To Hell In A Handbasket

This saying was one of my grandmother’s favorites. Lillian Lyle Stonehouse Bates was born outside London during WWI, and traveled to America by boat at the age of 12. Alone. She lived with a hateful aunt through her teens and lost 2 babies, each of whom took a piece of her heart with them. She survived the Depression, three more wars, and got stuck taking in a family of five (that would be my family) who eventually cost her everything, including the house my grandfather built.

To put it mildly, this woman’s life was not easy.

She never graduated high school, endured violence in her marriage, and battled alcoholism late in life. She was smarter than she let on, took shit from no one, maintained a spotless house, and was the light of my life.

My point in describing my grandmother’s life is to contrast hers against my own. We didn’t have much, but I grew up in a safe neighborhood, with a sturdy roof over my head (thanks, Pappap) and plenty to eat. I also received an excellent private education. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a solid foundation, and for years I’ve known my life was infinitely better than the one my grandmother endured.

But I’m getting worried. I have a friend who calls me Pollyanna because I’m one of those annoyingly positive people. The sun will come out and things will get better and worrying about things you can’t control will get you nowhere. But I made the mistake of watching the news tonight, and now Pollyanna is in the fetal position, rocking to and fro, mumbling incoherently.

In my nearly 40 years, I cannot recall a time when so much of the world was crumbling around us. The economy of the US and the world at large is being shredded by greed, corruption, and ignorance. Our soldiers are losing their limbs and their lives, and I have no idea why they are even in harm’s way. Young people in first world nations are rioting while the youth of poor, long-oppressed nations are rising up to demand and fight for their freedoms.

And then there is the famine. Children are dying in the desert, left where they fall because their mothers don’t have the strength to carry or bury them. All while heartless men ignore the senseless dying and live like uncivilized dogs in a failed state. Add in the planet’s repeated attempts to cough us off her back, and it’s no wonder Polly is looking for medication or liquor or both.

I don’t know how to bring Polly back. I don’t know how to process watching my retirement, my country, my planet, and my fellow human beings go to hell in a handbasket.

In an effort to do something, I’m including links at the bottom of this blog where you can lend a hand to those suffering around the world. Right now, feeling as if my five dollars is actually making a difference is not easy. But since I can’t hop on a plane and feed the hungry, or drive up to Washington and smash some head, or bring our men and women home so not one more child has to grow up without a mommy or daddy, this is all I can do.

I hope Pollyanna comes back soon because I don’t want to write another blog this depressing ever again. I hope Mother Earth finds her balance, sense prevails over ignorance, and good really does triumph over evil. And I send up a little prayer to the powers that be that this all happens before my daughter’s life resembles my grandmother’s instead of mine.


Habitat For Humanity

Heifer International

Midwife Assist Organization

American Red Cross

World Health Organization

Navy SEAL Foundation

AmeriCares Disaster Relief & Humanitarian Aid

If you know of or work with another organization helping those around the world, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list. Also visit Limecello’s blog where a movement to use social media to create social change is going on to benefit those suffering in the Horn of Africa.

20 thoughts on “To Hell In A Handbasket”

  1. Marnee says:

    This is a fantastic post. Brava.
    I’ve been feeling like this as well, particularly the part about your daughter. I worry sometimes that I’ve brought my sons into a world where they are destined for suffering. I fear that in some horrendous future they will be drafted into some senseless war or some other version of hell at my imagination’s whim.
    I donate to the Red Cross regularly, but thanks for the other links. I think we can only do good where we are. But sometimes that doesn’t feel like enough, ya know?

  2. Terri Osburn says:

    Thank you, Marn. I can usually deal with a few things. And until the last couple of weeks, I was even optimistic about the economy.
    But the news last night was too much. The Horn of Africa plus London burning and then the soldiers lost (many of whom were stationed here) was like the trifecta of depressing news.
    I’ve been giving to Habitat for Humanity since the Haiti earthquake, but I wish I could give so much more.

