I am a snob. A Burlington snob that is. I love my city. LOVE IT. I am lucky enough to live a 5 minute walk from the lake, 40 minute drive from Toronto and a 1 hour drive from Niagara Falls. Overall it’s clean, safe, supports its citizens, has good services, good schools and no real “ghetto” area. You can bike, car, walk, bus or whatever other mode of transport you choose to just about anywhere in the city. Does it have it’s problems ? Sure. Would I live anywhere else ? Nope. Not right now. But I’m one of the lucky ones: I’ve chosen to continue to live here. I find myself here because that is the life I am making. After driving through Hamilton yesterday, it brought home how many don’t have that choice.
Before anyone gets their undies in a bunch, I’m not knocking Hamilton. I’ve worked in Hamilton for the past 8 years and have made some of my best friends there. It has interesting culture areas, neat historic sites, lots of bustling industry and some of the poorest areas I’ve seen outside of Buffalo. Props to Buffalo but it has its problems. I just did a quick drive in yesterday to help bake pies and cookies for an event I’m going to. Driving in and out I saw more people wandering aimlessly under the influence of substance or illness than I see in a month in Burlington. Make that several months. This got me to thinking: is it their choice to live there or did life decide that this is where they were going to find themselves for their duration on this planet ? How much of our existence is pre-determined ?
On my short drive home to paradise it struck me how hard I would work to make sure my family and my children did not end up in the poorer section of Hamilton. There are gorgeous areas with fantastic architecture and beautiful landscaping. And then there are the homes crumbling on their foundations with broken shopping carts on the front lawn and windows held together with duct tape. The people in front just look worn out at 21. The cares of the world are so deeply etched in to their being that it emanates from their every pore. You can see the resignation on their faces that this is their lot and they are just going to do their time. I cannot imagine living that way and my fortune could easily be theirs.
This frightens me every time I drive through areas of Hamilton that are struggling. Part of it is my snobbery. I’ve been raised in upper middle class areas my entire life. I’ve been fortunate enough to be born to hard-working parents that had white-collar jobs which allowed me to live in cities like Burlington. My fate could easily have been something completely different and I too could just be existing to fill my time on this earth. But so far it’s not. So far life has made it’s mark in other ways but poverty has not been part of it. It is my ignorance of this type of existence that probably makes facing these moments head on so uncomfortable. I don’t want to be reminded that I am one missed mortgage payment from pooping under an overpass (thanks Ron James for that eloquent line). I don’t want to think about my children growing up loved but deprived.
Where I find myself right now is in search of a job. At my husband’s request, I’m not searching TOO heavily. With him being on night shift, summertime is a bit of a nightmare when you have two teenagers requiring conveyance to activities and entertainment. We have no desire to leave them to their own devices for great lengths of time thereby courting disaster. Nor do I wish to further shorten my husband’s much desired existence by cutting in to his sleep more than necessary. So I’m following up (gratefully) on the leads provided by my valued colleagues and am applying for jobs that I know will fit my skills and interests. I need to do this to find myself where I want to be: living happily in the city I love with the future of my kids decidedly different from the life I viewed yesterday. Could those kids rise above ? Absolutely. Can people change what life appears to deal them ? I firmly believe so. I guess it just depends on where you find yourself.