There's nothing like interacting with others to see the world in a slightly different way. As old as I am, that happens now and then. This week it happened twice.
Girl Next Door is my daughter's best friend, dating back to their nine-year-old days. She actually lives behind me (back home with her own daughter while she finishes nursing school and re-establishes herself), and I know her much better than I do her parents or any of her other family members. Relatively early in the Iraq misadventure, Girl Next Door's brother was essentially handicapped for life when the jeep he was driving (chauffering a major) was hit by a mortar and his knee was turned into something resembling raw steak on broken pottery. At first, the Army wanted to patch him up and send him back, but when it became obvious that he was crippled, they put him on 100% disability.
Here's the catch: as a 100% disabled vet, he's severely limited to the amount he can work. A certain number of hours a week (a month?) and that's it. He's in the ugliest of Catch-22s; damaged serving his country, he has two choices: live on the inadequate military pension or forego it and hope to earn more money otherwise, despite his disability. In other words, he's almost forced to remain in poverty. I realize there's a good reason for limits -- some would try to cheat the system otherwise. If a man or woman can hold down a job, perhaps he or she doesn't need a full disability pension. But apparently this young man's problems are sporadic. Sometimes he's well enough, out of pain and mobile enough to work. Other times he's not. Bureaucracy isn't flexible enough to handle these fluctuations. He's in his thirties with no real aboveboard hope for financial improvement. He tries to work a little under the table to help care for his family.
Serve your country and be rewarded with a lifetime of poverty. That's somehow a new perspective for me, even though I've heard stories before. I guess it's different when you know the name, face, voice, of he who has been sentenced to poverty.
The other example, short version: my niece was the victim of a home invasion this past week. Signs indicate that her attackers had watched the family closely and knew their routine. Her family lives in a townhouse development laid out in a square. It's lovely, but this means that about 30 homes are visible from any one home. It never occurred to me before how vulnerable this layout makes a family. I thought being so visible would make one safer. Before, I thought my cul-de-sac was vulnerable (and maybe it still is) because we have only seven homes and where I sit is NOT easily seen, providing happy cover for anyone who might want to burgle. However, precisely because it's relatively private, anyone who wants to observe my home can't just blend in. The nosy neighbors would see the outsider and betcha by golly wow would be out asking questions or calling the cops.
I wonder what else hasn't occurred to me before? I look forward to paying attention and learning some more lessons in the coming week.