Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Does Size Really Matter?

I used to say no, but now I’m starting to second guess it, even when I know deep down I shouldn’t.

I’m talking one’s overall physical appearance (who knows what y’all were thinking…HA!).

Let’s face it, I’m not exactly a big character. I stand 5’2” and push the scale needle to a whopping 115 (120 right after a meal! HA!). But in all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of my height/size as any sort of a disadvantage, and actually, I hardly even think about it at all.

I mean look at my two favorite sports to play: basketball and football. If there is ANY sport that you think of when you think of a tall person it is basketball. Height is definitely an advantage in basketball, but that didn’t discourage me at all. It was the only sport I played throughout my entire youth years…all the way through high school, as well as in college in intramurals. And actually in high school I was one of the best shots on our team, maybe not the top shot blocker, but that didn’t matter to me.

In college my favorite intramural sport to play was flag football, and even in that, the two positions I played would probably be the top two positions when placing tall players on the team: wide receiver and quarterback.

I don’t know, I’ve just never really thought much about my size. Maybe it’s just I believe you are as big as you want to be! I mean, I am currently living in a house that when everyone is here there are 8 people living here and I’m still the second tallest in the house…HA! So maybe I’m not all that short afterall! ;)

But whatever the case, this morning I found my size being questioned. Not by others, but by myself actually. And actually, now that I say that, I’m sure my size has been questioned by others often…HA! But anyways….

This morning I had gotten up at 6:25 AM to see what lies in my near future. As y’all should know from my previous blog entries I will be beginning my internship this fall at a homeless shelter in Fort Worth next week. So I wanted to get up this morning and see where this place was, and more importantly, see what traffic I was going to have to deal with in order to get there coming from Irving. I decided to take the route maps.yahoo.com gave me, though I thought it would be a more congested route when considering traffic, but since this was my trial run, I figured why not try it out.

So I got up and got out of the driveway at 7:06 AM (time is crucial when you’re trying to see how late you drag your butt outta bed for the next semester and still make it to “work” on time..HA!) To my surprise, traffic wasn’t bad at ALL; however, I did notice how crappy of a road highway 121 is in Fort Worth…HA! So I get onto the street that the homeless shelter is apparently located on in downtown Fort Worth and began slowing down to do the “look for addresses drive” as we all know so well when we aren’t sure what place we are looking for. Well, in my case, I didn’t need addresses, I was able to spot it from a block away. How you ask? By the gathering outside the doors. It was 7:35 AM when I arrived and the center is suppose to open at 7:30 (I suppose they were a little late getting the doors opened today…which figures since it is between the summer semester and the fall semester and this center is basically completely staffed by interns from what I hear). The center and the gathering were approaching on my left, so in efforts to get a closer look, I drove by and then I went up a block and circled around to come back.

[Note to readers: I don’t want to come off as degrading with my next comments. My sole purpose is to help paint a picture of my surroundings as well as to help to explain my thoughts that I’ve had today because of my experience this morning. And in all honestly, I think from the majority of my readers of this blog, I think most of us have come from similar backgrounds in that we haven’t been raised in what society labels as the slums or the ghetto or such, and I’m willing to guess most, if not all of us have never experienced homelessness. And yes, I’m sure many of y’all have visited areas of such nature, either through mission trips or spring break campaigns or such, but I want to describe it for those who haven’t]

I found myself in an area where we all seem to take a quick glance at our car’s door locks; just to make sure they are locked. We become more alert of our surroundings. We turn down the radio. We drive slower. We take a second glance through the rear-view mirror when passing someone on the sidewalk.

Now don’t attack me for those comments before you think for yourself whether you’ve been guilty of the above actions. I would be surprised if you have never driven through an area where made a conscious effort to check your door locks.

So as I came around for the second pass by the center I found myself, well my car actually, within feet of I’d guess 30 or so people all sitting and standing outside the front door on the sidewalk. While I was careful not to appear too out of the ordinary, I couldn’t help but notice the ethnic breakdown of the group. I’ll be completely honest, I was surprised to not see many Hispanics. Though I didn’t go by really slow, nor stop to take a head count, I would guess it was 2/3rds blacks and 1/3 whites; granted I think I remember seeing one Hispanic gentleman, so maybe it was 19/30ths black, 10/30ths white and 1/30th Hispanic! ;)

[Note: If you have been discouraged by my usage of the term “black” rather than “African-American” I would encourage you to read my explanation from a past blog as too why I choose to use that term]

Quickly, let me give you my reasoning for my expectations of seeing more of Hispanics. If there is one dramatic cultural difference between coming from St. Louis to Texas, it has been the presence of more Hispanic individuals. In all actuality, Hispanics are of the EXTREME minority in St. Louis. I recently went to St. Louis with a couple friends from college and I told them as we left Texas that their mission for the weekend was to see how many Hispanic individuals they counted the entire weekend. And as I had expected, I believe their total was still able to be counted on one hand. So, my expectation was that being in Texas, where individuals of Hispanic decent are nearly as populated as the majority, I expected statistically to find nearly as many Hispanics as white and blacks. My expectation was not based on the idea that one race is better than another, therefore, I would expect one race to more likely be homeless over another. If there is anything I want to be sure to point out in this blog, it is the fact that the white man (well I say man in general…as for sex, I’m not sure) makes up the majority of the poverty bracket. Though I’m not positive, I wouldn’t doubt that means more white individuals are homeless than another race, but I could be wrong on that, as I know you can still be in the poverty bracket and not be homeless.

So, as I drove away from my soon to be place of internship, the thoughts began to flow (even at 7:30 in the morning…HA!)

…will I be able to do this?
…will I be able to help any of these people?
…will these people even listen to me?
…do I know what I’m getting myself into?

