Poorest People Still Left Behind in American Healthcare Coverage, Including Medicaid (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

I am a person who is an advocate for universal healthcare coverage in the United States.  When President Barack Obama persistently pushed for the achievement of universal healthcare in the United States, I was definitely a supporter.  I think it is wonderful that people who so desperately need healthcare coverage in the United States are now able to receive it, in many areas of the country.

I, however, still do not have healthcare coverage.  Why?  My income falls below the federal government’s poverty level guidelines for who is eligible to receive universal healthcare.  And, my state, Georgia, has not expanded Medicaid for individuals and/or families who would otherwise be eligible to receive Medicaid due to income guidelines.

So, while there is universal healthcare coverage that is available in the United States, it is not available to me.  I have not had healthcare insurance coverage for about 4.5 years since becoming divorced.  Prior to that, I had healthcare coverage either through my employer and/or my spouse.  In 2009, I was employed with a company that guaranteed healthcare insurance coverage after working for several months; I was laid off before that time came.

For the past 4.5 years, I have paid out-of-pocket for all of my medical and healthcare-related expenses.  I have paid out-of-pocket for visits to my regular doctor, gynecologist, dentist, and optometrist.  I have also paid out-of-pocket for all of my prescriptions, laboratory work, and all other healthcare-related services and appointments.

Last year, after going five years without having an eye exam, I finally had one and got new glasses, with monies withdrawn from my retirement account.  This year, I have noticed further changes in my eyesight, but cannot afford to get my eyes checked, or get new glasses again, with having to pay out-of-pocket.

Typically, my gynecologist and dentist appointments cost me much more than any of my regular doctor appointments.  It has been several years since I went to my OBGYN, and my last mammogram was about five years ago.

Thankfully, most medical practitioners provide some sort of discount for people who pay out-of-pocket.  Such a discount is helpful, though there is a wide range in discount percentages, usually 5%-20%, as I’ve experienced.

When I lived in New York State, from the time I graduated from the University at Buffalo (December 1992), and was removed from my parents’ coverage, until I became employed full-time as a teacher in Georgia (August 2000), I did not have healthcare coverage.  Either my employers did not offer healthcare coverage, or they required at least one’s year’s employment with them before they provided it.  In the places in which I worked part-time, and/or left employment to obtain other employment within one year (typically, for a higher salary and the opportunity for better benefits), I did not have healthcare coverage.

To date, that makes a total of 12.5 years of my life that I have not had healthcare coverage.  After reading a newspaper article related to a lack of healthcare coverage in Georgia for individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid, I realized that I am not alone.  Misty Williams wrote “Ga.’s Medicaid call affects thousands,” being published in the April 6, 2014 issue of The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

In her article, Williams stated, “Statewide, more than 400,000 of Georgia’s poorest, most vulnerable citizens have been left behind by the health care law that was supposed to benefit them the most.”  Because Georgia has not expanded Medicaid (and has, therefore, caused me to be ineligible for coverage, unless I am pregnant), all of these people are still without healthcare coverage.

Throughout the United States, there are 5.7 million people without healthcare coverage – because their states have not expanded Medicaid.  All of the seven states in the Deep South are included in the 24 (nearly half of the US!) states that have not expanded Medicaid.  A WhiteHouse.gov website put’s Georgia’s number of people without coverage at 478,000 – ranked third behind only Texas and Florida – for all those without healthcare coverage due to Medicaid not being expanded to cover them.

If I was younger and perhaps had more faith that an issue such as this would change, I would likely be highly upset about it.  But, now that I am older and somewhat wiser, it really comes as no surprise to me, and is actually a disappointment that people such as myself, who are in the greatest need of healthcare coverage, still do not have it – because they are too poor!

When I am driving on the road, I hope and pray that I am not involved in a serious vehicle collision that causes me bodily harm.  I hope and pray, and do my best to stay healthy, so that I do not acquire a serious illness or disease.  I am cautious and careful about what I eat and who I date, as well as about cleanliness and personal hygiene.

I try to stay as healthy and as well as possible in order to avoid being hospitalized for some situation or condition that could cause bankruptcy.  Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, situations cannot be avoided, and so, I continue to be aware, healthy, and do the best I can.  What I would really like is gainful, stable, and enjoyable full-time employment so that I can obtain and maintain healthcare coverage.

Lawmakers in Georgia – and in other states that have not expanded Medicaid – have truly let down those people such as myself who are so poor that they do not qualify for universal healthcare coverage, including Medicaid.  I thought that the idea behind establishing universal healthcare coverage was so that it would be universal.  Unfortunately, in states such as Georgia, I have seen that it is really not universal.

The Affordable Care Act has, therefore, made absolutely no positive difference in my life to date – because my state has not expanded Medicaid and I am too poor to be eligible to receive Medicaid.  I continue to pay out-of-pocket and do not have any healthcare coverage.  When the poorest of the poor are overlooked and ineligible for even the most minimal healthcare coverage that is supposed to be provided to those who are poor – Medicaid – there is definitely something very wrong with this situation. 😦

References:

24 states are refusing to expand Medicaid (April 3, 2014). Here’s what that means for their residents. WhiteHouse.gov.  Washington, DC: The White House. Retrieved on April 18, 2014 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/share/medicaid-map?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=110613p1&utm_campaign=healthcare

Is my state expanding Medicaid coverage? (2014).  Healthcare.gov.  Baltimore, MD: U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Retrieved on April 18, 2014 from https://www.healthcare.gov/what-if-my-state-is-not-expanding-medicaid/

Williams, Misty (April 6, 2014).  Ga.’s Medicaid call affects thousands.  Atlanta, Georgia: The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Vol. 66, No. 96.

My Gale, Henn, Cole, McGee, and Bulson Family Ancestry Photos (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

The families of Gale, Henn, Cole, McGee, and Bulson are a big part of my family ancestry on my dad’s mother’s mom’s side of the family.  The Gale’s came to the United States from England.  William M. Gale, who is my Great Great Grandfather or Great Great Great Grandfather, was born in England.  Emily Esther (Costard) Gale (born on Isle of Jersey in the Channel Island, England on January 29, 1849-died in North Collins, New York on July 11, 1917), is possibly the mother (more likely) or a sister of William H. Gale, though I am unsure if he was William Hamilton Gale or William Henry Gale.  There were also other Gale’s in the family, including Walter Allen Gale, Harry Hamilton Gale, Julia Emily Gale, Alice Costard Gale, Lydia Ada Gale, and Carrie Camilla Gale.  Either William Hamilton Gale or William Henry Gale married Anna (Henn) Gale, and they had a daughter, Emily B. Gale.  Harry Hamilton Gale (September 14, 1878-March 1930), an uncle of my grandmother, served in the military in New York State.

