Social. Services.

Much of the time we have the luxury of ignoring the profound safety net we have as a city, state, nation, and world. We have the illusion we are doing everything all by ourselves. We forget our dentists, our doctors, our nurses, our police officers, our teachers, our car mechanics, our waitstaff, our manicurists, our hairdressers, our subsidies and supports, our food banks, our utilities, phone service and internet, our government workers and streets and sanitation workers, our yard maintenance people, post men and women, our handymen, painters, and repairpeople, our social workers, childcare workers, and agencies, our child welfare carers and our supports for the unemployed, ill, or destitute.

We have experienced several decades of relative peace and stability and so we don’t always remember the people who are supporting us in creating our lives. In the interest of efficiency, doing more with less, and accountability, we have reduced our spending on social services that are provided for people who cannot provide them for themselves, partly because we are not directly feeling a need ourselves most of the time. We feel noble when we think of people and donate something or lend a hand. We have closed hospital that do not turn a profit, and we have starved social service agencies out of business by cutting grants and funding.

Our current public health crisis shows us how inextricably we are intertwined with the other human beings on the planet. We count on each other to follow the rules of our community and to be responsible. We see that if we become compromised in any way, we will be dependent on the good will, the integrity, the knowledge, and the efforts of people who may not know us or have any obligation to provide care for us. People will do their jobs, but we want more than that when we are vulnerable. We want them to see us as individual people and to care about us and for us.

We are social beings, we need cooperative effort to make our social group work. Our lives are not a point count game with winners and losers. There is luck, there is chance, there is history, there is health, and there are the circumstances into which we were born. It does absolutely matter how we play the hand we are dealt, but every hand is different, and every person has to figure out how to live within the reality of their own experience. We aren’t in charge of everything. Actually we aren’t in charge of very much at all. We are just in charge of our choices and our perspectives. So maybe we will come out of this public health crisis with greater wisdom about the ineffable and essential nature of what we mean when we say “Community.”


About norasblog

I am a psychotherapist with a private practice in downtown Chicago.
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2 Responses to Social. Services.

  1. allisonfine says:

    The “we” you speak of does not include me since I have been part of the serving class for 50 years. I am retired now from servitude and grateful that my kids are all doing well and my two daughters are able to add to my paltry social security benefits so that I have a place to live. I live in one room without a car in a city where 80% of the citizens own and drive cars. Since the Corona Virus hit I have avoided the buses and trains I usually take. I take Nothing for granted, especially not the people who provide our services, since I am one of them. I had significant hearing loss 4 years ago and Medicaid was the only way I could pay for my hearing aids. Medicare does not and neither does any other Medicare supplement. Since I am seeing Chicago from the bottom up I am acutely aware of the class distinctions. In order to socialize here you need money since the main socializing centers around eating out at the many. many amazing restaurants we have. I have not been able to afford this but I do enjoy eating out with my daughter who, until 2 weeks ago, owned a design forward very upscale hair salon which she just closed indefinitely due to the virus. My other daughter is a neuro critical care physician in Philadelphia and is on the front lines. My son is an actor in Brooklyn. We are separated by distance but not love. The irony is that this virus has leveled the playing field. While I am in grief about all that is happening, I am also beginning to see glimpses of major societal change as a result. Perhaps people will stop treating people such as myself, in spite of my degrees, with contempt because we have no money. We will start appreciating one another for who we are.

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