I was sitting in my car at a red light recently, when a driver moving through the intersection rolled his window down and screamed an obscenity at a rumpled man holding a cardboard sign: “Get a job, you — !”
That man and the people who, forced by life’s circumstances, stand by the side of the road begging for food and spare change are frequent reminders of something we confront every day at Eugene Pediatrics — poverty.
It’s not only seeing children living and coping with poverty that upsets me. It’s a feeling that they will grow up without a key component for success — a vision of another possibility for themselves. I have a growing rage that I can do so little to help change the fate of these children and families.
This week, a little boy came to see me, and it had been too long. I saw him the day he was born, just like his siblings. Three darling kids. Their mother has struggled for all the years I’ve known her. I have seen her beaten, filthy, exhausted, frightened and assaulted by her boyfriend (but afraid to report him). I have also seen her happy, in love with her babies and hoping for a positive change in life.
We have laughed together, talked about her kids and discussed options for her. I know she struggles with drugs, alcohol and depression — they are her demons.
One time I gave her a card for a place she could go that I thought would help. Her response was, “This is just my life, Dr B.” This woman lacks something key that people need — a vision of something better for themselves. No wonder. She grew up in a terrible home situation. The same one she is in now. The same one her kids are growing up in.
It had been many months since I saw her little boy. When he came in this week, he did so with his Department of Human Services (DHS) caseworker. He’s back in foster care again because his mom overdosed, ended up in the psychiatric ward and lost custody of the kids. Again.
But instead of being angry or upset, this little boy jumped into my lap, gave me a huge hug and told me about how big his muscles are getting. Even though his life has been deeply disrupted, there is a light shining inside him. And I want to do whatever I can to help him. I want to help him have a vision for something better one day.
Which is why I am doing two things:
- Supporting ShelterCare. This local non-profit agency helps the homeless get out of poverty. Please join me in supporting this worthy cause.
- Hiring a case manager for Eugene Pediatrics. By July 1, we will be one of the only clinics in our region to employ a specialist to help struggling families gain access to support services in the community. A caseworker can liaison with DHS, with the school system and with a wide range of agencies. That person can step in to assist families that have no idea how to get help, and teach them to advocate for their kids, to try to get them to a better life.
I want Eugene Pediatrics to take care of the whole child. Whatever the child needs, I want us to be able to help them. We need to attend to their medical needs, their mental health needs and, perhaps most importantly, their social needs. At Eugene Pediatrics, we believe we must work together as a community, to help children living in poverty have a vision of a different future.