All of the Gale’s lived in Hamburg, New York, but for Harry who is later said to have moved to Canada.  William (Emily B. Gale’s father) was a successful barber, and owned and operated his own barber shop in Hamburg for decades.  They lived on Main Street, and the barber shop was close by their residence.  Julia Emily (Gale) Briggs was married to Clarence Briggs, and they had a daughter, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, my grandmother – my father’s mother.

My Great Great Grandmother Emily (Costard) Gale’s sisters remained in England, but stayed in touch with her and sent photos and letters to her through the years.  Irish ancestry, through marriage, came from one of my great great grandmother’s sisters, Julia McGee; her son was named William McGee.  He married and had two daughters, Dorothy and Phyllis. Dorothy married Mr. B. Apps on August 2, 1937.

There were also several members of the Henn Family, who had immigrated to the United States from Germany.  From what I have uncovered, I believe that Frank Henn married Anna (Goetz) Henn.  They had children, including Fred and Louis, and possibly Anna, Frank, William, and Charles.  Fred (Frederick) (born October 20, 1843 in Bavaria, Germany) was a soldier in the Union Army and fought in the Civil War in Louisiana and Virginia.  He was a private in Company D, 116th NYVI Regiment of Buffalo.  He was wounded in Louisiana, and spent 2-3 months in the hospital, there, recovering.  He was honorably discharged due to the end of the war.  There is a photo and record of his service on file at the Hamburg (New York) Historical Society.  I also have a photo and an item of memorabilia reflecting his service in the Army.  He was married to Mary A. Henn, who died in 1896.

When Emily B. Gale died in 1986 and her estate was sold, my family missed acquiring Fred Henn’s medal from his service in the Civil War because it was grabbed quickly by an antique dealer who had a special interest in such memorabilia, and who had arrived just ahead of my parents for the sale.  It would have been a wonderful piece to keep in the family.  Additionally, I have a beautiful and colorful marriage certificate of a Friedrich  Henn and Mahole (Thompson) Henn, reflecting their wedding date as July 27, 1897 in Germany.  This is believed to be a different Fred Henn than the man who fought in the American Civil War.  Also remember that Emily B. Gale was the only child of William H. Gale and Anna (Henn) Gale.

The Cole’s are part of my family ancestry through Carrie Camilla Gale’s marriage to Frank Cole.  Carrie was the eldest daughter of William and Emily (Costard) Gale.  Frank and Carrie had a son, Arnold, who married Grace Cochran.  They then had three sons and a daughter, including Arnold Cole, Jr., William E. Cole, Eugene Cole, and Norma G. Cole.  I have several photos of Arnold Cole as a baby and as a private school student in Buffalo, New York.

I have one image William M. Gale, and a few photos of Emily (Costard) Gale.  I do not have any photos of Frank Cole, though I do have a couple of photos that include Carrie with her sisters, Julia and Alice.  Julia was my Great Grandmother – my Grandmother’s mom. Emily B. Gale, my grandmother’s cousin, lived with her parents, and never married.  She inherited the family home following the death of Anna (as William had predeceased her), though was placed in a nursing home in Hamburg, New York, where she died in 1986.  Emily B. Gale owned many amazing antiques and treasures, including antique furniture; dolls; photographs in frames; and Civil War memorabilia of Fred Henn.  My family was able to purchase a few of those items at her estate sale just after her death.

William H., Anna (Henn), and Emily B. Gale, and Frederick and Mary A. Henn, are buried in Prospect Lawn Cemetery in Hamburg, New York.

William M. Gale, Father of William H. Gale, Early Half of 1800s

William M. Gale, Father of William H. Gale, Early Half of 1800s

This is an image of William M. Gale, the father of William H. Gale.  The image is printed on a postcard, and would have to be from the early half of the 1800s.

Emily Gale (Grandmother of Emily B. Gale) with Oldest Granddaughter, Julia Gale (Age 2), Hamburg, NY, 1890

Emily (Costard) Gale with Julia Gale (Age 2), Hamburg, New York, 1890

Here is Emily Gale with Julia Gale, in Hamburg, New York in about 1890.

Possibly a Gale, Buffalo, New York

Possibly a Gale, Buffalo, New York

This photo is thought to possibly be that of a Gale boy.

Alice Gale

Alice Gale

This is a photo of Alice Gale, who was one of William Gale’s sisters or nieces.

Emily (Costard) Gale (1849-1917), Wife of William M. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1900-1910

Emily (Costard) Gale (1849-1917), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1900-1910

This photo is of Emily Esther (Costard) Gale, in Hamburg, New York in later life, around 1900-1910.

Condenseo Mince Meat (Possible Employees), Near Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890

Condenseo Mince Meat (Possible Employees), Near Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890

In her later years, Emily (Costard) Gale also worked at Condenseo Mince Meat in or around Hamburg, New York.  This is the best photo that I have of the employees of this company, a photo that also includes my Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, and one of his brothers, Howard Briggs, who both also worked there at that time.  Emily is seated in the middle, front row of the photo, while the Briggs men are standing at the rear.

Sisters Julia McGee (Age 75) and Martha Bulson (Age 72), Lee-on-the-Solent, England, 1929 (Cousins to Gale's and Briggs')

Sisters Julia McGee (Age 75) and Martha Bulson (Age 72), Lee-on-the-Solent, England, 1929 (Cousins to Gale’s and Briggs’)

This is a picture of Emily (Costard) Gale’s sisters, Julia McGee and Martha Bulson, from 1929 in England.

Martha E. Bulson (Left) and her Sister, Julia McGee, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, Circa 1923

Martha E. Bulson (Left) and her Sister, Julia McGee, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, Circa 1923

Here is Martha Bulson an her sister, Julia McGee, in England in 1923.  They were sisters of Emily (Costard) Gale.

