Individual Stories


These stories are the just the short backgrounds of a few people I met, a few people who have given me a glimpse into their lives, a few people who struggle, but would never admit that they do, a few people who have taught me something of solidarity and human strength and have inspired me to be someone different.


My Story

This last summer I worked on Cape Cod. I was one of those people: the people who show up like they own the the whole town wearing a Polo Shirt and J Crew skirt, sporting Dolce sunglasses and a burberry bag, working because I needed to make friends, and had a summer house, so where else would I spend my summer? I grew up in an affluent suburb, daughter of a lawyer and stay-at-home mom. My life was perfectly packaged. I grew up going to Catholic school, almost my whole life: the public school in my town was even preppier than my private prep school. I expected the summer to be an extension of everything I had known, I expected a bunch of college kids to be spending the day at the beach and working at night, who else could possibly be looking for a job at the beach for a summer? I found a job, and it was nothing like I expected, my entire world was rocked, my perspective changed. I met Josh, Rita, Brandon, Bruce, Amanda, and Karen.


Josh

Josh is 19 years old. I met him in a restaurant. Working with him, I realized he was unlike anybody I had ever met. He looked like a punk, acted like a punk but seemed to have his head on straight at the same time. To me, before I met him, school was the defining attribute of a person’s life, kids went to school, and if they didn’t, they couldn’t be “good” kids. But Josh, seemed like a good kid, but he had dropped out. I could reconcile these two factors. At the age of 16 Josh dropped out of high school. His sister was pregnant, and his single mom could not handle the new expenses. Josh chose to work and to contribute to support his family.


Rita- Jean

Rita-Jean was the manager. A woman of 38, she looked about 50, a heavy smoker. She grew up in Falmouth. She never left. She graduated high school, entered the restaurant business and for twenty years has been working on her feet trying to make ends meet, trying to raise a family, trying to get by.


Brandon- Charlie

Brandon had a shirt that says Brian, and later introduced himself again as Charlie. Brandon was from Michigan, and was working here because the job opportunities were better: he arrived in the summer. He bartended every night, drove a beat up old bronco that just died one day—that was the end of his means of transportation. He took to waiting on the street corner everyday for a ride to come, a ride that seldom arrived on time. He could not afford a new car, and he needed to save money to move home again.


Bruce

Bruce knew Rita in high school. They went to prom together. He works at the grocery store down the street fifty hours a week. He stops in the restaurant almost everyday. He had become a part of the crowd, a part of the family; a quieter part, but a part nonetheless.


Amanda

Finally, Amanda. She had her first child at 18, got married at 20 and just had her second child at 20. She lives in a small 2-bedroom home about the size of a Suite in Suites Hall with her two children, her husband and her husband’s child. She too works in a restaurant, waiting tables, counting tips, and carrying food home for her kids.


Karen

Karen was a waitress; she waited lunches at my restaurant, and waited dinners at another restaurant down the street. She needed money to afford rent and insurance and all other daily expenses. One day, I heard Karen’s story… Karen was a friend with Amanda in the 2nd grade, when Karen’s mother realized that she could no longer afford to care for Karen. Desperate she sought someone who could take her child before she left. Karen, at the age of 7, was abandoned by her family, because the stress of constant tension between work and family drove her family apart.





The restaurant seemed like a family. I was welcomed into the family, learned the stories that contributed to the texture. It didn’t surprise me then, when, after about six weeks of work I realized that this was an actual family. Everyone in this family worked to support one another. Rent, in the summer, is so expensive that people find roommates to cut the costs of living. Rita, Bruce, Josh and Brandon all lived together. Josh, Rita’s son; Amanda, Josh’s sister; Brandon, the kid from down the road without a home; Karen, adopted because she simply needed a mother and a home, and so many more people called this small house home. Everybody contributes to keep from falling; everybody works to keep everyone afloat.

My world had been rocked. Suddenly, it was not just college kids working to support their education, it was kids my age working to afford health insurance, and rent, groceries and diapers, and though they were working 40+ hours a week, there was never enough money for the car to be fixed, or to buy Thanksgiving dinner, or to turn the heat on in December. Eviction notices were received two months in a row, when even rent was too much for tight finances. The world was a different place than I had seen. People who work diligently and hope for long hours, should be able to earn enough money, should have the opportunity to go to school and stay in school, should have the hope of a better lifestyle. If they cannot do it, then there is a problem in the system that supports these people and that problem lies in the fact that they are the “missing,” forgotten class.