But I suppose the main idea that crossed my mind was how out of my comfort zone I felt just by driving by.

I’ll be honest, and I’m sure ya’ll might disagree, but I’ve always viewed myself as someone that isn’t easily discouraged. In a way I feel like I have a big comfort zone, if that makes sense. I feel like it takes a lot for me to feel “weird” (for lack of a better word) in a situation. But as I drove off this morning, without a doubt I felt “weird.”

I suppose my biggest concern goes back to the only other time I can remember thinking “maybe size does matter.” That was when I experienced substitute teaching for the first time last year. If you’ve ever heard me talk about that first day I substituted, I’m sure I used the word “hell” somewhere in my explanation. To this day I don’t know, nor will I ever know, if that class I had was one of the “worst classes in the school” or if I was just that crappy of a sub, but I left that day scared to walk in my house because my mom was staying with me that week and I didn’t want her to see my eyes watering. It took everything I had to get out to her how my day was without crying or letting my eyes water…HA!

I ended up substituting on two more occasions which were BOTH great actually, but in both of those settings I wasn’t a teacher in front of a huge class (one time I subbed for a teacher that pulls kids out of their normal classes and words with them on subjects they struggle with, and one time I was a teacher’s aid for Pre-K kiddos! HA!)

So, when reevaluating that first subbing experience I’ve decided, though through rationalizing possibly (who knows), that my size was a factor. I mean look at me. It is hard for kids to take me serious, when I’m barely taller than them (and they were only 2nd graders!). And I don’t look all that “adult-like.” I don’t really come off as an authority figure at glance, or even at a long stare for that matter…HA!

So I think that was what hit me today. I’m little. Or as Ellison said today when I kind of vented some to her online earlier…I’m an “itty bitty little thing.”

Don’t think the thought hasn’t crossed my mind today of being mugged while going or coming from my car while I’m there or having my car broke into or such. In a sense, I honestly think I’ve been more worried about my car today than myself…HA! I love my car! She’s been so good to me. Not to mention that the Toyota Camry has actually been at the top if not in the top five car types of stolen vehicles for the past few years.

I don’t know. I suppose I’m just sort of intimidated and scared in a sense. It isn’t nervous, like nervous for an interview, or nervous of doing bad, but more intimidated that these people won’t take me seriously. Or that they will be like, “she’s just a kid.” Trust me, I bet a good many of y’all would have been just as intimidated had you been sitting in my car with me and seen that group of people waiting outside the center this morning. I suppose in a strange odd way I was picturing myself standing in the middle of all of them; almost like a coach among a huddle. [shudder] Why this has bothered me as it has today I don’t know. I mean yes, they are homeless, but how much different can they really be from someone like myself.

Maybe it was from the fact that since they are homeless and they carry most all, if not all, of their possessions with them, it makes them appear bigger, which can seem more intimidating…so maybe size really DOES matter! ;)

5 comments:

julesforstenholm said...

Hey Kim! I liked the idea that you think that rather than how big you actually are, it matters how big you think you are! I've not been in a similar situation (homeless or feeling like I was too small:), but if anyone can handle an out-of-the-comfort-zone experience, I would put you there!

Keep in mind that you have the heart of a servant and the personality of a... I don't know - you just have one of those great personalities! And, you're able to empathize with people on all levels! That's a very rare and admirable trait! (My dad has it too).

Anyway, think of the changes that people like Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela made... they're all rather small in stature! It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog! Keep your head up and your smile on and you'll do just fine! I have all the confidence in the world!

You have been presented with an amazing opportunity that I know will teach you many lessons! Learn a lot and pass it on to us! I'm excited to hear how it goes! Best wishes!

Ellison said...

Julie couldn't have said it any better! I have no doubt in my mind that you will succeed in this internship and do an amazing job. I think it will be a learning experience for you that will impact you for the rest of your life.

You're an amazing kid, Kim. It's time you shared that with those less-fortunate in Ft. Worth. If anyone had the heart and stamina for this, it's you. I think it's the size of your heart that matters...and that's probably the only big thing on you!

Stand strong and proud, you little bitty thing...and know that you are doing something great.

Lindsay said...

You'll do great! Just pray everyday while you are driving. Something might happen, it might not. Just remember that God will protect you. And if something that you don't expect happens, good or bad, you will grow from it. I have from mine. You will probably come out of this internship way ahead of the rest of us with a new and greater understanding of people. (Oh, and I would have felt exactly the same way you did driving by. I drive through much better areas and still check my door locks when I'm stopped at intersections, and there is only one person on the corner.)

FeedingYourMind said...

Julie & Ellison: Y'alls words have eased my thoughts, and for that I'm most grateful! Words of encouragement from people who you view in high regard and with much respect can go SUCH a long way, so I thank you both immensely!

Lindsay: Thank you for your words and advice! I have no doubt that you're right that I'll grow from this experience, and for that I can't be more excited! I'll see what comes from this situation and keep you posted!

ACU35 said...

Kim,

I did my psychology internship as an undergrad in inner city Houston of the fifth ward at Quitman Clinic. It involved me working with poor, homeless adults with just about all the psychological problems you can imagine. Although it was "tough" work, not to mention, I had one of the clients almost steal my car, it was very rewarding. I think I learned more from them than they learned from me. I can remember being scared and afraid especially among the older men when they would have delusions and scream at me. I was told to not let them know that you are scared (facial expression, etc.) Just a tip you can use.
I think you will learn a lot about yourself more than anything in this internship. Just be yourself and you will do just fine.

*If you are ever in Houston you should have Becca take you to Quitman Clinic. A man from our church helps to run it. They have social workers and LPC's you could talk with. It is just a good experience and you get to see first hand DSM descriptive mental disorders.