Julia McGee, England, Christmas 1923

Julia McGee, England, Christmas 1923

Here is Julia McGee at Christmas in England in 1923.  The flowerettes were painted on the photo by William McGee, who painted pictures.  I believe the William was either her husband or son.

Martha E. Bulson with Sons and Grandchildren, Manor House, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, November 27. 1932

Martha E. Bulson with Sons and Grandchildren, Manor House, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, November 27, 1932

Here is Martha E. Bulson with her sons and grandchildren at her ‘Manor House’ in Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, on November 27, 1932.

Martha E. Bulson (Left) with Sons and Grandchildren, Manor House, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, November 27. 1932

Martha E. Bulson (Left) with Sons and Grandchildren, Manor House, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, November 27, 1932

Again, here is a photo of Martha E. Bulson with her sons and grandchildren at her Manor House in Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, on November 27, 1932.

William McGee, 1933, England

William McGee, 1933, England

This is a photo of William McGee in England in 1933.

The McGee's and Apps', August 2, 1937, England

The McGee’s and Apps’, August 2, 1937, England

Here is William McGee (right) with his family.  William’s wife is at the far left.  The McGee’s daugther, Dorothy married Mr. B. Apps on August 2, 1937.  The woman standing next to William is the groom’s mother.  The McGee’s daughter, Phyllis, is sitting.

Ronald Bulson, Lee-on-the-Solent, England, 1938 (By E.M. Blakey)

Ronald Bulson, Lee-on-the-Solent, England, 1938 (By E.M. Blakey)

This photo is of Ronald Bulson in England.  Ronald was Martha Bulson’s grandson.

Julia Gale (Married Name-Briggs), Hamburg, New York, 1890

Julia Gale (Married Name-Briggs) of Hamburg, New York, 1890

This is a photo of my Great Grandmother, Julia Emily (Gale) Briggs as a girl.

The Young Gale Girls, (L to R) Alice, Carrie (Married Name-Cole), & Julia (Married Name-Briggs), Hamburg, New York, 1890 (Daughters of William H. and Anna [Henn] Gale)

The Young Gale Girls, (L to R) Alice, Carrie (Married Name-Cole), & Julia (Married Name-Briggs), Hamburg, New York, 1890

Here are the Gale girls of Hamburg,  New York around 1890.

Possibly Alice Gale and Daughter, Buffalo, New York

Possibly Alice Gale and Daughter, Buffalo, New York

This photo is possibly of Alice Gale and a daughter, although I am not sure.  It is from 1908.

Anna (Henn) Gale with Niece Julia Emily Gale (Left) and Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, 1900

Anna (Henn) Gale with Niece Julia Emily Gale (Left) and Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, 1900

This is a photo of Anna (Henn) Gale with my Great Grandmother, Julia Gale, and Anna’s only child, Emily B. Gale, in Hamburg, New York around 1900.

Anna (Henn) Gale (Wife of William H. Gale; Mother of Emily B. Gale), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1900

Anna (Henn) Gale (Wife of William H. Gale; Mother of Emily B. Gale), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1910

Anna (Henn) Gale is shown in this photo, in Hamburg, New York around 1910.

William H. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890-1900

William H. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890-1900

Pictured is William H. Gale, husband of Anna (Henn) Gale, and father of Emily B. Gale, of Hamburg, New York around 1890-1900.  He was a barber in Hamburg for decades.

Emily B. Gale (in Fur Coat), Hamburg, New York, 1890, Only Child of William H. and Anna (Henn) Gale

Emily B. Gale (in Fur Coat), Hamburg, New York, 1900, Only Child of William H. and Anna (Henn) Gale

This is a photo of my grandmother’s cousin, Emily B. Gale, as a young girl, wearing a fur coat in Hamburg, New York around 1900.

Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1905

Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1905

This is another photo of Emily B. Gale as a young girl in Hamburg, New York around 1905.

Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1910

Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1910

Again, pictured is Emily B. Gale of Hamburg, New York around 1910.

William H. Gale (Age 91) Outside his Home in Hamburg, NY, 1938 (Born in England)

William H. Gale (Age 91) Outside his Home in Hamburg, NY, 1938 (Born in England)

Here, William Gale is pictured as an elderly man.  He was 91 years old in 1938 when this photo was taken, just outside the Gale Family home in Hamburg, New York.

Harry H. Gale

Harry H. Gale

This is a photo of Harry H. Gale, a brother of William H. Gale.

Harry Hamilton Gale, Military Veteran, Buffalo, New York, 1890s

Harry Hamilton Gale, Military Veteran, Buffalo, New York, 1890s

This is a photo of Harry Hamilton Gale as a Union Army soldier out of Buffalo, New York in the 1880s.

Fredrick Henn and his Wife (Possibly Anna), Hamburg, NY, Circa 1890-1900 (Notice Civil War Medal for Union Service)

Frederick Henn and his Wife, Mary A. Henn, Hamburg, NY, Circa 1890 (Notice Civil War Medal for Union Service)

This is a photo of Frederick Henn and his wife, thought to be named Anna, in Hamburg, New York around 1890-1900.  Notice that Fred is wearing his medal for service in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Funeral Card of Mrs. Fred Henn, March 19, 1896, Hamburg, New York

Funeral Card of Mrs. Fred Henn, March 19, 1896, Hamburg, New York

This is a funeral card for Mrs. Fred Henn, whom I believe would have been the lady in the photo preceding this image.  She died on March 19, 1896 in Hamburg, New York at age 58.

Thought to be Fred Henn, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

Thought to be Fred Henn, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

This is a photo that is thought to be of Fred Henn, around 1870-1890, in Hamburg, New York.

Frederick Henn, Hamburg, NY, Circa 1920

Frederick Henn, Hamburg, New York, American Civil War Veteran in Union Army, Circa 1920

This copy of a photo is of Fred Henn, also identifying his regiment in the Army in which he fought in the Civil War.  I obtained copies of these items from the Hamburg Historical Society in Hamburg, New York in 2001.

