the world’s poorest communities without the compassion of CARE’s donors.

But we don’t have time to celebrate our success – not when so many are struggling through the daily grind of poverty, trying to feed themselves and their children on less than a dollar per day.

Many of these people think they have no way out. But after over 60 years working in developing countries, we know how to help communities rise out of poverty. We help treat children suffering from malnutrition, support women running small businesses, and teach farmers how to get more milk from their cows or better harvests from their fields. We know that by investing in girls and women, we’re strengthening entire communities.

You make it possible for people in desperate circumstances to improve their lives. Please give by August 22 – help us reach our goal of $300,000, and your gift will go TWICE as far, up to the $150,000 match limit.

Thank you so much for all of your help. With so many millions of people suffering from the food crisis right now in the Sahel and so much continued need for long term poverty solutions around the world, your help is especially crucial this summer.

Sincerely,

Helene D. Gayle, MD, MPH
President and CEO, CARE

A Voice for U.S. Poor

From Nation of Change and GritTV
by Laura Flanders
1 June 2012

A Coming-Out Movement for the Poor?

According to Governor Andrew Cuomo the minimum wage in New York is harder than passing marriage equality. If this is true a question comes to mind. Is it all only about the money? Could it be that there’s something we need, namely a coming-out movement about poverty in America? Democrats in the New York state Assembly have passed a bill in order to raise the minimum wage from the federal $7.25 to $8.50 an hour. Unfortuantely, there is likely to be no passing a minimum wage hike through the Republican controlled Senate. So this bill will be stuck for the rest of the session. “This is broader and a deeper divide,” Cuomo said. “Marriage, in some ways, was more of a personal judgment for people on their personal values. A working class coming out movement might be just what this country needs.

Watch video at Nation of Change.

Faith’s Work Together

There are Muslim’s helping Christians and Jews and vice-a-versa all the time, all over the world, but people seldom hear about it in the news. Here’s one example. It’s a video from a news report about a philanthropist, who is Muslim, supporting a an organization that helps the poor, which is Christian.

Muslim Lakhani and The Salvation Army Grate Patrol featured on Beyond the Dream

Le Ly Hayslip

Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call. Conversations with Gabriel Constans.

LE LY HAYSLIP

As a child she knew only war. She was threatened with execution and raped by the Viet Cong; imprisoned and tortured by the South Vietnamese; starved near death; forced into the black market to survive; and lived with the grief of losing brothers, father, cousins, neighbors, friends and relatives to the violence that ripped her country apart for decades. Le Ly lived through hell on earth and chose to heal the wounds, work for peace, and with the help of her ancestors, rebuild the land that gave her birth.

Le Ly was the first voice in the West to speak about Vietnam from the eyes of the Vietnamese. Her book, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places gave the people of Vietnam a human face. The adapted movie by Oliver Stone increased awareness of what the war had done to individuals and families in Vietnam and was the beginning of an outpouring of humanitarian work for reconciliation and rebuilding between the two countries. In 1989 Le Ly began The East Meets West Foundation which started programs for displaced children; primary health care for over 150,000 patients; Mother’s Love Clinic, with over 1,000 babies delivered; construction of eight schools in remote districts; built over thirty-eight homes and income-generating projects for families; thirty renovated or new built wells; scholarships for educating children and orphans and; a loan program that’s provided for over one hundred and eighty five needy families.

LE LY: The East West Foundation started in 1987, with one hundred dollars, after I saw the poor people in Vietnam. I could not turn my back and walk away from what I saw. If I did not see it at all it would be different, but after you have been there you see and you feel touched. You can’t lie to yourself and say, “I am not going to do anything.” “Doing something” is not just talking but rolling up your sleeves and working.

When I came back from Vietnam in 1986 I lost my sense of having everything. I just had it with the living style. I owned a restaurant, I had a couple of houses rented out, three children . . . but I got really burned out, so I started to let go. I sold the restaurant and houses and moved into a small home.

I’m not working for anyone, just doing the thing I really wanted to do, to write and tell the story. While I’m doing that everything is coming back to me. The more I’m writing the story the more I’m saying to myself, “How could I not help? I was there, I was one of them!” I am lucky enough to get out and then I went back and they are still there, with things worse then it had been. That is when I really committed myself to do what I can. At that time I didn’t know if the book was going to work but if it did well I committed to myself to have all that money go back to where it is coming from. Without the war in Vietnam, without my life crises, I can’t tell the story, right?

So I make that my commitment and I not only sell the house and sell the restaurant and put the time into working on the book, but I work seven days a week and twenty-four hours on the foundation, then eventually my income from my bank to the foundation account so it can do its work. I know who I am. I know what I stand for and I know the principle of what I’m doing.

