Thursday, January 17, 2013

I have a caseworker.

I've been out of work since July.  When we ran out of savings we applied and received food stamps (which are no longer stamps at all).  Here in Colorado we have "workfare."

Workfare is a great thing--potentially.  Since Joel works full time he doesn't have to participate in the program.  I on the other hand...well, you know.  The first step of workfare is a job search class.  Although very poorly executed it had some good information and advice about job searching and interviewing.  Next we were assigned a caseworker.  To be honest, I was excited about meeting with a caseworker because I thought I'd be able to talk with her about the job search and get some ideas about what I could be doing better as well as have an additional resource for where to apply for work.  No such luck. 

"Joan" had at least 15 people assigned to her during that one class.  She reiterated that we were required to volunteer at one of the approved non-profit sites in proportion to the amount of food stamps we were receiving.  Hence, if we received $200 in food stamps, we would divide that by $8 and then be required to work/volunteer 25 hours a month.  Essentially we would be earning our benefits.  Not a bad thing.  Volunteering would help with the job search as it would give us an "employer," experience, connections, and help us to think about someone other than ourselves.  Joan then gave us approximately 6 more forms to fill out which gave us a copy as well.  Joan then scurried around the room signing our paperwork, sorting it into piles and sent us on our way with our next required "class."

The next class consisted of 15 of us gathered into a small room with Joan as we turned in our forms documenting our job search and volunteer hours and receiving new forms for the next class.  In addition to our group, Joan had another group of similar size in another room.  The class consisted of Joan signing forms and giving us new ones.  There was no time for one on one advice or anything else. 

Joan seems to be a wonderful woman, genuinely caring about helping us to move beyond our need for public assistance but she doesn't have time to actually assist or guide anyone.  Joan is not the only caseworker, after my first class there were 6 caseworkers taking new clients.  I think they have several introductory classes each week.  Their casework is far more paper pushing than assisting individuals.  Each time I've met with Joan (I'm required to go once a month) she appears stressed and exhausted.  It makes me sad.  Joan (and the other caseworkers) likely took this work in order to make a difference but between the inordinate caseloads and the flood of paperwork it is nearly impossible. 

Today I offer a prayer for all those who took jobs to make a difference, to help others move beyond a life of poverty, addiction, and pain but work in places that bureaucracy and paperwork make it nearly impossible to do so, that they may find a way to make a positive impact.  That they may be refreshed and renewed, finding relief from the stress and frustration of their work.  That they may indeed be blessed.  I pray too that we would find a way for the systems set up to help might be restructured and refined so that they could actually fulfill the intention of supporting and assisting people who need a hand up rather than keeping them dependent.

Friday, January 4, 2013


I've been unemployed since July.  It began as a lovely vacation.  We knew it was coming so we did our best to prepare, saving a bit here and there.  We didn't have much but having some helped quite a bit.  I spent the summer filling out job applications and hiking with my youngest daughter.  It was actually quite nice.

School began, the girls returned to their classes and thankfully Joel had found work in a severe needs special education classroom.  Their work began and our money ran out.

A bit of panic set in.  I knew the economy was rough but I was shocked that nothing had happened...I hadn't even gotten an interivew.  I went to the local work force center for a resume building class.  I learned that I shouldn't talk about religion or mention that I have a Master's degree unless the job I'm applying for asks for one.  The religion thing cracked me up...the past 8 years I've been working as a pastor, how do I get around that? 

The third and best thing I learned was that I needed to be volunteering at least one day a week.  Volunteering would do several good things:  take my mind off myself and being unemployed, keep my job skills up, create networks for more job prospects, and make a name for myself in a new town.  The thing they alluded to but never mentioned outright is that it feels good to work, especially when you are doing good work.

The thing is, the work I am doing makes me hungry for more.  I absolutely love doing it.  It makes a difference.  It's not saving the world but every day I work I know without a doubt that I am making a difference.  That evil will not run amok freely because the others and myself that I work with are putting obstacles in its path.  It's hard work, sometimes it's overwhelming to confront the evils that we humans do to one another but I am glad to be there.  To be a face of hope, of comfort, of someone who cares.

This past week I've been especially blessed to preach as well as work at TESSA.  After preaching I cried when I got to the safety of our car.  It felt so good, it felt like what I'm supposed to be doing.  All the grief I carry from not preaching and being the pastor came flooding back.  They were good tears to shed.  As I left TESSA this week, I felt energized and renewed. 

This week I've done good work preaching and volunteering as a victim advocate.  I'm selfish, I want to do them both...and earn a paycheck.  I hope and pray that I will find good work with a paycheck in 2013.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cheers to a New Year!

Happy 2013!

I don't remember ever remember being so excited and grateful for a new year.  As our youngest went around the house asking what our resolutions for 2013 are I spouted out the usual:  eat healthier, exercise more, spend less, and write more.  But as I walked away random thoughts racing through my monkey mind the most important resolution I could make flitted into my head.  In the year of 2013 I am giving up FEAR.  It's also rather poetic to give up fear in the year of 13.  Throughout my life I have chosen to  embrace Friday the 13th as a lucky day rather than one to fear--why not do the same with the year of 2013?

This year has been difficult to say the least.  It has been fraught with fear and doubt.  It has also been filled with courage and strength overcoming the obstacles thrown before us.  I have discovered throughout this year that I am stronger than I know. 

My new resolution for 2013 is to disarm the fears that hold me back from living life to its fullest.  To shine with courage and strength no matter what comes my way. 

May God's blessings shower upon you this year and when hardships come your way (as they always do) may God's strength and comfort guide you through them.  Happy 2013!