Civil War Veterans (GAR), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1930 L-R Charles Duke, Fred Henn, Joseph Taylor, Eugene Frink, Conrad Glasser

Civil War Veterans (GAR), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1930 L-R Charles Duke, Fred Henn, Joseph Taylor, Eugene Frink, Conrad Glasser

This is a photo on display at the Hamburg Historical Museum/Society.  I took a photo of the picture when I visited there.  My grandmother’s cousin’s uncle is Fred Henn, who served in the Grand Army of the Republic’s Company D of the 116th Regiment during the Civil War.

Louis Henn, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890

Louis Henn, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890

This is a photo of Louis Henn, a brother of Fred Henn, in Hamburg, New York around 1890.

Louis Henn and Possible Brothers (3)

Louis Henn (at left) and possibly his brothers, 1890-1900?

Possibly the Henn brothers (3)

Here again, Louis Henn (front, left), and possibly his brothers, undated.

Unknown Ancestor, Possibly from the Henn Family, Troy, New York, Circa 1925-1935 or Earlier

Unknown Ancestor, Possibly from the Henn Family, Troy, New York, Circa 1925-1935 or Earlier

This is a photo of a man believed to be a member of the Henn Family.

Arnold Cole (Son of Frank and Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, Circa 1892

Arnold Cole (Son of Frank and Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, Circa 1892

This is a photo of Arnold Cole, the son of Frank and Carrie (Gale) Cole, in Buffalo, New York in 1892.

Arnold Cole, Hamburg or Buffalo, NY, Circa 1905, Cousin to Julia (Gale) Briggs, Emily Gale, Bernice Briggs Babcock Sprague

Arnold Cole, Hamburg or Buffalo, NY, Circa 1895, Cousin to Julia (Gale) Briggs, Emily Gale, Bernice Briggs Babcock Sprague

Here is another picture of Arnold Cole, with his toy horse, probably in Buffalo, New York around 1895.

Arnold Cole

Arnold Cole

Here is another picture of Arnold Cole as a boy.

Arnold Cole (Age 16) (Son of Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, 1908

Arnold Cole (Age 16) (Son of Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, 1908

This photo of Arnold Cole was taken in 1908 in Buffalo, New York when he was 16-years-old.  It was taken outside of a private school that he attended in Buffalo.

Arnold Cole (Age 13), Buffalo, NY, 1923

Arnold Cole (Age 13), Buffalo, NY, 1905

Here is another photo of Arnold Cole at age 13, outside of another private school that he attended in Buffalo, New York, in 1905.

Arnold Cole (Age 17) (Son of Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, 1909

Arnold Cole (Age 17) (Son of Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, 1909

This is another photo that shows Arnold Cole in Buffalo, New York as a young man in 1909.

These represent some of the many photos that I have of these of my family ancestors.  My grandmother, Bernice, had loads of vintage and antique photos that she kept for many years until she decided to burn most of them in a burn barrel used for burning trash in the back yard of her home.  One day, when I was a girl, when I was visiting her and there was “trash” burning in the barrel, I asked what she was burning, and she told me.  I remember getting very angry and upset, and stated to her that I wanted the photos, and not to burn any anymore.  I could not believe that she would burn such valuable memories related to her family heritage!

Therefore, I have many photos of my family ancestors, but would have had many more had my grandmother not put them up in smoke.  Additionally, I used to have many more tin types, especially those of the Henn’s, however when my family moved from Collins to Gowanda, New York around 1992, they were unknowingly discarded by my parents.  I was heartbroken that such valuable family treasures had been thrown away.

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

This photo reflects the 15 tin types of my Gale, Briggs, and Henn ancestry that were accidentally discarded by my parents during my family’s move from Collins to Gowanda around 1992.

Again, as in previous posts of photos of my ancestors, the dates included represent the best possible accurate dates and/or estimates of dates of the images.

References and Sources:

Family photos and information of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague from 1860-1987. Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014). Snellville, Georgia.

Ryther, James F. (Undated).  Personal War Sketch of Frederick Henn.  Buffalo, New York.  From Hamburg (New York) Historical Society, 2001.

“Scout Duty to God Banquet and Meeting Phil Niekro” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Being Recognized at the Duty to God Banquet, Flowery Branch, Georgia, March 8, 2014

My Son Being Recognized at the Duty to God Banquet, Flowery Branch, Georgia, March 8, 2014

On Saturday, March 8, 2014, my family and I attended the Annual Northeast Georgia Council Boy Scout Duty to God Banquet.  This year, it was held at Prince of Peace Roman Catholic Church in Flowery Branch, Georgia.  My son has earned both of his religious emblems as a Cub Scout, and was recognized for his most recent achievement from last year.

My son with Phil Niekro at Scout Banquet, Flowery Branch, Georgia, March 8, 2014

My son with Phil Niekro at Scout Banquet, Flowery Branch, Georgia, March 8, 2014

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to attend and enjoy the banquet, as well as to meet Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro there!  Ignorant that I am about most of baseball, I realized when Niekro gave his keynote speech to the boys, that he is well deserving of that honor, having achieved 318 career victories.  In his keynote speech, Niekro affectionately remembered his late brother, Joe, who – between them – shared 539 wins since he also played baseball.

My lucky son also won a raffle of one of the baseball cards of Niekro that he also signed.  Niekro also gave out signed photographs, placemats, and other memorabilia to scouts and dinner guests who correctly answered questions that he posed.  What a wonderful treat to share in good company, for my son to be recognized for his religious achievements in scouting, and to meet a famous baseball player, who also happens to be of Polish descent, as are my son and I.

Thank you, Scout leaders, for holding such a nice banquet, as well as providing a “cool” speaker for the boys!

References:

Wikipedia (2014).  “Phil Niekro.”  Retrieved on March 8, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Niekro

Hurray for Boys Standing up to Bullying! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Stop Bullying (Retrieved from http://www.ftajax.com/bullying/ on December 27, 2013)

Stop Bullying (Retrieved from http://www.ftajax.com/bullying/ on December 27, 2013)

Last week, I attended a particular all-boy holiday gathering with my son and his dad.  We are brand new to the group, and began meeting the boys and their families who are in the group (but for one family whom we already knew) that evening.  My former spouse and I sat at a large round table with our son, and many other boys came and filled up our table.  Our son sat among the boys, including next to his new friend whom he made through school.  My Ex and I were the only adults at the table with the boys who were aged 10-12 years old.

