4 youths were waiting for another to show before starting a meeting to discuss the notion of financial independence. It was a regular check-in where young people who have progressed in their studies mentor those attempting to qualify for tertiary education. However, the meeting started with disturbing information as the person everyone was waiting for, stormed into the room exclaiming that he was feeling very hurt and angry.
“I have just returned from my mother’s workplace and her supervisor was not at all understanding or helpful!” He explained that his mother was crying when she called him from work complaining of ill treatment. Immediately, he rushed to her workplace to clarify the situation with the alleged perpetrator, but the conversation was not at all satisfying. It was just denial after denial and without any acknowledgement of a problem, no shared understanding or possible solution emerged. He told his mother to quit the job and assured her that he will take on additional work to make up for the lost income.
When he regained his composure, he acknowledged that his family would run into financial difficulties when his mother leaves the job. Finances are already strained as his father recently lost his job too. His plan was to moonlight as a courier, but he knew that it will be a hard slog as his day job and part-time studies take up a lot of energy too. The others present complimented him for his courage in supporting his mother at her workplace. One who had studied the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) at school, urged him to file a formal complaint with the company. He felt that the company would have policies that addressed workplace harassment.
“Our parents don’t understand that they have rights at work. I always try to tell my mother that she does not have to accept being told off harshly at work,” a teenage girl shared. The comment kept the conversation going and everyone agreed that it was painful knowing that their parents tolerated unpleasant working conditions simply to put food on the table. Everyone nodded when this girl added, “Even if they know their rights, they will not want to leave their jobs because they are afraid that they cannot find another.”
The discussion on financial independence eventually proceeded and they understood it simply as having enough money to meet one’s needs without depending on financial assistance. One did say that he wished he had a little more to occasionally buy something he fancied and not just having to watch his budget tightly to meet his needs. “It is always about ‘needs’ but it would be nice to buy a ‘want’ too!” was how he put it.
We say that we are in the service people’s efforts to meet their needs and when we reflected on the meeting, the need for respect, fairness, dignity, mutual support, and friendship was dominant. We are glad to see that by making the effort to come together, these young people are meeting some very important needs for a satisfying life.
For peace, community, and dignity,
My father used to have an expression. He’d say, ‘Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about your place in your community.’ – Joe Biden