Monday, June 17, 2013

Bringing our communities together to help someone in need, throwing a larger need into sharp relief

Update - See this post for new information.

Living in poverty, I have frequently been in need of help. Indeed my children and I receive assistance from the state in the form of food stamps and medicaid. And at a time of especial need, people in our secular communities came together to help me. But then, I have the privilege of having family and friends with rather expansive voices in our communities. Obviously there are rather a lot of us who don't have my privilege.

Celia is one such person. She and her son both have autism spectrum disorders. She views the world through a very different lens than most people and because of that is rather strange. Because of this she has felt less than welcome in our secular communities. She doesn't feel she fits in and I can understand that, because I have experienced much the same thing. If my experience in our secular communities was limited to some of my first impressions, I would feel rather alienated. Because of my mental illness, I too view the world through a lens that is very different than most. But then I dug deeper, made more connections - in large part because I know people who are prominent voices in our communities, including my brother Ed Brayton.

Celia doesn't have those connections and she is in desperate need. From the fundraiser I started for her:

Celia is an awesome woman with a goofy, wonderful son, both of whom have autism spectrum disorders. She has struggled a great deal of her adult life to maintain a reasonable living situation for herself and since he was born, her rather silly son. Unfortunately she hit a major bump in the road that started when a combination of her and her son getting sick and her car breaking down rather cut into school and work. She lost her financial aid, her job and her best means for finding a job in a town with limited public transportation. 

She almost lost her apartment and power last month. Now the situation is even more dire. She has no food, no power and ten days to come up with *this* months rent. Her son is staying elsewhere, but she is stuck in a house with no power and a whole lot of worries. She is in desperate need and has talked of very a very permanent solution to her problems. It is *that* dire.

I have never met Celia or her son in person and, unfortunately, probably never will. Her son sounds very much like the sort of kid I would love to hang out with and whom my boys would love to befriend. I really don't want him to have to grow up without a mom - a mom who loves him, takes excellent care of him and who understands his life experience better than anyone else possibly can. And frankly, I really appreciate her friendship myself. 

Celia has never had a great deal of luck, finding a place in the various secular communities in which most of us have found friends and even new families. She is quirky and different, viewing the world through a lens that differs rather radically from most. It frustrates me that she hasn't enjoyed more of a welcome and I want to see that change. She desperately needs our help and I want to show her that when we're in need, our communities will come together and help each other out, even if those of us who need help are rather odd.

But Celia's need is far from unique. There are a lot of us who are stuck in the periphery, effectively alone. There are many of us who feel left behind by communities that are focused in many directions, but not on the needs of those who make up these communities - or those who should make up our communities. I know from personal experience that it isn't due to a lack of desire to help. I have seen our communities come together repeatedly to help our own. It is time to step up and make it happen on a much larger scale. We lack the infrastructure to offer emergency aid for meeting the basic needs of non-theists who hit hard times.

I aim to see that change.

I hope that as we are able to develop such an infrastructure, our communities will come together and make this happen. We need to care for our own. It makes me feel ill, to think about people begging religious organizations for basic needs. It is so much worse to consider how many of them are forced to pretend some show of faith, just to keep the power on, cover their rent - get away from an abusive partner. We can bloody well do better than that and I have ever confidence that we will.

Meanwhile Celia is in desperate need. Please visit her fundraiser page and either make a contribution, or help us promote her fundraiser. Together I know that we can save her family and I know we can fulfill a greater need as well.