The fact that I saw the tweet was a surprise. It was in my “Home” stream, one that I rarely check anymore. I spend the bulk of what little time I have for Twitter checking my Sports Media, Kaufer Favorites or Go Ducks lists. But I had a little time to kill while waiting for my parent-teacher conference to begin (the teacher was running late).
“This is important – please read and RT” the tweet read. It was from a Twitter handle I recognized but had not seen for some time: @BustertheBeagle. I remembered that the person behind these tweets is a single mom who had a daughter on the Autism spectrum. We have followed each other for years and she is in my “Autism” list. She tweets consistently – often about dog facts or trivia: “Keep the water flowing. Routinely check your pet’s water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. #pet #dog #cat #animal” is an example of a typical tweet.
The tweet I saw this day included a link so I clicked on it (even though I usually avoid cryptic links on Twitter). It took me to a GoFundMe page that includes a picture of Bonnie and her daughter Abby.
“Help with low income housing” reads the headline.
The opening paragraph immediately touched my heart:
“We need funds to purchase a unit in a low income housing cooperative and moving money. My name is Benita (Bonnie to my friends). I have a 16 year old with autism. I am on disability myself. Sometimes there are things far more important than your own pride. I am putting my belief to the test that there are still people who are outgoing and gracious when an individual needs assistance. I live in poverty. I’m the individual that you know exists but remains invisible to the general population. I am humbly asking for your assistance in helping us rise above the constant struggle of living in poverty. My Paypal address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. (I sell what I can on Etsy, thus the name).”
“Most of you will probably not read any further. I agree it is an uncomfortable subject to discuss.”
She is right – it is uncomfortable subject. One as Americans it seems we rarely discuss anymore. How do we help those among us who clearly need help?
Bonnie goes on to eloquently explain why and how she has had to turn to a crowd raising site like GoFundMe for money to help her family.
“I did not just become poor. It evolved slowly over a period of time. It wasn’t just one or two problems in life but a whole pile of them. I was gainfully employed for 30 years and then an unfortunate chain of events lead to my becoming disabled. I’m a Type A personality and a workaholic, so accepting that I was disabled has been extremely hard for me. Living on a disability check each month is not for the faint at heart. I also am a single parent of a daughter with autism and other special needs. Statistically, single mothers have an especially hard time getting out of poverty. Households headed by single mothers are four times as likely to be poor as are families headed by married couples. Did you know that children who grow up in poor families are far more likely to become poor adults? As a single mother, I rely on a network of support – disability check each month, friends (none locally), personal drive, ambition and a will to stay afloat. I don’t want this to be my entire life. I’m working hard each and every single day to make sure that my daughter eats, does her school work and feels loved. I’m trying to be the role model for my daughter on how to make her life what she wants it to be, how to achieve her own goals, how not to give up when it’s so hard that you have no choice but to ask for help.
Poverty also means isolation and when you have a special needs child, sometimes you are alone in the world to deal with all the problems. When an individual is poor, you are not just deficient in monetary funds but you are poor in every avenue: emotionally, support wise and family wise. While individuals today might have TVs and cellphones, they can be more disconnected than ever — from neighbors, work, family, all of the social networks that help people through life. I have no family or friends around me. What friends I did have, could not handle my status of poverty. I had no money to do things with them and little opportunities away from my daughter. My faithful friends consist of a handful of individuals which I have never met in person but communicate via the worldwide web. They may not know it, but they have been my strength and stronghold when I had none. I owe them everything. “
I know that there are probably those who will read Bonnie’s plight and think that it might be some kind of scam. It’s very easy to become jaded and cynical after seeing or hearing about “news” stories exposing pan-handlers, non-profits and others who have taken advantage of the generous nature of individuals.
Nobody wants to feel burned. But I truly believe that this is a case where there is a real need for a real family.
I also know that in America, there can be an attitude among many that most poor people are poor because they “deserve” to be poor. There is a saying that for most Americans, we’re just a few lost paychecks away from financial disaster and poverty. What happens when a provider for a child (especially a special needs child) becomes disabled and is unable to work full-time? Or if she/he can only work part-time, but can’t afford child-care?
I Retweeted her tweet and added a comment that it takes a strong woman to reach out and ask for help so publicly. I immediately received a Direct Message from Bonnie thanking me. Her message made me cry.
“You reduced me to tears and that is not something that happens to me frequently. I appreciate your kind comments that it took a “strong” woman to write. It took me an entire day to write down our circumstances. After each sentence, I had to get up and walk away. I had to swallow my pride and put our story out there. When I say I’m isolated, that is the truth. It is just Abby and I. We have no friends left, no family and have explored every avenue to find a solution. I only have my Twitter friends and limited Facebook friends to help get the word out. Yesterday, I found out that Section 8 has a 4 year waiting list. We need to move from this neighborhood. Over the weekend a group of individuals brought baseball bats and attempted to break into the house next to me. Five police cars later and a large amount of tense moments further convinced me we absolutely have to get out of here. Today, two houses down an individual was brought outside and handcuffed and taken off. Abby sees and while she doesn’t want to move (out of her routine), even she said that we got to get out of here. So, I have given you the long story. In short, no one wants to contribute to someone dealing with poverty. I have noticed that unless I have an incurable disease, a house fire or an animal in need of medical attention, chances are we will never raise the money. I haven’t lost faith in humanity though. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I’m all ears and will do what it takes to help us move out of this neighborhood into safe and affordable housing. Blessings to you and your household for taking the time to tweet about our fundraiser. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Bonnie”
I responded: “I’m just so sorry that you have had to deal with so much. It’s an example of how unfair life can be and it makes me so incredibly sad. You are doing your best. You are trying to raise children safely. You are trying to provide for special needs kids. You are so brave and so strong to keep up what you do day after day. Don’t ever forget that. I will do what I can to help continue to raise visibility and exposure to your story. Its a story that shouldn’t exist in our country and it makes my blood boil. I hope and pray that the additional visibility provides the assistance I know you don’t want to have to accept but need right now to get into a better place. Please give Abby (and Buster) a hug for me and hang in there.”
And so that’s exactly what I’m trying to do with this blog post and my social media accounts. I want to share Bonnie and Abby’s plight and raise visibility as best as I can. Please take a few moments to read her post – and especially her wish list. These are what most of us consider very basic items: a toilet paper roll holder, scissors for her crafts and 9-volt batteries for smoke detectors are just a few examples. Even if you don’t have extra money to donate and help Bonnie move, there are other ways you can help make life a little easier her her and Abby. Perhaps you work for a store or company that has damaged goods that can be sent to her. Or maybe you just have a few extra items in your house you’re willing to send? I have no doubt that every dollar – and item – will be truly appreciated and put to good use.
I want to believe that in today’s America, there still exists a fundamental spirit of community and generosity that can help those who need it the most. For me this is mostly an existential belief that I want to see fulfilled. But for people such as Bonnie and Abby, this is essential to their daily existence.
I truly hope their faith is rewarded and they get their basic needs met so they can move forward in a safer and more productive environment. Let’s help her America.