During the meal of this gathering, one boy approached another boy and began bullying him.  I knew that both boys were brothers and passed judgment on them that they probably behave in such ways in private, much as I often see older brothers do with younger brothers.  My son, who was sitting next to the younger boy who was being bullied by his older and bigger brother, told him to “stop bullying.”  The boy who was being bullied completed the catch phrase – “speak up” – that has been seen on an anti-bullying TV commercial.  The older boy told my son to “shut up” as he messed with his younger brother, the older boy physically pushing his younger brother on his head.  My son stood up to the older boy, and he backed down and walked away from them.

During this interaction, I told my son from across the table not to get involved.  First, we were new to the group and did not really know the nuances of the interactions between the boys.  Secondly, I was concerned for my son’s safety, and did not desire for him to be hurt in some way by the older, bigger boy.  My son, however, knows what it is like to be bullied, and he does not like it.  He knows that I generally stand up to bullying, and I can see that my efforts have had a positive effect on him.

I later kissed and hugged my son for his involvement in stopping the bullying that occurred.  I told my son that I was very proud of him.  I also explained my reasons to him for not wanting him to get involved, however he saw that bullying is bullying, no matter who it is directed toward.  He did not want to see it happening, and he took a stand against and stopped it.  While he was uncomfortable about the situation, he was also proud of himself – and rightly so – that he could help someone and make a positive difference for him.  The situation also boosted his confidence level.  He was able to help the underdog, as he has all too often been in many situations, especially in school as well as within this boys’ organization on a broader scope.

In the past, I have also stood up against bullying – not within this individual boys’ organization in which we are new – but within other groups associated with this national boys’ organization.  The organization is supposed to promote goodness, kindness, and Christianity among the boys.  And, when a mom such as myself does not see that happening – and when my son also does not observe it occurring – we have stood up, made our voices heard, and taken steps to attempt to stop the bullying – not only among the boys, but also among adults, as well.  Sometimes, we have been successful, but most times, we have not.

Even so, the experience that my son had in standing up to and stopping bullying is a small victory.  Not only is it a victory for the boy who was being bullied by his older brother, it is a victory for my son, too.  He can place himself in the shoes of another person who is being bullied because he has all too often been bullied by so many.  The amount of bullying that he has experienced is incredible.

Now, at 10, my son is at an age where he feels confident enough to actually stand up to bullying.  When I did not want to stand up to bullying, he did.  That is also a victory for me, as well – my own son stood up to and stopped bullying.  I have taught him something, standing up for the right thing; and for that, I am very proud of him and know that I have made a positive difference in his life. 🙂

Note: This article has also been published, separately, in my anti-bullying group in LinkedIn, “People Against Retaliation and Bullying” on December 27, 2013.

“On Being a Reluctant Catholic” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Female Praying Hands with Rosary (Retrieved from http://rachelhelie.com/?p=404 , December 23, 2013)

Female Praying Hands with Rosary (Retrieved from http://rachelhelie.com/?p=404 , December 23, 2013)

For the past few years, especially, I have been and would consider myself a reluctant Roman Catholic.  There are many reasons for this, as I will reflect upon herein; and these are thoughts and feelings that I have personally encountered and coped with in the past, as well.  While I do have my own internal, personal struggles with being Roman Catholic, I have always returned to the same realization after much introspection and contemplation – to remain Roman Catholic.  I am sure that the internal struggles that I feel about being Roman Catholic will not just go away, and in fact, they seem to increase with time.  However, for now, I continue to remain Roman Catholic, whether more or less involved as I have been in the past.  My religion and spirituality are a strong part of who I am as a person, and are not things about myself that I take lightly.  And so, serious understanding, thought, awareness, introspection, and consideration are concerns that I bring to my own table in contemplating what being Roman Catholic means for me.

I was born, baptized, and raised Roman Catholic in the Greater Buffalo Area of New York State.  My mother is of purely Polish descent, and was born and raised Roman Catholic.  When my parents married, my dad converted from being a nonpracticing Quaker to Roman Catholicism.  My mother, especially, and my dad, often, attended weekly mass on a regular basis even before I was born.  Therefore, it was a sure thing that I would become Roman Catholic, being indoctrinated in the ways of Roman Catholicism.  It was an expectation that, as the offspring of my parents, I would be Roman Catholic.  My mother made sure that my brother and I received religious education.  We attended public school, and so, took religious education classes every Sunday before going to mass since religion is not taught in public schools.  We both attended religion classes at my hometown church and school from our ages of 5-16.

Even at a young age, the thing that struck me the most about Roman Catholicism was that there were few female role models in my church, and even fewer who were visible, appreciated, or recognized in any way.  Certainly, in the parochial school in my hometown, there were nuns who were principals and teachers, however I did not attend Catholic school and did not regularly experience women’s leadership involvement in my religion.  I attended religious education classes for one hour each Sunday, and went to mass for one hour each Sunday.  Therefore, it was the men in the leadership positions of the church whom I always saw, and who were always prominent in speaking, performing mass, and being at the forefront of the faith.

As a young girl, these experiences caused me to feel that the male leaders of the church were out-of-touch with children.  Of course, they spoke about God, Jesus, His family, and His followers, and how we should love Jesus, however their words always seemed so far away.  They seemed to preach about what they did not practice.  Jesus showed the example of being caring and compassionate for children, but I did not observe any of them being that way.  They did not know how to interact with children, how to appreciate children, how to respect children, how to relate with or reach children.  They were – and, often, still are – out-of-touch.  There was alot more spiritual need that I had as a child that went unrecognized, unnurtured, ignored.  As a result, I felt invisible and unappreciated by the male leadership of the church when I was a child.  They did not know, understand, or care about me.  They preached what they did not practice.  How is a young girl supposed to gain respect for those who are so distinctly separate from her?

When I was five or six, I had my weekly religion class with Sister Mary.  Sister Mary was a very young nun who always dressed in her habit, and who was a role model for me.  She was kind and caring to children, especially to me.  I was one who wanted to stay after class and help Sister Mary clean the chalk boards.  I had alot of questions for Sister Mary who probably thought I was more of a chatterbox.  She seemed to look for reasons for me not to remain after class to talk with her, however I ignored and overlooked her hints, and asked more questions.  Always, she was very kind, compassionate, and understanding.  To me, she always had the right answers, could relate with me, and placed me at ease and at peace.  The next fall, it broke my heart to learn that Sister Mary had been relocated.  I never saw her again.  Sister Mary was like an angel to me – and worse, an angel who had been ripped away from me.  I cried over the loss of my relationship with Sister Mary.  I needed a female role model to look up to, and to whom to ask all of my curious questions, and she was gone.