  3. Hellie says:

    I think your Pollyanna is in better shape than you think if your first response is “What can I do to help?”–it means you believe you think with effort, things can improve. And will improve. You’re fine. You’re having a moment.
    Apparently you didn’t watch the news in the 80s. It wasn’t that different than it is right now. Really. I remember and I’m younger than you. For like 2 years I was convinced the Apocalypse was going to happen any day (and I’d die a virgin). I still don’t care for Reagan for this reason. And in the 80s, we were always terrified that Russia would drop a nuke on us and we’d die in a flurry of radiation.
    Nowadays I don’t feel like that’s the particular problem. Just that I’ll be shot or knifed for my xBox. Which I of course don’t have because I can’t afford it nor do I need it. But you get the point. Lots of this stuff is stemming from greed on ALL sides.
    Bunker down, try to live within your means as much as feasibly possible, and wait it out. And help if you can–kindness goes a long way.
    This too shall pass.

  4. Terri Osburn says:

    You have a point about the 80s. I think I’ve blocked that period out, except for than MTV. I grew up in a steel mill town. In the 80s my dad lost his job. We lost the house. We lost everything. And there was the massive famine in Africa. And the cold war.
    Okay, it’s been bad before. But I didn’t feel like this as a kid. I was pretty cynical when it came to talking to God and where the heck was he and what did I ever do to be ignored like that. But I now know he had A LOT of other crap to deal with beyond my tiny little whiney ass.
    So yeah, it’s been bad. But I guess I’m old enough to understand and feel it more now. But I do want to help. I hate feeling helpless. You know me, problem solving is in my blood and not being able to solve any of these problems (not that I’m egotistical enough to think I could) is a feeling I do not enjoy.

  5. Hel’s right, it’s always there. Just our modern media puts it in front of us faster and in full color. Headlines are always bad news.
    That said, yeah… I read more than headlines last week and had a similiar reaction.
    I wish my first thought had been how do I help. Instead it was a hopeless fog of helplessness.
    Good to remember that every little bit can help.

  6. Terri Osburn says:

    I’m sure being able to click a link on Twitter and see large parts of London burning makes it more THERE, ya know. And living in a military town heightens the reaction when our soldier fall. They’re my neighbors. I like to think I’d be just as effected if I lived somewhere else, but it’s still different living here.
    I knew I had to include something positive. Some kind of lifeline so we could feel like at least we’re doing something.

  7. Hellie says:

    If the media can blow it up and sensationalize, they will. You have to take what they say with a grain (or shaker) of salt, because they don’t edit for content. They edit for maximum ratings.
    I’m not saying things aren’t bad. I’m just saying they’re always rather dismal. It’s like a holding pattern. We’re no worse off really than we were 2 years ago. In the very beginning, Obama said it would be a SLOW recovery, and I don’t think anyone was paying attention to him. I think everyone thought, “Oh, he’ll take care of it!” like some father figure who’s just going to pay your tuition to college when you’ve partied and flunked out for 4 years. NOooooo.
    If you were behaving yourself before this downward spiral and were in a job that doesn’t happen to have an expiration date on it, you’re well off. Take a breath.
    I react more like Mo. I go into a helpless fog. I have no solutions. *LOL*
    I just know it’ll get better. After the 80s, we had about a 10-15 year rise of good times (which I imagine is about average) and we were due for a bubble burst. Otherwise, inflation of house prices would continue skyrocketing until no one could afford them. Maybe the market burst is actually better than you think. It’s just not great for those who bought into the bubble.
    Just stay the course.
    I like that Kramer guy on Mad Money–he’s cool. He says just sit and behave yourself, stay the course, it’ll blow over. I believe him.
    It hits you more now because you’re the adult. For some reason being the adult makes you think you have control over it. And the fact you don’t have control of this shit probably makes you crazy. Which is ironic because you have no problem with Death, why is the lack of control over this other stuff bothering you?

