Thirteen years ago I helped bury a very dear friend. That is not a euphemism for anything or my trying to come up with some sort of cute remark. It is a terrible, horrific memory that is burned upon my heart. We who loved him dearly took the shovels in our hands and piled the dirt on top of his casket. Under a crystal blue sky we cried and piled the dirt on him and tried to understand why a 29 year-old man had died. For some of you this is not a new story. I have blogged about this many times because it made that sort of impact upon me.
Because when you make eye contact with a mother who is watching you bury her son you don’t know what to do. You don’t know whether to look away, cry, scream, smile or keep shoveling. So for a moment you freeze and realize that you won’t ever forget the look on her face. And even though you know it is not your fault, it hurts knowing that she is watching you bury her child.
I am not sure what triggered that memory. It might be because I found out a friend’s breast cancer has come back with a vengeance. It might be because my understanding is that statistically she faces very dire odds. Or perhaps it is because I found out today that several friends are walking away from their homes and I find myself overflowing with what can only be described as rage.
These are not people who over extended themselves with crazy loans that they took out to buyÂ palatialÂ estates that they otherwise couldn’t have afforded. These are college educated productive members of society. These are people who have always worked and have paid their taxes. These are mothers and fathers who lost their jobs during the worst economy that we have seen in decades. Moms and dads who have fought to get employment elsewhere. Parents who have begged for positions at retail stores and often been turned down for being over qualified.
So they went to the banks and explained that they were interested in receiving a loan modification. They provided documentation of their hardship and told the banks that they weren’t looking for a handout. They didn’t ask for a reduction in principal. All they wanted was to have the monthly payment lowered so that they could keep their homes. It wasn’t a ridiculous request. The Federal Government had bailed out the banks. They had determined that if the banks failed it would have dire consequences. So they gave them money to use to recover.
They gave them tax dollars and instructed them to help homeowners retain their homes. And instead the banks said fuck you to the homeowners and created an incredible mess of paperwork and bureaucracy to navigate. Even though they were given money to cover this. Even though they were helped out of their own dire straits they refused to help people who needed it.
So now moms and dads are explaining to their children that they have to move somewhere else. But the thing is that not everyone has resources to draw upon. Some of these people are leaving their homes to go live in hovels or cars. Some of them have begun the process of trying to qualify for welfare and food stamps.
I have a sneaking suspicion that one of my friends is on that path and they are too proud to ask for help. I know some of his story and I understand much of his frustration. As men we are raised and socialized to provide for our families. As men we are taught that a man who cannot do so is less than a man. It is soul crushing. So I am searching for a way to find out what his situation is. I want to help him. I want to find a way to try and give him a hand up and not a hand out because he wouldn’t have it any other way.
But I wonder and I worry. I listen to conversations and watch the news. I hear the comments from those who think that anyone who is in this kind of financial trouble is there because of their own mistakes. I listen to the things that are left unsaid by friends and I see gaps that make me wonder. And I worry that we are about to see something far worse coming. I don’t say this to sell fear but because when you know as many people as I do who are struggling to find work it is a real concern.
Because it is more than just families losing their homes. It is creating an enormous strain on relationships and I wonder how many divorces are going come from this. I wonder how many couples will find themselves unable to overcome the strain and wonder how all these different things will impact the children.
And as I wonder I look at Bank of America, Wells Fargo and their fellows and wonder why they can’t understand that in the midst of making a profit it is ok to help people. My guess is that no one with any real power cares about this or if they do they don’t spend much time worrying about it because they don’t understand hunger and fear. Maybe I am wrong, but I doubt it.
All I know is that I have had too many conversations with these friends about how rough it is. I am ready to hear better stories. Life isn’t fair and it never will be, but every now and then it is nice to get a break.