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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

Where are your priorities? With children, or downtown?

“With the exception of Romania, no developed country has a higher percentage of kids in poverty than we do.” —Bill Moyers

Schenectady has a 65% total poverty rate and a kid rate of poverty in the 90% range.

And we can scream about our wonderful downtown all we want, because that's just bricks and mortar. Not people.

Our school system is last in academic achievement for every single middle school in this town, and second to last or last (depending on the reporting agency) for high school achievement. The only thing left are the elementary schools and Head Start — oh wait, there is an enormous waiting list for Head Start.

So, I again am asking that same old tired question which is never answered or even mentioned: Where are the spreadsheets of profit and loss for downtown? How much has our school system benefited through all the nice little plums distributed to a very small group of people? I believe the term used for this is "corporate welfare."

Last week CBS6 did a story on charities, i.e. pilot programs, etc. The story is part of a continuing series called “It’s Your Money.” I know a little bit about this because I was once the subject of a segment based on high-paid CEOs of non-profits. Guess which side I came down on? The lowest paid in all of this area including Saratoga, Hudson, and a jillian others.

The experts interviewed for the initiatives and opportunities of financial support to new businesses all came firmly down with two words: Dumb idea! The promised jobs did not last, many left as soon as the promised sacred calf went dry. And most businesses just viewed the whole sting operation as a con job. We have seen a lot of this in Schenectady: The Big House came and went twice, taking major monies on two occasions and never opening not even for one day. The bars and restaurants we are propping up are giving back nothing to this city and it’s people. And here we all sit saying the problem is all those people on WIC and SSI and assisted housing and on and on and on.

Let me tell you a story about one, only one, small family that lives near QUEST. There is a young mother on the run from a violently abusive husband whose face and body are covered with scars from life long torture; first her parents and now her husband. She has three children, a boy of 8, a girl of 7, and a second girl about 2 years of age. Here is the kind of poverty living in this town: The mom is collecting unemployment, not a huge amount but something, the four people in this family often eat at QUEST because they are hungry.

I am going to add an aside here, we got them air mattresses for beds, some basic clothing and one hot meal a day — good food, nutritionally sound and healthy. We have helped them find counseling for the male child, because he carries so much anger and has seen too much violence in his young life, and mom is determined to do everything she can so that her son doesn’t turn into his father, and/or winds up being arrested. I have already seen dealers giving this boy money to be a mule, a carrier for them. We have discussed this, but living near the Vale neighborhood is high risk and the temptations when you are poor seem like glimmering promises.

Anyway, this brave women called code enforcement, in fact she called them twice. In this house of four apartments there are two families with small children and the city helped place them there.

There was no stove, no refrigerator, and in fact no furniture, no car, no nothing. And now the code officer has stepped in and taped all four apartments closed,* and labeled them unfit for human habitation. The problem is this family has been evicted and has nowhere to go. Mom refuses to move into one of the hooker hotels, full of bedbugs and other vermin. QUEST is doing the best we can, and SCAP is an amazing resource.

*Update: The code officer changed his mind. Now that the family is evicted, the apartment has a stove and a refrigerator from the landlord and the police tape is gone and the apartment is up for rent. Go figure.

But maybe reading this you will understand, why feeding children a hot meal every day is so important. Can you imagine living through this overheated summer with no refrigerator? The other young family walks to the corner and buy four slices of pizza a day to offset eating at QUEST.

The Community Intervention Center

I get a little antsy when I see people labeling themselves as Crisis Intervention Centers. The key word there is intervention, sending people to places who may or may not help them.

I think of QUEST as a family, or wait, Community Intervention Center. QUEST is in it for the long haul. People stay with us for a lifetime; they come back to volunteer or work or help in any way they can.

Our circle is more like a gigantic spinning top, sometimes larger, sometimes smaller, but ever and ever being re-spun to run on its own momentum. A small spinning galaxy. A nation on the move.

“How many things have to happen to you, before something occurs to you?” —Robert Frost

Change awaits us. What is decisive is our decisions. In basic language: How far down does this city fall before we begin to vote? How many more children living in untenable conditions before we say No More? Our schools can get no lower on the charts of educations. How long before we volunteer to tutor and mentor? And how much more anger before this city goes up in flames?

This is our city, we are responsible for its upkeep and morality. Please make your choices carefully, people's entire lives are blowing in the wind.

Just another little lollipop to chew on: Today, Mary, who is 7, came in with a loose tooth, hurt from falling into a table. I thought it was a baby tooth, but not a permanent tooth, as all her baby teeth had been removed surgically because of decay. Tell us again how we need to just lean back on the patio and drink margaritas. That’s fine as long as we also do our part to help the rest of those that can’t afford one and never venture below the Nott Terrace Line.

Now I am going to quote from a column printed in the Saturday, July 19 Gazette. Joe Conason who is a nationally syndicated columnist and expresses himself on the youth immigration issue. Maybe this will make you see some different thoughts or maybe it will give you the facts you need to move forward in the conflict:

"Now among the theological ideas shared by many of these figures is a fondness for the Old Testament, which they routinely quote to justify cruel strictures against gays, women and anybody else they wish to suppress. At the moment, however, these biblical literalists ought to be studying the very plain instructions of Leviticus:

"The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."