  8. Terri Osburn says:

    Of all the stuff going on, the economy is the lesser issue for me. The direction they’re going on every other damn thing is annoying, but not as bad as the other stuff.
    That coverage of the famine last night was real. It was heartbreaking. That’s the thing for me. Not things that would worry me or stress me out, but the stuff that breaks my heart.
    Hence the links. (Notice there is no “contact your representatives here” link. I don’t see the point in that anymore.)

  9. Hellie says:

    I have not been watching the famine stuff. Until they do something about the militants, it just doesn’t do anything. Wasn’t there something I saw that we hadn’t been able to send AID to them for like 5 years because of the militants? Our focus has been on the other two main wars, we haven’t had resources to save Somalia any longer.
    The articles that burn me up are the ones about the Congo and how the militants are raping the women and children.

  10. Terri Osburn says:

    Yes, they are having trouble getting aid into Somalia because it’s a failed state with no government. That’s the “heartless men ignoring the senseless dying” part of the blog. Life has no meaning to those people. I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s almost how the movies portray a post-apocolyptic world. Lawlessness, violence, and a complete lack of human value.

  11. Hellie says:

    Oh, and this:
    This is not much different.

  12. Hellie says:

    I know European colonization is to blame in part, but when they did rule their own states, they went corrupt about it. I mean, there are TWO ways to do something–the way you learned or the exact opposite of what you learned. And depending on the situation, doing things the exact opposite of what you were taught is the way to go. Just because you were bullied, doesn’t mean you should be a bully–and yet that’s exactly what they are.
    The article was talking about talking with the people and asking them what their needs were–and they didn’t know how to answer because they’d never been asked. They’d been told what they were going to have.
    It’s like dealing with an entire continent of abused people. How do you begin to work with that?

  13. Terri Osburn says:

    Yes, I was just reading the article. We covered this in some of my college classes. There is no easy answer, but it also seems to me because finding the answer is so difficult, the developed world has stuck their collective head in the sand and pretended the continent will fix itself.
    They don’t see alternatives. But if someone provided alternatives, would they be open to them or understand them or even want them? If you really look at the human rights and suffering issues around the globe, the majority of them have grown so enormous because they have been ignored for so long.
    It’s easy to say of course people in a desert are starving. They’re in a desert! But as the Sudan article proves, there are parts of that country where people could prosper and thrive in peace. And yet, it doesn’t happen.

  14. Terri Osburn says:

    “…parts of that country…” should read “…parts of that continent…” Brain and fingers lost contact for a second there.

  15. Hellie says:

    But if someone provided alternatives, would they be open to them or understand them or even want them?
    that’s the problem! They’re so used to not having that be a real option that I don’t think they can be open to them. I don’t know.
    I like the President woman who said, “Maybe I should have fired everyone in the government first thing.” You think?

  16. Hellie says:

    Did you see that line in the article about war? That’s the one that did me.
    War drains your finances–or something to that effect.
    It made me think of America.

  17. Terri Osburn says:

    Not just war, prolonged war. It’s endless. It’s a way of life. But where it differs from America is that the war is costing us money and people, but the actual battlefield is not in our backyards. These people literally live ON the battlefield. As one of the articles you found said, poverty is quality of life, not lack of money.
    It almost appears to be a lost cause, but you just can’t give up on an entire continent. Or I couldn’t. You’d think if developed nations really pulled their resources, something could be done. If we could stop fighting amongst ourselves and take our focus away from oil producing countries for a while. *sigh*

  18. Terri, I think as we get older, our hearts get more tender, which is why it’s harder to bear all the heartbreak that surrounds us. I admire you for wanting to help, because sometimes it does feel like it’s too big to wrap our arms around, so how could we possibly make an impact?
    I worry about so many people–usually the innocents who get caught in someone else’s craziness–and wish that humanity could act more humane for a larger percentage of time. The moments when they do make me hopeful, and hope is what keeps me going.

  19. Terri Osburn says:

    That has to be it, Donna. I’m way more sensitive than I was 20 years ago. Maybe it’s growing into more empathy. In the long run, that’s not the worst thing in the world to grow into.

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