Warmest regards: Two different worlds
By Pattie Mihalik
My favorite event is a unique fusion show sponsored by St. Vincent DePaul. The event sells out all 800 tickets when they go on sale.
What can possibly be so special about a fashion show?
I’ll try to explain. Ten women are assigned to a table. They come up with a theme then decorate accordingly. The women supply all dishes, glassware, plate chargers and decorations.
You have to see it to believe it. The Great Gatsby table, for instance, included gold charger plates, ornate gold plated dishware and a full-size, formally dressed Gatsby dummy.
I put several miles on my sneakers walking around the huge convention hall to see each spectacular table.
But the best thing about the fashion show isn’t the decorations or even all the gently used clothes that came from donations.
We all flock to that fashion show because it helps SVDP help the poor. It’s their biggest fundraiser of the year.
As each model paraded down the runway, the announcer told real-life stories about how SVDP turns lives around by helping the poor.
Through my newspaper interviews I know a lot of those inspirational stories because I heard them from grateful people who were helped.
Many of us have the wrong impression about “the poor” who come for help. Some think they have nothing because they are too lazy to work. The truth is many are what we call “the working poor.”
Take Chris, for example. He has worked for 12 years as a hospital orderly. It’s hard work that requires a lot of lifting, but Chris is grateful to have a job, even though it only pays slightly more than minimum wage.
Things went south for him when his wife got tired of the constant struggle to make ends meet. She left Chris and their three children to move away with another guy.
Chris asked to have his shift changed so he could care for his young children and still work.
Then he got evicted from his apartment. With no place to turn, they lived in their car. Chris used to sneak into work early so he could shower at the hospital.
When he went to St. Vincent de Paul for help, all he wanted was food for them and a place for his children to sleep.
With considerable help from SVDP, he qualified for a home from Habitat for Humanity. When the furniture bank carried in beds for his children, Chris cried tears of gratitude.
He now works to help others in the SVDP Bridges Out of Poverty program.
We all support the fashion show fundraiser because of success stories like that.
But as I sat there watching an auction of goods and services, I saw the dichotomy of two different worlds.
People were there comfortably bidding $1,000 and more on restaurant meals, spa packages and resort stays. Some of the bidding reached $1,700.
I wondered who in the world had that kind of money to spend. Then I thought of the income levels of those who would be helped by the auction.
There’s an old song that says: “Two different worlds. We live in two different worlds.”
At no time did I relate to that as much as I did at the fundraiser.
Let me say this: It’s those generous souls that bid big bucks at the auction that help SVDP to help others.
They know how fortunate they are and they want to help others as much as they can.
The SVDP president tells audiences, “Maybe you didn’t work at our food bank and maybe you didn’t sit here interviewing those who come for help.
“But if you donated money to SVDP, you helped us help the poor.”
As I said, it’s my favorite charity and I try to give generously. But I feel guilty that I don’t have the time to work at the SVDP center.
Some of my friends volunteer so many hours it’s the equivalent of a full-time job.
They load boxes with groceries, sort clothing, move furniture and do everything they can to help. They do it because they believe in the cause.
I can’t say I ever experienced constant hunger like the children in some homes. But that’s only because I had a mother who could turn a quarter, a bag of flour and a few staples into a week’s worth of meals.
I didn’t know the extent of her sacrifices when I was a kid. I didn’t know she went hungry so she could save the food for my father who worked in the mines.
Knowing all this now, I have a special heart to help those in need.
One woman at the fashion show said she, too, likes to help the poor.
“But to tell the truth, I don’t know anyone who is truly poor. Not in my town,” she said.
It’s another case of two different worlds.
One world knows the despair of not having enough money for the basics.
The other world lives in a cocoon of all that money can buy.
The big hope, of course, is that those who have been blessed are more willing to help those who are struggling.
That’s what happens at that fashion show. It’s one more reason why I love it.
If we each do what we can to help others, our world will be better for it. And so will we.
Contact Pattie Mihalik at firstname.lastname@example.org.