My mother is the type of woman who believes in helping others unconditionally, without the promise of something in return. She believes in public service and that every human deserves help. She worked in social services for her whole career - first as a counselor on a reservation, and then with the mentally ill in rural areas.
However, when I was born my mother was diagnosed with Muscular Sclerosis. This is a disease that attacks a person’s own nervous system along with many other symptoms that are still being researched. For my mother, her most pressing symptoms are chronic pain, the unreliable use of her legs, chronic fatigue and heat sensitivity that can leave her bedridden for days at a time. Growing up, this meant that my grandmother and my aunt primarily raised me, as early on my mother often had flare-ups of her symptoms that had her in and out of emergency rooms, and eventually cost her her job. Soon, she realized she had to get on disability as it became obvious she wouldn’t be able to work reliably again - and yet disability gave her just as many problems. Under the current disability system, her paychecks were not enough for her to live on, let alone take care of a little girl.
However, it was the only thing she could do. She couldn’t sustain a steady job, and any way she had ‘around’ the system was illegal. It is illegal to make a certain amount outside of disability paychecks, which is still very below the poverty line, and it was even illegal to save the money you get from those checks! This left her unable to seek out any more medical help, nearly homeless and separated her from me for years. At one point, when I was around six, I didn’t recognize her when she was able to visit me.
When I grew up enough to the point that I understood what was happening and why my family had ended up the way it had, I realized that it wasn’t my mother's fault - as many people had told me through the years - for her illness, but instead the system that was designed to punish us both for a sickness she had no control over. Learning about that system was hard - both to understand, and then finally to accept that there were people who had wanted it this way, or even want to take away disability and affordable health care. Generally, it isn’t the average person who has a vendetta against the sick or poor, but instead certain people in power who see nothing but the bottom line. To them, making money is more important than the people these systems are meant to serve.
So, when I did finally understand I realized I wanted to do something about it. I realized I had a choice to either speak up about the unfairness of the systems in place and work out something better, or to let it go on and happen to other families, too Now I make a point to try and understand the policies at work and how they’re affecting the average person's daily life. I’ve made a point to get involved with politics and volunteer all I can - and it feels good to have the opportunity to be the type of woman who believes in helping others unconditionally, without the promise of something in return. I believe in public service and that every human deserves help, and I work to be that help.