“Those People” are My People

I’m doing my best to get rid of the chips that remain on my shoulder. I’m trying to be a loving and effective advocate and not confront political leaders I know to be lying with anger. I find myself mindful of something Jesus (that beautiful hippie who suggested we love on another) said,

“”The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant [they seemed], you did for me.’     – Matthew 25:40

When I speak to people in power they reference “populations” they speak of “those affected” and they sometimes say the phrase that makes me feel like I’m just going to have a stroke right there in front of them: They say, “Those people…”

I’ve learned to respond and never react. I hear Papa Roach in my head, “I take a deep breath and I count to ten. I think of all the nice places that I’ve been.”

Don’t ever speak to me about “those people.” Simply put, “those people” are my people.  When you speak of the poor and the working class poor, addicts, alcoholics, survivors, the mentally ill, convicts, felons, the homeless, and/or any of the other most disenfranchised folks, you are speaking of my brothers and sisters. You are talking to me about people like me.

That’s the chip on my shoulder and the space in my heart for all those who are seeking to overcome. There will always be a part of me that identifies as working class poor trailer trash guy who lives with depression and memories of a shitty childhood.

Later in life and only by the Grace of my Higher Power, I became trained and educated to do a job I love doing serving the most honorable and resilient of people. No matter how I may seem to you today, I never forget where I came from:

“You don’t know me but I’m your brother
I was raised here in this living Hell
You don’t know my kind in your world
Fairly soon, the time will tell
You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see…

Take this message to my brother
You will find him everywhere
Wherever people live together
Tied in poverty’s despair.”- Takin’ It to the Streets – Doobie Brothers

I know that my anger, righteous though it may be, serves no one. I experience, express, and release it with those who support me.  It hurts me that my brothers and sisters must once more be afraid that the minimal support they receive is again threatened by those in power and it angers me that those in power are most often those with affluence and means.

What saddens me for those in power is that you may never know the love of my people. You may never have seen that misfits like me are the best kind of folks. We take care of our own, even when we struggle to take care of ourselves. Nobody loves like we do. Nobody listens without judgment as we do and no one will do more to help you than we will.

Allowing our existing services to stand is allowing us a modicum of support in taking care of our own. Nobody works in this field for financial gain. We’re here for very personal reasons. We’re forever works in progress, choosing to give away what’s been given to us to ensure that we can keep it, and succeeding in spite of those who in power.

Come to the trenches, folks. We’ll help you get it.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.