I never got that feeling back about anyone in a leadership position in the church even coming close to understanding me, as a person, until I took my Confirmation classes with the deacon of my hometown church.  Deacon Louis was extremely knowledgeable, and also very upbeat and enthusiastic about Roman Catholicism and people’s individual spirituality.  I told Deacon Louis that I was interested to learn more about the Rosary, and that I wanted to pray the Rosary but did not know how.  Deacon Louis provided me with a beautifully-pictured and colored pamphlet about how to pray the Rosary.  Wow!  For once, someone who actually listened to me – amazing!  As time progressed, I learned that Deacon Louis was very understanding and respectful about individuals’ faith and spiritual development.  Again, I privately spoke with Deacon Louis and let him know that I was contemplating a few saints to be my patron saint at Confirmation.  He made photocopies of a few pages of a book for me that he had about the saints that I had identified to him.  Based on that information that he provided to me, I chose my patron saint, St. Joan of Arc.  I had a great respect for Deacon Louis.  He was a man who was married and who had three daughters; he understood me and my need for faith and spiritual fulfillment in my religion.

Throughout my life, I have always tried to reach out to priests in the churches that I have attended and/or those in which I have been a member.  In most cases, I have not had good experiences in that the men seem unable to relate with or understand my experiences as a woman.  Most priests are extremely uncomfortable in speaking with me, as a woman, about women’s issues and traumatic life experiences, for examples.  Even less so, most are unable to understand and relate with me about relationship, marital, divorce, children’s, and even career and financial issues.  They often seem to feel threatened by or unable to cope with such topics.  One expects to go to a priest for support and guidance, and when it is not received, it may lead to one questioning his or her faith.  It makes me wonder if they are simply like most men who, when faced with a problem, want to “fix” it; or if they are truly unable to relate with or understand the issues that women, children, and families face.  Certainly, fixing problems is good, however there are often times when women simply want to talk out and vent their concerns, seeking emotional support; most priests seem to be unable to understand and provide that.  For these reasons, I have learned that it is often better not to approach priests with such issues because they are typically unable to understand about and relate to them with me, at least on a personal level.

In my mid to late 20’s, I seriously contemplated becoming a nun in the Roman Catholic Church.  As a person with a strong religious faith and who was single with no committed intimate partner in sight, I thought that religious life might be suitable for me.  I sought to understand whether or not I had “received a call” from God to become a religious.  I was a member of two Roman Catholic Singles groups in Western New York State, and had opportunities for interactions with many religious, both women and men.  In this capacity, I also learned more about religious life and took several opportunities to go on religious retreats with my peers.  I participated in one weekend retreat at a convent in Cheektowaga, New York.  I also personally interviewed with a nun at the convent in Athol Springs, New York.

While both of these experiences increased my faith and spirituality, they did not convince me to pursue religious life.  In fact, they did the opposite.  At the first convent that I went to, I saw women who appeared to do much praying and sitting.  Most of the women were older or elderly, and many did not have the medical assistance they needed.  It seemed that the convent was more like one big dormitory building for women of the same faith who prayed alot.  I did not see their good works, but only saw them living amongst each other in lives that caused them to be excluded from society at large.  I similarly observed and felt this at the second convent where I interviewed.  The elderly woman who interviewed me did so in her small bedroom.  She appeared to have no family, no nothing.  To me, she appeared to have lived an empty and solitary life, and was very much unappreciated.

After more thought, I realized that I did not want any of what I observed at the convents.  I felt sorry for these women, and angry at the Roman Catholic Church for requiring them to make such huge sacrifices in their lives.  I was also upset that the Church required priests to be single.  I did not believe that was fair, or took basic human nature into serious consideration.  It seemed to me that the Church wanted fewer people for which to pay simply by requiring that religious did not have families.  Conversely, I desired the opportunity to be married and have a family.  I also realized, after more thought, that I was pursuing religious life for some of the wrong reasons.  I had experienced a traumatic experience at college as an undergraduate, and pursuing religious life was a way of escaping from it.  I realized that, and decided to deal with it – and did.

As a woman in the Roman Catholic Church, I also realized all of the limitations on and misjudgments about women that it practices.  The Roman Catholic Church is often extremely rigid and insensitive toward people and understanding the basic needs of people.  Certainly, there are many wonderful things that the Catholic Church does in helping and supporting people throughout the world.  I have also received assistance and support from the Roman Catholic Church, but this has only begun being received after having been a member of the faithful for 41 years.  Most people cannot wait 41 or more years before some of their basic needs are met; they would be dead, otherwise.

The Roman Catholic Church is also extremely patriarchal.  Women are excluded from high-ranking positions in the church.  Women are not allowed to be priests or deacons, bishops or cardinals, or popes.  Even if a Roman Catholic woman becomes a priest, she is often not recognized or supported by her followers.  Women – often but for the Virgin Mary – are viewed in a negative light in Roman Catholicism.  After all, followers are typically taught that it was Eve who led to Adam’s downfall, and the resulting exit from Paradise.  There are different versions of this story that place equal responsibility on both Adam and Eve for being removed from Paradise, though those are the stories that one does not hear and that are not taught in the faith.  Whether consciously or unconsciously women are, therefore, blamed and condemned by the Roman Catholic Church.

Additionally, the Roman Catholic Church is also sexist.  In viewing Jesus’ mother, Mary, as a virgin and placing her virginity on a pedestal, the Roman Catholic Church has elevated a woman to a position in the natural world that is unrealistic for all other women.  Certainly, virginity and chastity are important for women, however they are also ideals that are not realistic.  Often, for example, the Roman Catholic Church does not hold the same ideals for men, and this leads to a sexist double standard.  Such standards are biased and unfair.  Further, the many prayers and recitations in the Roman Catholic Church are sexist because they are not gender neutral, therefore excluding and purposely ignoring the need for increased rights, equality, and freedoms of women within the Church.

