They tried hard to hang onto their house -- they took in renters, they tried to do a short sale. The house was on the market for three years before it was finally foreclosed on by the bank, at which point, we came along and bought it for a song. Our savings on the purchase are what's enable us to do all the renovations we're doing now, so that we end up with a dream house. Built on the backs of someone else's misfortune. I'm not really superstitious, and I think it would be silly to avoid buying the house for that reason -- after all, not buying it certainly wouldn't help that family any; they were long gone by the time we came along. But every once in a while, I get a twinge of guilt about that anyway.
This morning, I ran across this blog, The Boxcar Kids. A mom, four kids, two dogs, and a cat. Living in a trailer now (in a tent last summer), after a combination of events led to their losing their beautiful five bedroom house. Just a few entries so far, but smart, interesting. I like the way she lays out exactly why taking a $15/hr service job would actually lose her money when she factors in the cost of childcare. Ditto going back to school and retraining. The numbers help to make it real.
When I work at Eastgate Cafe, I can't help overhearing conversations. It's a small space. Our current neighborhood is at the southeast corner of Oak Park and part middle-class, part working-class, depending on which side of the street you live on. And listening to people in the cafe talk, you can hear how this neighborhood is getting hammered. So many people in the cafe in the middle of the day, nursing a single drink for hours. Talking about going back to school, or selling stuff out of their home, or trying to start up a small business, or wondering if it's hard to get teaching jobs at the university, or about how maybe, they could make it as a writer. Maybe now's the time to take their shot at writing the Great American Novel.
Our family's so lucky, to be where we are. To still be able to buy overpriced lamps at Pottery Barn, just because they're pretty. I give to charity, and when people ask for things they need on the local mom mail list, I try to help out. It doesn't seem like enough. I am so short on time right now, but I still feel like I need to do something for our local community. I wish I could make people soup. Or buy them diapers. Did you know that food stamps don't cover any hygiene products, including soap or diapers? I just learned that today, and it makes me so angry I could spit.
I sometimes teach writing classes -- I'm wondering whether I could offer a free writing class at one of the local cafes. Would it be too weird, to offer something that was specifically targeted to folks who are out of work, or otherwise affected by the current recession? And do you think it would be better to do a strictly creative sort of thing, encouraging people to express their emotions and thoughts in the framework of poetry or fiction? Or would folks find it more helpful to have something more practical, like a how to write nonfiction articles? (Not that I've done a lot of the latter, but I've done a bit, and I can certainly walk them through the basic process.) The thing is, I suspect it's particularly hard to break into article writing right now, since there are so many people looking for supplemental gigs. I don't want to give people the impression that they'll necessarily be able to sell something, especially when they're just getting started.
Would teaching creative writing be helpful, or just frivolous, in this current crisis? I don't know. But I feel like I ought to do something.
7:35 addendum: I've also been thinking about teaching a free basic crochet class. This seems more practical, since while yarn isn't free, if you buy inexpensive yarn, you can actually make reasonably-priced clothes and other household items. What do you think?