Posts Tagged ‘basic needs’

img_2267Being a truth teller isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is downright hard.

Since facing Hurricane Harvey over two years ago, I have seen friends post that they are really perplexed, even angry at those that decided to ride out a hurricane or any other natural disaster and stay home instead of seeking safer ground.  These diatribes often leave me feeling a little stunned at how inconsequential I feel in settings that I usually feel valued.

While I love what I do as a Jewish educator, I do not make an income that affords me to live with any sort of financial ease. As someone who has essentially raised two sons on her own from teenagers into adulthood, I’ve done great, but that doesn’t mean that life has been easy. And it doesn’t mean we have had all of our needs met.

Well-meaning community members and sometimes friends don’t see the larger picture, the realities of my life. In truth, I don’t tend to share either. But here are some realities, if you looked at my finances as a Jewish educator:

  1. I would be forced to stay home if a hurricane or another natural disaster was on the horizon if it wasn’t for my beautiful tribe of friends all over the country that love me unconditionally and who always want to save my family from sadness and/or hardship.  In fact, as Hurricane Harvey was getting ready to bare it’s ugly teeth, I was faced with wondering whether I could even afford to be stuck at home for two to three weeks. At first leaving wasn’t even an option. I couldn’t afford a hotel and besides, in our case, the mayor and my neighbors were telling us to ‘stay put’. But as I went to the grocery store to buy protein bars, non-perishable food items, and other necessities that we would need in the event of being stuck in our home, I was really worried. I mean I was scared. Without the extra funds, I wasn’t certain that we would be ok. AND we have a tribe. One childhood friend offered me money just to leave. Another friend from Philly, started looking for hotel rooms. And then others offered their homes on the east coast.
  2. Basic needs sometimes fall by the wayside.
    • When my back started hurting badly last year, I couldn’t afford the physical therapy co-payments, I simply did what I could at home. Good health insurance doesn’t make a difference unless I can pay for co-pays. The only reason it is good is if something major happens.
    • Sometimes I wait for an extra long period of time to do some of the basics. Yes, it is time for me to take the guys and I to the dentist. AND yet, we know it is important.
    • My sons have really yucky health insurance policies; we pay for the best we can afford.
    • Since Hurricane Harvey, my breathing can be a challenge sometimes, but running the air conditioning is costly; this means I have to decide whether or not I can afford to keep it on (in more ways than one).
    • Life is what it is.
  3. When Maddie, our aging dog, had an accident and tore her ACL. We couldn’t afford the surgery, nor did we think it was the right choice. Instead we decided to do palliative care, only that had a cost too – about $200/month. Our old girl kept hanging on and we have made the value choice to keep her alive as long as her pain is totally managed. Once her pain couldn’t be relieved any longer, there was a part of me that was relieved that we wouldn’t have to pay for the medicines any longer. And even now that she is gone, I miss her deeply. How wrong is that! I didn’t want her to suffer, but there was a cost at keeping her alive. AND I’d never have let her hurt or euthanized her for my convenience.
  4. Until a year ago, my son Aryeh and I shared one car. It was ok and it was what we had to do. It used to drive me crazy when people would tell us to simply buy a second car. Affording a second car is complicated. Car payments and car insurance are realities. At the moment though, I am eternally grateful to the fact that someone actually made it a possibility for Aryeh to buy and pay off a car.
  5. My brother and his five children, their partners, and now one great niece live in Israel. I haven’t been there in years. Sigh. . . .

I often find myself stunned at how often people want to enlighten me. They want to tell me how I should spend my money or that let me know that I should do more for myself:

  • pedicure
  • concert
  • the latest movie
  • shop
  • take a trip

Before Aryeh, my older son, was sick years ago, I worked for a community that included me at every step. I felt part of that community in every way. In fact just today, I had the chance to connect with one of my dear friends and email with another from that community. Sadly, that experience is the exception, not the norm.

The good news is that after four years in Houston, I am finally having sweet windows of loving connections. I adore the rabbi and the amazing administrator I work with! It did take a while, but a couple of the congregants have become dear friends. AND due to Hurricane Harvey, I have made close friends from the church that now shares space with my synagogue until they find a new spiritual home.

The reality is that I am so blessed to be able take care of all my family’s needs and I am grateful that one of my sons is able to make a difference in that journey. We keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. . .such a blessing.  And I am profoundly aware that even as I share reality, my challenges really are  #FirstWorldProblems.

I don’t waste money; I don’t make frivolous choices, but still I don’t have much. If a natural disaster happened and my friends couldn’t show up, I’d be stuck. In fact, if I got sick and couldn’t work for a period of time, I’d have to simply leave Houston and ask for help from those I love.

Looking into the future

As I get older, I am now fearing what aging means. Without a savings, I wonder where I will end up in 15 years or when I can’t work any longer. The good news is that I am starting to make different decisions and looking ways to supplement my income outside of my full time job. At the same time, I know that if I were to lose my position at the end of my contract or to be fired for whatever reason, I would not be able to receive unemployment. Most Jewish organizations and nonprofits do not have to carry unemployment insurance which leaves those professionals in a tough spot. How lovely it is that these organizations save themselves money with this loophole, but how difficult it is for those of us that have been faced with unemployment. A few years ago, I worked for a congregation that lost 150 families over a short time which meant that they could no longer afford a full time educator. In the end, I found odd jobs, seriously pulled out my back when I took a position that I was poorly trained to do, and had a tribe of beloved friends that ultimately saved me from the dire straits that I was in with my sons. I am one of the lucky ones – really.

Hopefully different financial choices will allow me to better prepare for retirement or perhaps just a rainy day – no pun intended. I am always moving forward!

Reality is what it is, for the most part, I have been ok with what is, but this week, I found myself triggered. I am so tired of people that don’t understand the realities of those that aren’t where they are financially.

Over the last year, I have seen two painful GoFundMe campaigns from beloved friends, Jewish communal professionals, that needed support so that they can get the support they need.  My heart breaks for these people and it hurts for many of my colleagues that seem to constantly be paddling upstream against the current. The good news is that I know that I am not alone; the challenging news is that most non-clergy Jewish communal professionals struggle especially if they don’t have a partner to help them manage.

In all honesty, I am struggling for myself and for the many colleagues that are now my dearest friends. So many, including my ex-husband have been negatively impacted by their experiences as a Jewish communal professionals. Passionate Jewish professionals, like my ex-husband have left the field so that they could better sustain themselves and their families or simply because they needed a retirement fund. For a community that is so awesome at caring for the larger world, it is time for them to step up to the plate to care for their professionals.

We need to do some holy work within the Jewish world to make things rights.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,



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