Though this poignant, haunting video features worthy men and though this song was written in 1930 in the heart of the Great Depression, this unconscionable, societal neglect of our own who have served and yet, who suffer greatly also includes women.
In the song a beggar talks back to the system that stole his job. Gorney said in an interview in 1974 “I didn’t want a song to depress people. I wanted to write a song to make people think. It isn’t a hand-me-out song of ‘give me a dime, I’m starving, I’m bitter’, it wasn’t that kind of sentimentality”. The song asks why the men who built the nation – built the railroads, built the skyscrapers – who fought in the war (World War I), who tilled the earth, who did what their nation asked of them should, now that the work is done and their labor no longer necessary, find themselves abandoned and in bread lines.
And here, I ask: why should a women who has served society– birthed our children, cooked our meals, washed our clothes, raised our young, nurtured our health, AND OFTEN ALSO worked a full time job as CEO, secretary, CPA, teacher, care-giver–ever find herself in danger, in need of shelter or food, and unable to find a safe, honorable place in the world?
My volunteer work at Haven for Hope in San Antonio, Texas brings me face to face with this need on an up close and personal level.
Saturday I met a woman who has been living at Haven temporarily. I’ll call her Darla (not her real name). She has brain damage that causes her speech to be halting, says “I forget things.” She told me that Haven’s social workers have found subsidized housing for her and last week they took her to see what will be her new apartment home.
I’m thinking that’s great! Right? I looked into her green eyes.
“Are you looking forward to having a place of your own?” She took a deep breath, hesitating.
image: free stock from hipish
“I’m afraid the man who gave me this brain damage will find me. I’ve been thinking I need to hire someone to check on me everyday. I mean, I know this is silly, but I’ve been feeling safe while I’ve been here.”
My heart clenched.
“Does this man live in San Antonio?”
“Yes. He does. I don’t contact any of my friends I used to know or go anywhere I used to go so he can’t find me, but I’m afraid he will.”
This story is not unusual. One in three women worldwide will experience violence against them in their lifetime: that equals one billion women. And the fact is, this violence is no respecter of persons. Regardless of whether a woman is intelligent or not so much, employed or not, married or not, beautiful or not, popular or not, she is devastated and usually debilitated by domestic violence.
D. Ellis Phelps
What I want for this woman and for all women (and men) who are ready to go to any length to change their lives and leave abuse behind is a culturally ubiquitous commitment to healing this societal disease. I am not alone in this. Many have joined to bring awareness to the need to stand against violence.
I am for standing together. And of course, I want perpetrators to be held accountable and to be rehabilitated. I want those who experience suffering to be comforted. I want provision for all who experience lack.
But most importantly, I want to be part of a culture reconsidering the current reactive approach to widespread abuse and rage. What we do now is like sending in the National Guard and the Red Cross after the fact to clean up the mess of a natural disaster.
These entities are necessary and powerful forces for good, providing aid in times of crises. And let’s face it: no amount of education will turn a tornado from its destructive pathway.
But education will stop abuse. Education of the spirit. And practice.
The practice of loving-kindness. One word at a time. One glance. A smile. A gentle in-breath and exhale replacing a mean retort. The decision not to hit or yell. Ever.
The decision to ask for help. The decision to give help in healthy ways.
These are actions we each can take one moment at a time, actions that will change our world for the better.
Ask: What simple (but not often easy), let’s say a dime’s worth of action can I take today to make my world and that of those around me more gentle, more kind? How can I change even my thinking, especially my thinking (this requires spiritual intervention), around someone or something I think I hate or feel the need to punish. Can I offer forgiveness and loving-kindness instead, even for one instant? Yes. One Holy Instant can change everything!
Share your victories and positive choices here and share them with others. Collect a #formidableWoman badge from this page (at right) and post it on your own website or blog.
Help us reach critical mass and tilt the collective-consciousness toward a culture of gentleness.
d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.