Swallowing pride, not principles

Why is that even though we know we need the help we are reluctant to take it?

For me, it’s because I value my independence. I don’t like relying on others to take care of me. I’m an adult; I should be able to take care of myself. I’m used to being the one offering help.

When the hospital social worker recommended that Mike and I go on food stamps, I immediately said No f*cking way. I absolutely refuse to even entertain the notion of public assistance. The mere thought turns my stomach.

I know we could use the help. Both of us are—well were—full time students. Our income was already limited. But now, while he’s recovering from surgery and undergoing chemo and radiation, Mike is out of work for at least a few months. Our already meager income has been slashed even more.

Maybe I’m letting my principles override logic, after all the social worker said that there’s no stigma attached to food stamps, but I would rather take out additional loans than take public assistance. This way, even though I know it may put me further into debt, at least I can say that I’m still self-sufficient. I can still provide for myself. I can look at myself in the mirror without being disgusted.

Taking public assistance would make me feel like a charity case. It would make me feel like I was using and abusing the system. After all, we do have family and friends who can help. Not everyone has those options. Obviously, I realize that the assistance I don’t take won’t necessarily go to someone who needs it more.

I know I’m being irrational. Everyone I’ve discussed this with, from my Green sister to my Republican brother-in-law, has said to take whatever assistance we’re offered. At least my brother-in-law understands my revulsion to food stamps.

I’m willing to accept some help from friends and family. Friends from NY have sent care packages to our house. Others have offered to take us out or help around the house. My coworkers took up a collection for us. A friend called to tell us to wait before going grocery shopping: He stopped by with more than 10 bags filled with groceries from cookies to a whole turkey. Numerous people have told us to ask if we need anything.

I greatly appreciate the sentiment and it’s amazing how much people are willing to help, but it’s difficult to accept it because I know money is tight for them too. I’m not sure how to repay such generosity. Mike told me to think of it like this: It makes people feel good to help others. Sometimes you need to let other people feel good by helping you.

The difference between government and personal assistance is choice. No one forced family, friends or coworkers to help us. They all decided of their own free will that they wanted to help. As taxpayers don’t have a choice, it would feel more like we were taking rather than being given. Mike has been talking about starting a not-for-profit organization to help people like us when he gets better. After all, we can’t be the only people who need a helping hand but are unwilling to accept government welfare.

Accepting help from friends is reciprocal. They help me when I need it. No one is the provider; no one is the providee. If the time ever comes when they need help, I know I’ll be more than willing to help any way I can.

Originally published in issue 196, April 15, 2005

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Visit our new web site

It's official! We are WNC Health Advocates.
Please visit our new web site, Visit WNC Health Advocates
The new name reflects what we do -- advocate for health care for everyone and help people access and navigate our current health care system.
While we still hold onto the memory and the generous spirit of Mike Danforth, we need people to be able to see our name and understand who we are.

Help Life o’ Mike

We need your help now more than ever. Your tax-deductible donation will help us get Patient Pals and Family Friends to more people in need of peer support. Please consider a gift in honor or in memory of a loved one.
Donate here or mail your donation to Life o' Mike, PO Box 1213, Asheville, NC 28802.

Patient Pals & Family Friends

Life o' Mike has a peer support program for people with one or more serious or chronic medical issues or disabilities.

We aim to reduce isolation and fear among people who have conditions, including psychiatric illness, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, mild dementia or other cognitive disorder or disability, thereby reducing depression and complications as people learn to improve self-management of their medical conditions.

Patient Pals help alleviate feelings of isolation and frustration. They can help people develop a list of questions to ask the doctor and then accompany the person to the doctor to make sure all the questions are answered, taking notes to be sure the person understands the doctor’s answers.

Our trained volunteers also accompany their “Pals” to art exhibits, movies and walks outdoors, meet for coffee, call to check in and more.

Our Pals have experienced weight loss, improvement in diabetes, HIV, psoriasis, depression and more, just because they have someone who cares about them. Some relationships develop into longer-term friendships; other Pals move on to more independent lives.

Family Friends are there to help caregivers and other family members grow into their new role.

We need volunteers, who are asked to donate a minimum of one hour a week. Training is free and includes information on active listening, ways to help and when to know more help is needed.

And of course, we need funding.

To learn more, call Leslie Boyd at 828-243-6712 or e-mail lifeomike@gmail.com.

Life o’ Mike honors Joe Eblen

Life o' Mike presented its first Michael T. Danforth Community Service Award to Joe Eblen at a luncheon on June 8, in the Friendship Hall of First Congregational Church, 20 Oak St., Asheville.
Joe, seen here with Leslie Boyd, left, and his wife, Bobbie, has spent his life helping children and families, both as a coach and game official for more than 60 years, and as founder of Eblen Charities.

Start From Seed

Life o' Mike has a new program- Start from Seed (SFS).
SFS is a volunteer doula program aimed at providing non-medical, comprehensive support to low income, high-risk women and families of Buncombe County focusing on three areas:

1. We help new doulas with certification and training in return for their participation as a volunteer doula for SFS

2. We mentor volunteer doulas with their first few clients

3. Our volunteer doulas provide birth and postpartum doula services to low income, high risk moms, providing support and tools to empower them as a new parent.

A birth doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; a postpartum doula provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Start from Seed clients are referred to us from the Buncombe County Department of Health’s Nurse-Family Partnership Program, Western North Carolina Community Health Services, and Mission Hospital. The Program is intended and designed for growing clients’ inner strength and helping them gain empowerment to help them cope with the emotional, physical and mental challenges of childbirth, labor, and motherhood.

Our new moms and their infants have many needs. If you would like to help them get off to a good start, please visit our Start from Seed web site: Start from Seed, or call Program Director Chelsea Kouns at 804-814-9946.

Events in the community

Free birth and labor classes

Peaceful Beginning Doula Services holds free birth forums, Peaceful Birth, 6:30-8 p.m. the last Thursday of every month (except November) at Spa Materna, 640 Merrimon Ave., above The Hop, in Asheville.
All are welcome, expectant women and their partners are encouraged to attend anytime during their pregnancy. We also encourage doulas and other maternal/child professionals to attend and share in the discussions. The forums are "birth circle" style, focusing on normal birth which follows the Lamaze Six Care Practices for Healthy Birth. The forums are led by certified and experienced educators.

NAMI Family-to-Family Class

NAMI of Western Carolina holds 12-week classes for families and caregivers of individuals with a severe mental illness 6-8:30 p.m. Mondays at Charles George VA Medical Center, 1100 Tunnel Road in Asheville. The course covers major mental illnesses and self-care. Registration required. Info at 828-299-9596 or rohaus@charter.net.

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