Saturday, November 17, 2012

Size-ism, Able-ism, Disgust and Compassion or If I'm a Pagan, how come I meet Christ so often?

In my first post in this blog, I mentioned that one of the Gods of my house is Christ in his guise as homeless dude.

I've met Christ several times in my life--Not literally (I don't think, but perhaps I'm wrong), but in the "I greet the divinity within you" sort of way.

Last week I met him in the form of a possibly drug addled, traumatized, toothless, middle aged white man.

The thing is, whenever I've met Christ, He's always in the form of someone who would normally inspire both fear and disgust. It is my obligation, my intention, my wyrd to overcome both, in order to see Him.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle just before we got there, about accepting a women to the shelter because she had higher medical needs than we could cope with. The medical supervisor called around to the various shelters that handled nursing home level of medical needs. For hours she did this. None of them would take her.

The problem was not her medical issues: She walked with a cane and needed help getting in and out of bed. She communicated just fine, albeit slowly. Had control over her bodily functions. She was on numerous medications, had a bunch of chronic problems. This would doubtless why she was receiving the level of care she was getting.

The problem then? Her weight.

In what I can only think of as rampant size-ism, these places complained that they couldn't find a bariatric (specially made for fat people) cot (we had one, we could have sent one). They complained that they didn't have equipment. They complained they didn't have staff.

In other words, she was too fat to be sheltered.  At less than five foot, she probably weighed 400lbs. She had a lot of the issues that one would see in a person of that size. So, they would turn her away because of it.

The woman was kept hanging like this until Mister Toothless White Guy says to the shelter manager and medical supervisor, "You know what? I live in the same building as her. She's fine. We'll (the other shelter residents) help her out. She should stay here."

And as it turned out, people did help. People made sure she got three meals a day, they talked to her, they helped her to the bathroom and the shower. Perhaps there was some comments about her size, but I never heard them.

One of my night shifts, one of the other night staff came to tell me that this woman needed help getting to the bathroom. There was a look on his face that I really couldn't place. The nursing supervisor was catching a nap and I was really reluctant to wake her. On the other hand, the worker seemed to be implying that this was a major undertaking. I decided to see what I could do without waking the supervisor. I figured I could always call her  if I needed to.

I went down to the dorm and found the female police officer and the male shelter manager trying to help her up. They both were clearly uncomfortable, but mostly because this involved helping someone rather intimately.

I was concerned that, the way everyone was acting, that we had to carry her to the restroom.

Really, it was surprisingly easy. She had some of the typical motor control issues that you see in stroke patient but she was able to swing her legs out of bed with only a little help. She was practiced at using her cane to pull herself up. From there, I walked beside her to the restroom. Really, I was only there to make sure she didn't lose her balance.

I asked her if she needed help in the rest room and she said, "No, thank you." and I just waited outside. When she was done, she walked her own self back to her bed, with only a very little bit of help. She needed help getting into her bed, as again, the motor control on her legs was not good.

That done, I left, wondering what all the fuss was about.

In retrospect, I realize the male shelter workers expression was disgust, that great killer of compassion.

I'd heard that before. I know that Kali is all about overcoming disgust, but I'd never had it brought home to me what a huge deal it was.

Our fat woman had some problems that inspired disgust in this normally (I'm pretty sure that people who don't have compassion don't work for the Red Cross) pretty compassionate man.

First, and most obviously was her size. Second was the fact that she was a little whiffy--she'd been wearing the same clothes for days because she'd lost literally everything and (big surprise) we didn't have any clothes that would fit her. She also had trouble bathing, because (another big surprise) she really couldn't do it herself.

The man muttered darkly about her but I didn't catch it (ok, I was mentally going "lalalalalala I can't hear you!"). It seemed to be a weight thing, as though her weight issues were causing the other things. Actually, given the neurological issues, I doubt she could have done those things anyway.

This was when Toothless White Guy entered the scene. He very politely asked if he could have a word. I really though he was going to complain about her. Instead, he asked me if I could make sure to write  a report for her case manager, outlining her needs. He spent a long time with me. There was no condescension in his manner, no sense of anything but pure concern.

Toothless White Guy had nothing in the world but the clothes on his back.

I mentioned how sweet I found our lady. He agreed that she was very sweet, but then very seriously told me, "And even if she were an asshole, she'd still deserve the care."

He smiled toothlessly at me,and I realized I had, for perhaps the third time in my life, met Christ.

As I said, not literally, but I cannot think of anything quite so Christ-like--going out of his way to care for a woman who frankly is suffering from a type of modern day leprosy (the social stigma, not the actual disease). No one would have blamed him if he had just ignored the whole thing, it wasn't his problem. But his actions inspired the compassion of others. I noticed how many people helped this woman, before I left. All people who didn't have to. She never lacked for company or help.

I found myself thinking about a friend of mine, wishing I could offer more concrete help. But she lives three hours away from me has Mulitple Chemical Sensitivity and I don't kid myself that I am anything but toxic (I don't do scents, or cosmetics, air fresheners, but we have a wood stove and I use cheap ass shampoo and Arm and Hammer detergent on my clothes so they don't smell) to her. I worry about her and have done what I can. She's another one suffering from metaphoric leprosy, only hers is of the "Middle-aged-woman with weird health care issues" variety. This makes her a bad patient. She is the bad poor person because she won't shut up. She doesn't "know her place".

Another friend who is fleeing a bad marriage suffers from it too. All those people she thought would support her have evaporated. Again, I can only offer my sympathetic ears

Having met Christ, I think a prayer to him and hope he can help the all the people who need it navigate the Byzantine maze of so-called aid organizations. Perhaps Christ is the patron God of those who seek compassion?

A little note about my use of the term "fat": "Fat" is a descriptor, not a value judgment. It is an adjetive like "Short" or "Tall" and is preferred by many size positive people.