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Monday, 16 April 2012

An Important Moment and a Simple Truth

By Michael Gorodezky

My very first employment after graduating from Berkeley was as a Deputy Probation Officer in Alameda County, California. As a naïve 22-year-old working in the criminal justice system was a huge awakening. One story is special for me.

I was doing adult investigations which means I wrote short reports on various adults convicted of (mostly minor) crimes. I had an office in a new building near the freeway in Oakland. The office had what we now know as cubicles but in 1967, it seemed only that the walls did not reach the ceiling.

There were doors, but they were glass and I felt comfortable with that arrangement since I suspected many of the people I met were not my friends.

On this day, I met a young man who told me that his family was on welfare and had run out of money. It was the end of the month. He told me that he had two children and only a piece of bologna to feed them. He asked if I could “loan” him some money. I gave him 10 dollars. In those days that was a good bit of money.

The next day or so, I went to see my supervisor, Mr. Green, who I considered a very wise man. I asked if he thought I had been stupid? Had I been hustled? Was I a fool?

The conversation was very brief. He simply told me that I had a choice. I could be one of two people. I could be someone who risked being a fool, but also might help a family to eat. Or, I could be someone who is never a fool and who never takes the chance to help someone. Who did I want to be?

Good question. I am grateful that Mr. Green shared his wisdom with me.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Thank you for this story, it brought back memories of working for the Employment Dept., I hope I was mostly kind.

Hmm, I guess he did not pay back the "loan" but then again, he could have committed a crime instead of asking. You are both kind and brave, telling your supervisor.

This brings back a memory many years ago when I first started back to work part time in a small office on a second floor factory building. The woman who cleaned the factory floors and bathrooms was about my age. She always seemed sad. One day she let it be known that she did not have enough money to buy some needed medicine. It was pay day and I signed my entire check (not much) over to her.

People later found her in the ladies room crying because she said no one had ever done that for her.

However, I was the fool to those who knew her well and told me how she would probably be spending the money.

Great story. I remember my mother always gave without asking if they deserved it. She said "you give because you want to, not because they deserve it."

My usual response to someone who asks for money for food, medicine, bills, rent is to ask if I could come with them to supply them with what they say their needs are. For instance, go to the store with them to buy a bag of groceries to take home. That way we have time to talk and see if this is a regular unfilled need, what they have done in the past and what might be helpful in the future, i.e. food stamps,etc.
If they refuse the extended help, that is the end of it. If they want, not just money, but my time to help them solve a recurring problem, I can help them meet the immediate, critical need with food, but also help them help themselves in the future.

Michael - Thank you for restoring my faith in humanity and public service - sometimes we need these reminders that people are basically good.

Thank you for sharing that supervisor's words of wisdom. You gave money, and considering it a "loan" would have been just crazy. All of us know that wasn't a loan. I also appreciate the comment about the mother's words that you give because you want to, not because they deserve it. A friend of mine always said, "I'd rather feed ten people who don't deserve it than let one starve that does." This was a good reminder for may day that my use by God is not how I judge people, but how I can be used to further a purpose I can not see.

I want to thank you for remembering that many people suffer in silence. Too proud to ask for help. I always find that kindness is very powerful. I work with many families and I am rewarded every day by helping to make someone's day a little brighter.


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