The Roman Catholic Church is also sexist in regard to its views regarding abortion.  I am a Roman Catholic for whom the choice for life is extremely important, however I also understand that it is important to provide choice, as well.  As a person who has only had one pregnancy, and who has never had any abortions or miscarriages, I believe in the value or life, though I also support the importance of choice.  It must be understood that there are situations and experiences that girls and women have that may be traumatic, out of their control, and/or life-threatening.  The are other situations in which females simply decide against continuing their pregnancy.  Women and girls must have opportunities for choice in whether or not to give birth to children.  It is wrong when the Roman Catholic Church preaches about life, but then, does not provide support or assistance to girls or women who are in need of it.  And, what about the male who has caused a pregnancy to occur?  Typically, the Roman Catholic Church does not hold males accountable to a role of responsibility when women and/or girls whom they impregnate obtain abortions.  Again, the responsibility is usually all upon the female, and the male is absolved of responsibility.  The female, again, is often blamed, stigmatized, and lacks support she needs in the very place that should provide it.

In marriages in which there is difficulty, abuse, or domestic violence, Roman Catholic priests are not consistent in their views regarding what steps should be taken to either maintain or dissolve the marriage.  Such views contribute to confusion and increased sexism in the Roman Catholic Church.  Some priests maintain the view that the wife and children must be subservient to the male, whom they view as the head of the household and the absolute, all-powerful leader of the family.  Such a view is harmfully patriarchal, and in fact, can contribute to a worsening of the situation in which the victims continue to be victimized, blamed, and unsupported.  Men should not necessarily be believed or obeyed at all costs, or it could cost one her life.  (Then, of course, people will ask why she did not just leave the marriage.)   On the other hand, there are priests who encourage marital counseling for a couple who is in trouble, however none of those with whom I have ever interacted are qualified to provide it.  First, they are not licensed counselors, nor do they have experience in marriage, or in having a wife and family of their own.  Then, there are those priests who say that if counseling does not help and if the situation is so bad, then divorce is the best option.  Wait, I thought marriage was supposed to be forever.  Sometimes, however, no matter how much a woman may try to improve and maintain her marriage, divorce is the only viable alternative that remains, whether it is initiated by her spouse or herself.

There is also the issue of homosexuals in the Roman Catholic Church.  I am an individual who is and who always has been heterosexual, though I recognize that there is a need in the Roman Catholic Church to provide support and equality to all peoples, including those who are homosexual.  I am also one who believes that marriage should be – notice that I said “should be” – between a man and woman, though I recognize this as one of my values because this is what I was taught.  I also take care not to impose my values about this issue onto others.  Therefore, I maintain the view that marriage should be between two partners who love and are fully committed to each other, for the benefit of themselves and their families, if they have them.  Therefore, I believe that the Roman Catholic Church should not exclude or condemn individuals who are homosexual, nor create guilt in them or cause them to feel sinful simply because of their sexual orientation.

Further, there are many experiences that I have had in the Roman Catholic Church – a church that promotes Jesus and Christianity – that have been extremely unchristian.  Within individual Roman Catholic churches, schools, groups, and/or organizations affiliated with it, there have been a great number of situations I have had in which people who contend to be Catholic and Christian behave in decidedly unchristian ways, in ways of which Jesus would not approve.  There are many Roman Catholics who are basically hypocrites because they preach about and say they believe what they actually do not practice.

As an example of such hypocrisy, a number of Roman Catholic men throughout my life (both as a child and as a woman) have been sexually harassing (or worse) of me, and have outright wanted to have an affair with me, even though they are married and/or we were both married to other spouses at those times.  I am a person who has never – I repeat, never – had an affair with any man.  Even in a difficult (to say the least) marriage in which there were temptations to be unfaithful, I remained faithful to my then-spouse.  I have also turned down every man who has wanted to have an affair with me.  I understand that he is seeking something temporary and for his own gratification, and does not understand the seriousness or implications that having an affair would create on himself, his wife, and his children.  The Roman Catholic Church and society must teach men to be faithful to their wives and families, even when times are tough.  When times are tough, it is taking the easy way out to throw in the towel regarding one’s marriage and commitment.  More instruction and better role models are needed for Roman Catholic men (and all men) in regard to maintaining and developing healthy marriages, at least from my perspective.

Another major issue in the Roman Catholic Church is abuse and sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and/or harassment by priests toward female and male congregants, particularly those who are younger and/or who are in positions of vulnerability.  In churches and dioceses throughout the United States, in Ireland, and elsewhere, there have been numerous instances of sexual abuse by priests.  While I have not personally experienced sexual abuse by any priests in the Roman Catholic Church, I do know of those who have and those who have perpetrated abuse that was unrecognized by the greater congregation and not at all addressed, corrected, or resolved by higher level diocesan church leaders.  Such abuses have ripe ground to occur in such a closed, structured, hierarchical organization of men who all too often have ignored, overlooked, and not considered the seriousness of the situations.  Instead, and all too often again, abusive priests are ushered along to different parishes where they continue and/or escalate their abuses, and/or continue them unrecognized.  Certainly, there are many good priests, and those who perpetrate abuses give a bad name to those who do not.  And, the Roman Catholic Church has implemented serious steps at preventing future abuses, as one good thing that has come from these situations, however they do continue to occur.  Such abuses by priests have caused many followers to leave the faith, and to lose hope in the very people who are supposed to be Christ-like.  I personally know of several people who have left Roman Catholicism because of these issues – such issues that should never occur.

Because of all of these experiences that I have had as a Roman Catholic, and more, I have become a reluctant Roman Catholic.  In the past couple of years, I have actively sought out and have considered other faiths.  All of the faiths that I have considered are still within Christianity, though they have been either less Catholic or more Protestant than Roman Catholicism.  In these faiths, however, I have found many issues that are similar to those I have encountered in the Roman Catholic Church.  Certainly, in some faiths, women have higher positions of power and might actually be the highest leader of their faith, however I observe that being practiced to the most minimal extent in the area where I live around Atlanta, an area that is mostly Baptist and thus, also highly patriarchal based on related religious and cultural views.  Also, in other faiths, the Virgin Mary is not held in nearly the same regard as she is in Roman Catholicism.  While Roman Catholics may place her on a pedestal and view her unrealistically in regard to virginal expectations of women in society, she is completely absent in some other faiths, leaving me with a feeling that I could become a member of such a faith, but that is the only thing holding me back – that faith’s exclusion of Mary as the Mother of Jesus.

