I’m no bleeding heart. Empathy and compassion are difficult for me. I see the world and other people differently, I think, from some. For example, I see nothing wrong with one-word reply to a question. It’s efficient, direct, and fast. I was wrong about that this week.
I work for a non-profit that provides behavioral health and substance abuse assistance to those who need it the most. We are the safety net. I had other opportunities out of grad school. Many in my class thought I chose poorly. Different strokes and all that, I suppose.
I grew up poor. I lived in the poorest county in Washington state. My father was a police officer; my mother was a teacher’s aide. It was a humble life but we were fortunate to always have what we needed. I never went hungry.
After I was born, my parents found out that they could not have children. When I was six years old, they adopted a boy. A few months later, my parents received a call asking if they’d like to adopt his sister as well. My parents said yes.
The subsequent course of events changed my family forever. The girl is dead; the boy is in prison (unrelated). It tore my family apart. My parents divorced and my mother went on an unhealthy tear. I do not speak to either.
I was lucky. My maternal grandparents, not wealthy people at all, set aside their retirement plans to take me in and provide me with a chance. I had teachers who cared and saw potential. I grew up in a house, while untraditional, embraced music and books and the outdoors. They supported me as I studied, worked, and grew up. My grandmother is dead. My grandfather still supports me.
I was the first person in the family to go to college and then to graduate school. I make more money than anyone in my family ever has — albeit it’s not all that much. I briefly flirted with self-destruction in college but I got lucky once again. I met some amazing people, found my faith, and my footing. I met my wife, started my family, bought my house, and found contentment in life because I was lucky.
I work for this non-profit because I was lucky and others weren’t. I like to think that maybe if this place existed in the poor, podunk town where I grew up, there’s a small chance that my family wouldn’t have imploded. I’ve heard it said that it’s the goal of every parent to try to improve their children’s life compared to their own by at least 50%. I’m working on that. Any goodness or success that my children may find will be a testament to their mother and in spite of myself.