Giving

This post will sound petty and petulant, but it’s the way I feel right now.

I’ve been seeing a lot of talk about the famine in Africa and the horrors of this country and the terrible things that happened in that country.  I feel bad for these people, I really do.  $10 isn’t a lot of money… if I thought for a second that it would two things:

  1. Go to the people that actually need it.
  2. Solve the problem instead of perpetuating it.

Point 1, it has been shown time and again, that the food and money that goes to many of the countries is taken (all or in part) by the government of these countries… which, to put it politely, are not the kind of people you want as neighbors.  There have been many stories of food stuffs being appropriated by the government, then SOLD to the people that it was meant to help.  There are more than a few stories of money going into these countries and instead of food and medicine… the government purchases tanks and guns.

Plus, it doesn’t help.  The old saying is still true, ‘if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, if you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.’  Giving food is not the answer.  It’s a bandaid on a sucking chest wound.  The problem has to be fixed.  If you want to help these people, donate to charities and organizations that are investing in Africa, in the economy, in the people, in farming, and supplying clean water.  These are the groups that will help Africa and all the refugees and others who need help stand on their own.

And now for my petty and personal reason.  When hurricane Rita hit SE Texas, no one really gave a shit.  It didn’t hit Houston and Katrina had recently devastated New Orleans so no one really cared.  Well, we cared.  My wife was out of work for almost 12 weeks.  That’s 3 months without her salary at all.

The damage to our house wasn’t severe (compared to most).  But we still had a high deductible and a lot of things weren’t covered.  For example, the food in the fridge was covered, but the fridge itself was not covered.  Believe me, after cleaning a freezer that hasn’t had power for almost 12 weeks, there is NOTHING that will make you eat out of it again. We did get a new roof out of it… after the tree bounced off the side of the house.

So expenses, a severe lack of income and stuff like that means (unlike people in New Orleans), we didn’t have money to buy flatscreen TVs and vacations to Aruba.  We got $600 from the Red Cross, which about covered the gasoline for the trips back and forth before we could get back in the house permanently.  We also got some money from FEMA, but not much.  I think it was about $600 too.  That covered about half the cost of removing the tree that fell on our house… since it wasn’t actually IN the house, insurance didn’t cover that either.

Here’s the killer though.  We had insurance and I still had a job.  If we hadn’t had insurance or jobs, then we could have made a killing on the post Rita recovery efforts.  But the first question, every single organization asked was ‘do you have insurance’.  The second was ‘do you have a job’.  If the answer to either was ‘yes’… no help.

Well, it was hard and we had a hell of a credit card bill, but we were covered and I got a new job right after Rita that got me about 20% greater salary.

The next year, hurricane Humberto hit us.  We were without power only for two weeks this time (and that was the electric companies fault… morons didn’t check to see what happened after they threw power to the circuit.  The transformer behind my house blew and they weren’t interested in helping 3 houses without power that had already been ‘fixed’.  So three houses in downtown Port Arthur were among the last to get power back.)

That wasn’t so bad, except for replacing the weatherhead… again and our food… again.  The problem was that it wasn’t very bad, so the insurance wasn’t even involved.  Everything that had be done, we had to pay for.

The next year, we had a little piddling category 1 hit us, I forget what it was called.  Nothing major, just minor issues… again.

Later that same year, hurricane Ike hit us… nearly head on.  If we hadn’t purchased a home within the protection of the Port Arthur Sea Wall… well, we wouldn’t have a home right now.  Again, there was some damage, but the worst was simply being without jobs for 8 weeks.  We had evacuated to Austin.  Houston was between us an home.  And no one was getting through Houston any time soon.

After consulting with the Texas Department of Transportation about closures, the only way for us to get back to our house (before the area was declared ‘safe’) was through Oklahoma.  Effectively no income from mid August to mid October.  Effectively living off the kindness of our relatives… again.  For most of that time.  Again, minimal damage… yay!

Again, expenses due to clean up and minor damage, but not enough for insurance to cover.  sigh.

So, at the end of this three year period, we had a little over $38,000 in credit card debt.  We had a house in Port Arthur that we couldn’t sell.  We had no way of getting another house to live in when we moved.   We lived with my sister-in-law and her family for 6 months.  My wife was still out of work… having decided to go back to school.  Which is great, but her student loans only covered day care for the boy.

And the sum total of ‘help’ that we received from non-family members was about $1300 (including MREs and water bottles from the military).

Here it is, three years later, we have managed to get the debts down to under $20,000 by working hard.  We still have a house with about $20,000 in equity that we can’t sell and because it’s being rented we won’t ever be able to get that equity out of it.  Our credit score is in the toilet.  But we’re making it and I have paid every stupid bill I have and made sure that my child has three good meals every day and has quality education every day.

I don’t regret this.  It’s just the way it is.

Yes, I have a roof over my head and food, even some luxuries.  And I have worked my ass off to keep us afloat.  For many months, I had to rob Peter to pay Paul.  I still am working off my debts.  Hopefully, I will have everything paid off within three years.  Just for reference, I’m paying almost $1100 a month in debt removal.  That’s a crap load of money.

And there isn’t a single government, religious, non-profit, or any other charity that has ever helped me.  There are people in SE Texas who still live in government purchased trailers because they used their government money to buy a new truck.  There are people in SE Texas who still have blue roofs (government supplied tarps to keep the wind and rain out of the house) because they bought TVs and motorcycles instead of fixing their house.

I fixed my house and I’m still screwed.  Yep, $10 isn’t a lot of money.  And I give that to charities that I feel comfortable supporting.  I give that much to the local human society and that’s all I can deal with.

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6 Responses to Giving

  1. shoshwrites says:

    I knew the gist of this, but the details are even worse. Unfortunately, your story is probably more common that people realize. It just doesn’t make the news.

  2. Eugen says:

    What a story!
    Did you consider moving after so many hurricanes? Man can handle only so many of them.

  3. OgreMkV says:

    Eugen,

    We did. I interviewed for a job in the Austin area while we were evacuated from hurricane Gilbert (which didn’t actually hit my area) and then I got the job while we were evacuated from hurricane Ike.

    What’s really funny is the year after Ike, no hurricanes hit SE Texas (where I used to live), but the remnants of one hit the Austin area… sigh.

  4. Eugen says:

    Is there area of the state where hurricanes are more frequent? Maybe a silly question since hurricane can cover massive area.
    Here in Ontario there is a small region where tornadoes may develop but we normally don’t have hurricanes. They usually fizzle out into a storm after their travel across continent.

  5. OgreMkV says:

    Well, anywhere along the coast is pretty much equally likely. Very south Texas (Brownsville area) gets almost as many hurricanes as SE Texas (near the Louisiana) border. Austin is about 200 miles inland, so the storms aren’t nearly as bad by the time they get to us now.

    I’ve got an article I did on hurricanes, I’ll have to dredge that up and post it here.

  6. Eugen says:

    I’ll come as a tourist one day but not around hurricane season. 🙂

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