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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Survival of the Fittest on Allied Drive?

I participated in an Employment and Training Open House today at the Boys and Girls Club, and it is always nice to do the work that I do in the community that I am connected to. As the appointed MC for the event, I navigated the various training programs available to residents in the community while making my best effort to keep the attendees engaged. All but one attendee was from the Allied Drive community and all but three attendees had been out of work for at least 90 days. One of the comments that consistently came forward was the need for a job now, today, yesterday. Rent is backed up, lights are about to be turned off, a baby is on the way. The question we were confronted with was how can we expect anyone to go to school for even as little as 3 weeks without pay? “What kind of job do you want” was not even a question to ask. Many in this room were willing to do absolutely anything at all that would offer a paycheck. How does that get anyone ahead? We cited success stories of other residents who sat in the same very seats months ago and made commitments to enroll in training programs and are now working at places like US Cellular, The Isthmus and Wisconsin Department of Revenue. It can happen, however it will be an uphill battle, and I was able to guarantee everyone in the room that at least ten things will pop up and attempt to block graduation from any program. It takes a lot of perseverance and a lot of determination to get ahead around here.

Much of that can relate to anyone’s life, however what makes Allied Drive unique is that everyone is in survival-mode, everyone is in crisis and everyone is pumped with serotonin in this grand effort to make it to the end of the day. When you live in such an environment, I swear, it impacts your ability to think straight. All the crisis situations I have been in out here were followed by this urgency to fix the situation with the most accessible solution. Nine times out of ten, that solution was self-destructive in some way, but it pushed the problem to bay. And though I knew it was self destructive, I opted for it anyway. I don’t know why. It has only been recently, through very strict discipline and consciousness, that I stopped myself from taking out a payday loan or going to that auto title loan place down the street whose signs scream at me as I am pulling down Allied Drive EVERY DAY. All these words screech, like "Fast Money," "No Hassles," or "Up To $10,000 NOW." Something makes me want to go in there and something makes me think that I would actually qualify for something close to that $10,000, and that would somehow solve all or most of my problems – can you imagine a $10,000 pay day loan? It would take decades and the value of a house to pay that off!

There is some kind of essence that breeds on Allied Drive and shifts us to this mindset that we are on the verge of collapsing. That distorts our ability to respond in a sound manner. They say that crisis meets everyone at some point in time, but imagine being confronted with it at the same time as all your neighbors, every day at every hour! Have you ever seen “28 Days Later”? That is what life out here feels like every day, all the time.