Just about every week, I think we are going to head in one direction and then something gets us completely turned around.
I love that and I hope you do, too.
We still have to talk about socialized medicine, John’s trip to Denmark, and the beer houses of Germany where men would drink 2-liter mugs of beer through their noses for sport!
However, it’s not meant to be for this week though and here’s why.
I might have hinted to you about this before, but I have had this dream, for a few years that we would start a nonprofit foundation called “Stuck In the Middle” to do just that — to help and support all of the people that are “Stuck in the Middle.”
What I have found during the last five years of serving as town clerk is that we do have support for those people that are really having a very hard time and have been often for many months or even years — help finding affordable housing, food banks, meals and other programs that are available.
I know they can’t do everything, and that to some when they are in need, they don’t do enough, but resources are there. Great programs like our own Community Health Services with great people like Liz Jones that I call constantly, 2-1-1, Community Caregivers with great people like Cindee Tanuma and there are many others, too. We even have a list of resources we can share with people.
Then when we look at the direct opposite side, we find the people who have “oodles of money.” We just asked Alexa how to spell “oodles” what a great fun word! They may not have to worry about financial things, but all of us share the same ups and downs around families, health, jobs and social things.
What always breaks my heart are the people that are “Stuck in Middle." They were getting along, paying bills, meeting obligations, but then something changed. That something might just be that they blinked and were older. Just not able to do the things that they could do what seems like weeks before, like yard work, grocery shopping, and other household things.
People also come in and suddenly they are out of work. Sure, they are getting a part of their check because of disability, or they might be able to get unemployment, but it’s just not enough to cover the fixed expenses that they have every month. Health is often another one that blindsides so many of us. You’re doing great one day, able to work, life is OK, and then, bam! Things change.
I often talk about this as being my Chicken Little fear. We hear of horrible things happening every day that we can’t prevent, and I look up to the sky and think, "What’s going to fall out of the sky next and who is it going to hit?" We just have no way of knowing or planning ahead for it.
Through the years so many people have stopped by or called my office, hating to have to make the call or to ask, but they sure didn’t see these things coming. Now they need help and often it is just for a short time, a week or even a few months.
Many of these calls are around food or utilities — people who just can’t get out of the house, for whom money is tight, who just had surgery, who could use a break with making meals for the family, who need a little relief from bills, who have unexpected car repairs and so many other things.
Concerns that have a beginning and an ending, but they don’t really fit into either category. They don’t qualify for traditional help resources and they don’t have oodles of money saved for rainy day problems.
Well, this weekend instead of me thinking and planning the “Stuck in the Middle” nonprofit foundation in my head, it was born! A wonderful member of our community family had just mentioned in passing that they really needed to hire a company to come in and do yard clean-up so that they could finally try to sell their mobile home.
Years ago this yard work was OK to do on their own, not anymore, and it had gotten away from them.
Now this wonderful person would have definitely, called a landscaping company and would have figured out a way to pay the probably $300 to $500 that it would cost. With not one complaint, I might add.
However, I knew that with many hands and good people we could find a better way. My first thought was contacting a great young man like Jake Butler, who would put his life aside to jump in and help like he has done so many times before. That just didn’t seem fair either.
As John said to me, “Honey, this is such a busy time of year for landscapers,” and he was right. This wasn’t urgent or life threatening.
For a couple weeks I just sat on it, like Pooh Bear by the thinking tree, I guess.
I also started to spread the word just a little that this problem existed. I sent a text to a wonderful woman named Rachel Brehren, who said that maybe this was something we should discuss at our Senior Resources meeting that next week.
Councilor Joe Green was at the meeting. Helping seniors has always been near and dear to his heart. Many reasons came up why we couldn’t ask certain groups for help, but next thing I knew Joe and Rachel had a text going around and a plan for all of us to meet at the home 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning. In less than two hours, the job was done and no money was spent. It took a very small village, maybe seven of us, and the job was done.
Our hearts were beaming too, so much so that I stopped a car driving by, praying they would be nice when they put down their window looking at me bewildered. I asked the driver to leave her car, just for a minute, and come over and take our first group picture — the start of the “Stuck in the Middle” Foundation. The frown turned to a smile and she took the picture. I think her name was Kelly from Massachusetts.
The only other person that I have even shared my idea with is Laura Gandia many months back. Laura was instrumental in getting the St. Gianna’s Place nonprofit, started and she offered to help me. Laura even said she really liked the name “Stuck in the Middle." How great is that?
Now my hope yesterday was that if I told you all about it that would nudge me to take a big risk and get moving! Put all of my zillion lists and excuses aside and just do it. Still not sure if I would, though.
You know I look for signs. This past Sunday morning, John and I made a last minute rush out the door decision to try and make 8 a.m. Mass at St. Jude’s. Yes, we were 10 minutes late. I felt as though God had nudged us to go — the pastor’s homily was all about our responsibility to be the miracle as small as it may be in each other’s lives, in our communities. He kept using the word community, too. He said “We are called to perform miracles.” He talked about helping with groceries, checking on each other, hearing the needs of the people. Yes. I took all of this as a sign.
Now I wonder if in a year, will we be saying "Yah, it didn’t work out but we helped a few people that were ‘Stuck in the Middle." Deacon Marc Payeur shared the story of the five loaves of bread and two fish that had to feed 5,000 people. They broke the large group into smaller groups and again many hands, lots of prayers, and a miracle of help happened.
For more information on how you can become part of the “Stuck In the Middle” future foundation, please send me an email at email@example.com
Sherry Farrell is Londonderry town clerk and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire.