When You Lose Your Safety Net: What then?

Losing what keeps you afloat: Pixabay License
And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive.
You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over .
But one thing is certain.
When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.
That’s what the storm’s all about“
-Haruki Murakami

Every now and then I hear a news story about a hot air balloon that catches fire, burns, and crashes, usually with complete loss of life of all on board. It is rare, but it does happen.

Once the balloon burns, there is nothing to keep the basket afloat in the air and so it plummets to the earth. Or the basket burns at the same time. There is nowhere for any of the people to go in the seconds it takes to go up in flames.

There is no plan B.

It always strikes me with a certain kind of horror. There is no going back. There is no way to save yourself if you got caught in this situation.

The same with parachute jumpers whose chutes do not open.

Every couple of years I hear a media report of a first-time parachute jumper whose family or partner bought them a birthday gift of a parachute jump out of a plane, and they go up on their birthday, and their chute does not open.

It always involves a loss of life.

If I am driving my car when I hear the news, it plays on my mind.

  • I find myself, as I am driving, imagining the excitement of the person getting ready in the morning, and the fear they would have been pushing aside.
  • I imagine the excitement of the family planning a party afterward where they can share the joy of the jump.
  • I put myself in the person’s shoes, and mind, and try to imagine standing at the open door of the plane, talking away my fear in my head, jumping, and then the horror that would hit as my chute did not open, and I was plummeting towards the ground.

In my head, two scenes are being played out.

  • Firstly, I go calm, as the adrenalin from fear floods my body and I realize there is no way out of the situation and I am going to die.
  • As the ground approaches, I am at the same time in awe of the sweeping vista and view of scenery and beauty.
  • At the same time that I see everyone in miniature, like ants below me, people, houses, animals, and cars; also going through my head would be the horror for my family and friends when they find out what happened.
  • I would want to reassure them, and then the final thought, “I cannot believe this is how I am going to die?
  • The speed at which I would hit the earth and impact would mean there would be no consciousness of the exact moment of my death.
  • It would be too catastrophic and sudden for my conscious brain to be aware enough of my injuries before I die.

Some of us have safety nets when a disaster happens in our life.

A plan B if plan A does not work out.

If we lose our job we have parents or siblings or extended family that we know would never let us be homeless.
We have other job opportunities we could pursue due to our background education or people we know.
The same if we are faced with losing our home.

But there are many with no plan B. No family able to offer support, a backstop.

No safety net.

For people with no safety net, it is much harder to take risks, to take a plunge.

There are no family or friends willing to financially support you, or house you, if you lose your job, or lose your home.

When your safety net disappears, or you have never had one, you can also lose your dreams and your hope.
  • When there is no safety net, it is harder to take on further education for a better job as this may mean you have not enough money to cover the rent for each month.
  • You may not go to the doctor for tests or the hospital if it costs money when you don’t have fully comprehensive health insurance if it leaves you short for rent, food, fuel or paying for a school camp for your child.
  • Not having early intervention in illness means a chronic disease or potentially life-threatening disease may not get picked up until its symptoms are life-threatening and no longer able to be treated to be cured but only as palliative care.
  • Not having a safety net means that the decision to have a child may no longer be a choice, but be something you know is not affordable as you cannot afford childcare, healthcare, food or educational costs of a child in your low paying job. Or the other tenants of the low rent share house where you live do not want children living there.
  • Not having a back up plan means you may settle for a demanding boss and job where you are demeaned, as at least you have a roof over your head; but it can lead to depression, anxiety, and hopelessness as without being able to take on further education, more work, or have the health to do more, your options are virtually nil to improve your daily existence.

In those cases, relationships become very important.

Keeping relationships and friendships is essential. For example, the friendly takeaway man you speak to each Friday night and share a joke with, is a constant, a surety, and by the regular repetitive nature of your exchange, a reassurance; so a little thing, like that relationship, ending, or being severed could be enough to make your life go from being hard to a living hell. Each solid connection matters.

Small things matter a lot.

For example, the loss of luxury such as being able to afford a hot dog with a newspaper and coffee to read every Sunday morning that once gone leads to lack of socialization, lack of connection to the community, and lack of the feeling of lusciousness in your life.

Each loss of every little habit that adds a measure of quality and value in one’s life can tip someone over into helplessness and hopelessness and despair.

A safety net could be a neighbor who offers to watch a child for a single mum every afternoon after school so that a parent can work full time and thereby keep their heads above water, or it means the child is not left without care and potentially getting into trouble without a responsible adult being around.

A neighbor or church person or work colleague could realize that inviting someone without family or supports to their house for a holiday celebration, could provide a feeling for them of being valued and cared for, that they may remember for the rest of their life, even though the neighbor may rarely ever think about it again.

The little things that you may hardly give a thought towards, may mean the world to someone who has no safety net in their life.

If you work fulltime and hardly have time to spare to mow your lawns and you know there is someone else struggling with money in the same area, and you take the time to get to know them, maybe you could pay them to do some jobs which free up time for you, which is what you may need, and at the same time may vastly improve the quality of their life.

Little things matter.

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

If someone is out of work or struggling to make ends meet, they may have a skill or talent, which could be exchanged rather than money for a job.

They may have a talent in art, such as painting and you may be able to negotiate an exchange for whatever it is that you need (1 day of childcare a week for four weeks).

Money is a commodity which allows people to buy what they need and not what you THINK they may need, but bartering also allows the same thing in exchange for labor for a talent.

What about if you never have time to garden, but are also quite lonely and isolated, but have no issues with money?

  • Could you offer a patch of your garden for a local group to grow and develop as a veggie garden and you get a portion of the vegetables in exchange for allowing them to use it over the growing season?
  • Could you get to know your neighbors in this way?

In this way, loneliness could be alleviated, and you also are helping community members or a group get together and be able to do an activity that also solves a problem for you (gardening and alleviating loneliness) and benefits them (win/win situation).

“All this is simply to say that all life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

When you lose, your safety net life is dire.

Loss of hope can quickly occur.

Fear of risk-taking can be genuine.

“They will be many chapters in your life, don’t let the one you are in now paralyse you-Get up and walk” — SHé
Finding ways to nurture and cherish yourself, and continuing to find meaning and hope in life can disappear along with faith and belief in both God and belief in the goodness of people.

If we find ourselves in this situation, reaching out for help can be humiliating and frightening.

Poverty grinds you down into the ground.

“Poverty doesn’t give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor.” ― Sherman Alexie

The first time I ever had to go to a local community center to ask what I had to do to apply for food vouchers (nearly 20 years ago) I experienced this humiliation.

I needed to keep my car to be able to do the practical component of my nursing course, or I would not complete it, but that meant money for fuel, tires, and registration which meant a lot less money for food.

I was asked questions that humiliated me when I applied.

Why was I applying? Why did I not have family that could help? How many children did I have? Did I smoke or drink? Did I have debts? How much was my rent?

I know some of these may appear reasonable questions but when asked at a counter, in a public place where other people can see and hear it felt humiliating.

It would have been a 100% better if they had a room they could have called me into that was separate or at the very least come out and sit down and allow me to fill in a form where my business was not disclosed to everyone else who happened to be standing there.

I rarely found any compassion or support emotionally when I went to the community center.

The lady after writing my answers down on the first occasion thrust two $20 vouchers at me and said they could only be redeemed at the local Woolworths store and would not cover alcohol or cigarettes.

Without access to food vouchers, my family and I would have gone hungry over these two years when I was still studying, so I was grateful even though I was left with no pride at the end of the process.

Some of the ladies behind the counter were lovely and kind, whereas others were cruel, cutting and unkind.

On those days I bit my tongue as I knew if I replied in the manner I wanted my children would have gone hungry.

So I took the humiliation.

I swore to myself if I ever found myself in a position to help anyone in the future in the same situation I would never humiliate them or look down on them.

I did have some people reach out to me and help.

I had attended a couple of meetings over a period of a few weeks of the Bahai faith as I was interested in exploring their beliefs.
A lady in the Bahai faith invited me to lunch and as I left she gave me an envelope. In it was $200.
It enabled me to buy food for that week, put petrol in the car, and catch up on some bills.
It was totally unexpected and given with no demand for return. I hardly knew her. She knew we were doing it tough. She did not know how tough.
But she gave me money to spend in whatever way I chose, as she trusted I would use it in the best way for me.
She gave me dignity as a mother and as a human being.

She showed she cared.

Being cared for, and valued by another human being meant more to me than the money.

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” 
― Mother Teresa

I have heard people say that when your back is up against the wall, and there are NO other options, you will focus and work harder to reach your goal as the catastrophic nature of failure means you CAN’T fail.

