The trip was a long one, starting in New York and ending in Switzerland. The plane was large with three sections of seats across. Midflight the pilot said that we would be coming into some difficult weather.
True enough, the clouds turned dark and the plane started to jump and bump, as did our stomachs and our emotions. Then, pre-warned by the captain, we started to gain more altitude and push through the clouds to blue sky and a smooth ride. We were above the clouds.
The following letter is an illustration of breaking above the clouds from a CVOEO participant of our Warmth Program, who received assistance for buying fuel to heat her home:
“You know, Travis, I haven’t been a poor person all my life. I grew up in a post-war middle class family in the 60s and 70s, and then married a middle-class guy and lived a very comfortable middle-class life. I gave up my career, and followed him around the world supporting his career, and then I got divorced, and became a single mother with two young children, one a newborn in the NICU.
I know what it is to be treated with respect as a middle-class person, and I now know what it is like to be treated like crap, with contempt for being poor, or being a single mom. It has been an eye-opening experience of 14 years for me, since I fell into poverty as a single mother.
Something that has touched me deeply and buoyed me has been the attitude and help of the people at CVOEO.
You and Whitney and all the folks at CVOEO have always treated me with respect and dignity. That has meant so much to me. I’m not so good at reaching out for help – always hoping that I’ll be able to pull it together and make ends meet, so having a place to go and be treated respectfully when that hasn’t happened has been life saving for me, and emotionally heartening. Your work makes a YUGE impact on people, on so many levels. I hope you know that. I am sincerely so grateful for all you do, and how you do it.
The irony is not lost that Lisa ended her note with “warmly” because she also told us:
“My gosh – I can’t believe this is happening. I am still absorbing it. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. This is huge. My home. I can be warm in my home. This means the world to me.”
So I think the analogy with the captain and the airliner aptly applies to our work.
We have Travis, Robert and Karen, the directors of one of our Community Action offices, as captains. We have the reservation desk and the waiting room.
We have the ground crew, flight crew, human resources, information technology, finance and facility – all necessary components to support our work.
And the work itself is to break through the turbulent, rocky parts of life so that we can all reach the calm above the clouds.
Jan F. Demers, is executive director, of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. Reach her at 862-2771 ext. 740 or firstname.lastname@example.org.