This is a true story.
Brooklyn, December 1967
I knew it was going to be another tough day at the Welfare Department when I saw the woman having an epileptic seizure in the Intake room. She was on her back, eyes rolling, jerking and thrashing, head thumping on the cement floor.
A security guard ran over and straddled her, trying to hold her down. Her arm whipped up and knocked off his black billed hat. Reaching back, he pulled out his billy club.
God, I thought, I hope he’s not going to hit her!
He wasn’t, but it was almost as bad. He tried to push the club between her teeth, to keep her from biting off her tongue, which could kill her. The jerking and thumping of her head made this almost impossible, though, and the club whacked repeatedly against her chin and face. Finally he got the club between her lips, and her movements seemed to slow down.
I couldn’t watch anymore. I turned back to the doorway and headed upstairs to the unit, where my desk sat in the second row from the back, the fourth desk over.
It was a freezing cold December in 1967, and there was no doubt about what I wanted for Christmas:
Two things: a revolution; and then, a telephone for Mrs. Lee.
Actually, the telephone would probably have to come first, but that’s not how I felt–and I’m getting ahead of myself.
Every day in my job at the New York City Welfare Department, I saw dozens of good reasons for revolution: sad and desperate people trooping in and out of the Intake room, looking for help, begging for help, screaming for help. And every day, I watched the system fail them, giving them no help, or the wrong kind of help, or help that just wasn’t enough. Continue reading Holiday Story #1 – How I Got so Lucky