I recently returned to Vietnam and stayed for almost four months. I saw all the old villages that were leveled by Americans, including my own. I saw the foundation of the house, temple and my school and around it the bamboo and banana trees. The foundation is what they lost. The tree is still growing. The bamboo and the banana tree has sprouted again. The soul of the ancestors is all that remains of foundation and the bomb crater next to the graveyard. I walked through that ghost town with my cousin and he pointed out to me, “Do you remember? Remember who lived here? Remember Uncle so and so lived there? Remember Auntie’s house? Remember the big tree here we use to play on?” You know I’m looking around I feel ghosts. I feel chill in my bones. I’ve been back to Vietnam thirty-six times but never saw these places until then.

I dealt with the refugees from those villages. I helped them with what I can, but after a time I said, “Leave it there.” I went back and saw that they are refugees because they moved lower land people to higher desert land. This land happened to be in my village. They can’t grow anything there. It is sand beach. They cannot survive there. The last thirty years they cannot call it home. They can’t move back because there is land mines and even if there weren’t they having nothing to build with. They fought so hard against the French to save the house, the temple and the ancestor worship places.

That is when I feel my pain. For many years I feel the pain. When I wrote the book I feel the pain of what the war had done to these people. When I work with them and help them, I feel the pain of the poor, the needy, the suffering they have gone through. Now it is a different pain, a different loss. We have fire here in U.S. every now and then. People describe their pain, people feel their losses, and people act or describe the hurt. Vietnamese lost not only one or two houses to fire, we lost the whole village! The places we lived for thousands of years!

Heaven and Earth was the first voice that ever came from the Vietnamese side. Americans wrote about what they did, felt or believed in, but not about Vietnamese. I wanted to describe from Vietnamese experience, how we get from here to there – to be prostitute, refugee, Viet Cong or whatever. I was a young kid, what did I know. So that is the book as a first voice, then the movie and then it was a big impact. It did not do as well as we hoped it would, probably because it was about Vietnam, was from the “other side” and a woman’s story.

I keep going with much help. I’m never alone. I cannot live without spirits. That means knowing that whatever I do, whatever breath I take, whatever words I say . . . they know about it. The spirits have no boundaries. They are like wind. I communicate with my ancestors very clearly. It’s as real as when I talk to you. I have no problem with that. Wherever I live, or work I have to have them with me. Whether you believe it or not is up to you.

They do not control things. I cannot ask you to protect me if I walk out the door and I know somebody is going to kill me. I can’t ask you to protect me because you don’t have any army with you, you don’t have any power. But if I make a call to police they can help me. It is the same with the spirits. I cannot ask my brother or my father to help me when they are just like us, but I can ask my great, great ancestor who was a king, who was an emperor, to protect me. There are good and evil just like there is here, so it depends on how good I do on this plane. If I do all the good work, the high scale side will protect me. You can call it angels or whatever. My thought has to be clear. It has to be peaceful and it has to be clean for them to guide me.

Everybody has choices. The choice they make will help with their energy if they make the right choice. Right now I’m writing about the villages that I visit and all the ghost stories I have been told by the people I’ve been talking to. I feel moved. I feel hurt. I feel pain. At the same time, I feel good because I speak for them. I speak for those who are voiceless. That is helping me and that is when I knew that they are with me. I have to “keep the channel open” and that is what it’s all about, to really keep the flow going through. If I was a hateful person with much anger and condemned the whole world, there also is an entity like that. There are two forces, Yin and Yang. If you have negative flow you have negative flow. It’s like the banking system. If you have positive flow, everything goes smoothly.

People with black, yellow, red, brown, or white skin all have our ancestors. Our ancestors come in all forms. You can call it God, you can call it angel, you can call it whatever. They are there. But we have to take a look at our life here to understand there.

In his death my father taught me how to live. He knew that if he kept living it would draw me back to the village. And with the note they found in his hand we discovered he was going to be killed anyway. One way or another he would die. But the question was where . . . how long? He died so I could be free and wouldn’t go back to the village, so I could go on with my life. But if I am not intuitive enough I may not find the way on the path he provided. I have to walk it carefully.

Every one of us makes that choice. It depends on what we make out of it. Living with the ancestors I have no problems. Living with the real world I have the problems. I know the rules. I know what law I need to obey, spiritual law. That is all I need to know. From Uncle Sam to Uncle Ho, there are many obligations. It is hard. But nothing is impossible.

Many people write about their life, their hatred and their anger. All that does is make some people feel like them so they can put on the uniform, the gun and fight. They start it all over again. That is what I would call negative energy. Every time you think of doing something, energy goes out like a chain link fence, it hooks together. That energy multiplies, bigger and bigger. The other world also has a negative energy that hooks into your negative energy and makes a person down here do things which are harmful. It’s like when you turn on a radio in your house or car and you are looking for these waves. When you tap in with that station they have their own frequency. That is what comes to you the listener, whatever you choose. I would rather tune in to the positive. I like the light that is in me and that energy out there is the same light.

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