More recently, Pope Francis laid down a clear edict on the border crisis that springs from his own biblical understanding, urging Americans to "welcome and protect" the children arriving on our border. (He didn't mention anything about immediate deportations.) The Holy Father expressed deep concern for the "tens of thousands of children who migrate alone, unaccompanied, to escape poverty and violence ... in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain.

"Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often, die tragically; many of their rights are violated; they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes," he said. He went on to say that only development and security in their own countries would ever stem the flow of migrants heading northward -- and that in the meantime, the rest of us should abandon "attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization." Attitudes like those displayed by goons waving flags and guns and "Go Home" signs, who don't care whether these little strangers live or die.

Where are the real Christians? Where are the true people of faith? They may be found in houses of worship near the border and around the country, where people of all political persuasions realize that they are called to feed, clothe, shelter and heal God's children, even when they arrive on a bus without papers."

How is this different from the Middle East group kicking out all Catholics? The group called ISIS in the name of their God punishing unbelievers, and, oh yes, women, who have to go back into complete body coverage, and will also be punished by severe methods from public whipping to deadly misogyny. Seems to be pretty universal. Yet the Catholic, the Jewish and the Muslim faith all sprang from the same cradle with similar dress codes, head wear, and food restrictions. We have all, all of us, done our share of wickedness. Let us remember that helping children in need gives us a second chance at redemption.

The Vermont legislature, with support from its populace, has voted to do what is necessary to offer shelter and succor to as many as possible. And certain towns and cities in Connecticut and Massachusetts and in the West are calling out and bringing their voices to the table and offering publicly to aid and support these children. There are thousands of girls under the age of 14 being used as prostitutes in Brazil; I’ve seen photos of groups of children being held in underground prisons, filled with vermin, made into toil endless hours with nothing in return. Check your labels, folks, and boycott. China, of course, does much of the same thing. Remember the clothing factory with locked doors that burned out of control in Bangladesh? That was a United States company running that show. Many women died so we could save a dollar or two on pretty things. We had to discuss this with our pastors and politicians. Ignorance is no excuse, or so says the IRS, and surely it should be no excuse for the human element either. It’s easy to run around quoting the constitution and/or the bible.

I have a very small Christian minister; Latin, I believe, who is a “Fool of God.” He is sweet, he is endearing, he is funny, but he is harsh when people don’t realize that “it’s all about the children.” You can never stay angry at this little man, who may be small in stature but gigantic in heart,

This next bit slipped under my radar for quite a while, and maybe you all know about it, but not me I had no clue, until I took a ride in an ambulance from Ellis at McClellan to Ellis on Nott Street.

Service was sporadic, some excellent, some abysmal — equipment does not make a good hospital. And much of the lower level help were close to minimum wage with two months of training. Who we used to call nurses aids are now identified as Personal Care Assistants. And one woman did not get me a wheelchair to take me to X-Ray but made me walk. I was shaky at best and I did not have my cane and when she saw me stumble just directed me to the railing on the side and said, “Use the railing.”

I had just come from an ordeal with an R.N. who had jabbed me 11 or more times for anesthesia; poking and wiggling the needle around under my skin telling me to relax. She complained that my veins were moving around and shifting. My husband had to avert his eyes because he couldn’t watch. Finally she had to call another nurse in to help. That woman got it first shot: Bingo! Funny thing is the original R.N. kept telling me to relax, relax. My arm is now a mess. The soft tissue around my elbow popped right out into a spongy amorphous mass. After four days it has gone down; but it was so odd, like the swelling you would get from a sprained ankle.

Remember two years ago when I had four hours worth of surgery from a hip replacement, and no needle issues at all?

Straying a bit, sorry for the rant. But Ellis on McClellan will be closing its emergency room and turning the entire building into a health center. Imagine, one hospital for all of Schenectady! When I was there the Nott Street complex was jammed. I question priorities again: Sunnyview has been sold to St. Peter’s. We have no trauma services, nor a service for problem pregnancies, or seriously ill infants, and now only one emergency unit — and that in a better part of town. I have noticed that now Albany Medical Center is reaching into Schenectady and some of our local MDs are aligning themselves with Albany Med.

What I learned
from the war was that
all of us take a defensive
posture to justify our acts.
Only when we start to
take responsibility and
reconcile ourselves to new
thinking we will get a
different result.

The further the society
drifts from the truth.
The more it will hate those
who speak it.

We all bleed the same
color and the life of all
is equal and precious. No
cause justifies the killing
intimidating or threatening
of human beings.

—By Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian who has lost three children in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Our dear sweet deformed fish has died, we bought it because he needed us. His mouth was grossly maladjusted and he had a crooked back. He started failing about a year ago, and we were even hand-feeding him peas — all to no avail. You may think, oh, just a fish, but this fancy goldfish had a beautiful tail and a sweet personality. We had him for nine years.

Rest in the bosom of the ocean like blubber.

It is that time of year and I will be taking a much needed and well earned vacation. In the meantime a theater company will be rehearsing on-site, the Latin Jazz Ensemble will be rehearsing, and there will even be a garage sale.

We will be back in September fresh and energized and ready. You can still call if you need to. I will miss you, but I will love the peace and solitude of Nova Scotia.

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