I can see in some cases this may be the case.

My depression was severe, but even in the midst of it (we have social security and subsidized housing in Australia to which I had access to both) I still attended class 3 a week and completed all the practical component of my nursing course. I was determined to get off single parent benefits (after my marriage ended) and be able to support my children on my own. I had the backstop of a government pension here in Australia, so I was never facing total destitution.

The critical thing when safety nets fail is to accept you may swing between hopelessness and frenzied activity to reach your goal or make ends meet.

It is okay.

This is normal.

I would ring the toll-free 1800 and 1300 helpline telephone numbers. In this way, I found out all the places near me where I could get food vouchers.

I found out free counseling lines, and I made use of them out of hours when I was desperate to tell someone HOW desperate I was.

It is interesting; I recently read an article containing a quote by a woman who was needing to access a food bank as her husband (who worked in the coast guard) was one of the 800,000 + US workers who had not been paid for many weeks.

Despite lamenting over their combined frightening and dire situation, she stressed that one of the good things was that the community was pulling together and ties were strengthened.

Through adversity real love and support was being felt and given which was appreciated by all in the community.

“When people love each other, they are content with very little. When we have light and joy in our hearts, we don’t need material wealth.
The most loving communities are often the poorest.
If our own life is luxurious and wasteful, we can’t approach poor people. If we love people, we want to identify with them and share with them” 
― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

I have read multiple accounts of people who lived through the blitz in London during WW2 who spoke of it as the worst of times, and the best of times.

The worst of times as it was traumatic, and people were getting killed, and tragedy was occurring on a daily basis, as well as food shortages, rationing and loved ones being killed in the war overseas.

It was the best of times as neighbors and families pulled together in a way, they had not experienced since then. They indeed were there for each other in a way that had significant meaning.

As reported on BBC news, according to Juliet Gardiner, author of The Blitz: The British Under Attack:

“ The defiance of Britain as it endured eight months of German bombing 70 years ago is etched on the collective memory and immortalised in the phrase “Blitz spirit…There was endurance in the face of external danger. People were going through it together…”

If only it did not take hard times and tragedy for people to be there for each other and to be able to show they genuinely care for each other.

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love” — Sophocles
So, if you see others who have lost their lifeline, who have no option for a plan B, who have lost their safety net, or never had the opportunity to have one then think of ways you could offer help, and show you care.
These actions may appear small to you but may make a huge difference in their daily quality of their life.
They may also meet a need or fulfill something in your own life.
  • If you are without a safety net, and doing it tough in your life right now, reaching out to others (even when some of them may occasionally humiliate you) is essential to try and locate the help that is out there in your community.
  • Connection to others is paramount for you to try and maintain, restore and keep for you to keep hope in your life. This is hard when poverty grinds you down.
  • Value the precious moments that you do get so that the memory of them can sustain your spirit for all the other times that you are ground down.
  • Look for opportunities to swap any skills you may have in exchange for money, or fulfilling a need for someone in your community who may need the time saved more than the money.
  • Take these moments to try and improve your life, and at the same time, each one is an opportunity for connection.

All of us live and share in our communities.

We often live in our little bubbles of want and need, and no one is aware that each could be doing so much to help and assist each other if only we looked for the opportunities.

Reaching out and connecting, is a way of making stronger communities.

Poverty should not be a reason to reject others.

It is a situation any of us could inadvertently find ourselves in, through no fault of our own, and we would be desperate to feel still valued and wanted as a human being despite our circumstances.

People need people.

We all need each other. The solution is in caring and reaching out and not demonizing each other and not blaming and offering connection and support. It can be a 2–way street, being a win-win situation, fulfilling a need for both people.

Especially for those without a safety net. For those who have no backup loving family, or friends, through many circumstances, that have left them alone in life and having to battle to make a living on their own.

It is so important, to recognize and realize we all are not born equal, and we all do not have safety nets.

Imagine how you would feel with no safety net.

What decisions and opportunities would have been harder to make, or take, when the possibility of failure may have resulted in homelessness or a catastrophe of suchlike proportions?

Be a line of safety. Offer a line of support. You do not have to be the whole net. But be a strand. It may take “a village to raise a child,” but it also can take an entire community to support each other to be strong as a community and to care for its own especially as times get harder.

Think about it.

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.– Dory, from Finding Nemo