So, I always return to the same crossroads – do I remain Roman Catholic or do I convert to another faith?  While there are many things in Roman Catholicism with which I disagree and do not support, I always reach the same answer – to remain Roman Catholic.  The most important part of my decision always includes that I am a faithful follower and believer in Jesus.  I might not agree with many of the practices of Roman Catholicism, however I do believe in the teachings of Jesus.  I have always come to the conclusion that I can pray for myself, and my friends and enemies.  I can pray that the eyes of those who have sight but who are blind can be opened.  I can work to do more to bring awareness about the importance and value of women and children in the Church, rather than support the male leadership’s exclusion of them.

I recognize that I am one who is not content to simply accept the rigid, patriarchal, and sexist nature of the Roman Catholic Church, but who is one who strives to bring increased equality and support to marginalized groups, including women and children.  While Blessed Teresa and Pope Francis, for examples, are excellent role models within the Roman Catholic Church, and have brought much compassion and support to people around the world, I, personally, continue to experience much rigidity, patriarchy, sexism, and inequality in my faith.  I doubt that the Roman Catholic Church will ever provide full equality, understanding, or acceptance in the Church for women, and while I am intolerant of that, I do accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  Thus, I continue to remain a reluctant Roman Catholic, and will likely revisit this issue at many points throughout the remainder of my life.  I place my faith in God that He will continue to guide me on the path that is right for me.

“‘Team Greiner’: UB’s Champions” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Me with Carol and Bill Greiner at UB Graduation, Amherst, New York, May 1993

Me with Carol and Bill Greiner at UB Graduation, Amherst, New York, May 1993

When I think of Carol and Bill Greiner, I have fond memories of my interactions with them while I was an undergraduate student at the University at Buffalo (UB).  Studying psychology, political science, and music performance at UB for three and one-half years provided me with many opportunities for interactions with the Greiners.  It enriched my life to have them there, to be excellent role models, to experience their interest in and compassion for students.  As I walk down my nostalgic memory lane, I can accept and be happy with the interactions that I had with the Greiners at many university events, though I will always feel a sense of “unfinished business” due to the things that I was unable to bring myself to say to them.

For that, I wish I had been more mature, more open, more able to trust that I would receive a response from them that I desired.  Of all of the wonderful events and experiences that I had as a student at UB, there was one situation that occurred about which I was unable to speak with them – being the victim of a crime on campus.  I still wish I could have had more time to speak with them, and be able to open up to Carol about it, in particular, but at the time, it was too recent, too painful, too embarrassing and humiliating.  It took me years to fully address and come to terms with what had occurred, and to receive the support that I needed.  And, it was years later when I was able to disclose to Carol, anonymously, about my experience, which was helpful, but still not the same as speaking about it in person.

Something in me needed Carol to know what I experienced; I had hoped the Greiners might be able to implement programs or policies that would have better-protected students such as myself who had experienced what I did.  Never having shared about what it was provided no potential for change, improvement, or support for other UB students who had the same experience.  Perhaps, one day, I will not feel that sense of regret and loss about being unable to speak with the Greiners about the traumatic and life-changing crime that I experienced in my last semester as an undergraduate student at UB.

I first met Bill Greiner when he was the University Provost and I was a freshman, just taking flight as a student at UB.  He was at an event that welcomed students who were new to UB; my parents were there too, and my mom encouraged me to speak with him, and I did.  At first, I was intimidated about speaking with him, though when I did, he made me feel comfortable and welcome; he made me feel understood, appreciated, and respected.  The highlight of the event, in fact, was personally speaking with Bill.  I still remember the confidence he instilled in me in only a few minutes of conversation that I would do well and be successful at UB; I appreciated that.

Within two years, Bill was appointed President of UB.  That semester, I saw and spoke with him again at Homecoming.  At that time, the Homecoming parade was organized at the Main Street Campus in Buffalo, and the floats were driven to the Amherst Campus.  I was a representative of the UB Irish Club for Homecoming that year, in 1991; and was pleased to see and speak with Bill there.  His presence reflected his interest in and concern for students; that was evident and obvious, and again, was something for which I was appreciative.  As time progressed, I determined that these qualities were infused in his character and personality.  He did not just go to some rare event on occasion; he was actively involved in attending and participating in UB events, many of them, jointly, with Carol.

That year and the next, I saw both Bill and Carol at the Homecoming football games; and I saw and/or spoke with Bill on at least three other occasions on the Amherst Campus during my last semester.  On one occasion, I saw him while he was being interviewed in the Plaza by a TV reporter; on a second, I overcame my nervousness and visited Bill at his office, taking many gladioli from my family garden; and on the third, I spoke with him as we happened to be leaving Capen Hall at the same time one evening.  ‘Team Greiner’ was always there, doing more than their part to make UB even more of a success.

The Greiner Family, Susan with Husband, Daniel with Wife, Bill and Carol, Stephen with Wife, Terry with Partner, September 1992

The Greiner Family on Bill’s Inauguration Day as UB President; Susan with Husband, Daniel with Wife, Bill and Carol, Kevin with Wife, Terry with Partner; Sept. 1992

In my last semester at a senior at UB, Bill was inaugurated as President, and I saw alot more of the Greiners.  In fact, I saw them at so many events that I looked forward to seeing and speaking with them, and I actually expected them to be at the events that I attended.  It seemed that everywhere I went, ‘Team Greiner’ was there, too.  The supportive actions of Bill and Carol toward UB, and the students, faculty, and staff were warmly-welcomed and appreciated by so many.

In September 1992, Bill’s Inauguration Week as President of UB provided opportunities not only to speak with Bill and Carol, but also to experience the happiness and joy of those events with them.  There was a Roman Catholic Mass performed at St. Joseph’s Church, right next to the UB Main Street Campus in Buffalo to essentially “kick off” Inauguration Week.  I made every effort to attend because it had been the night before that I had experienced crime victimization at UB; I was already traumatized from it, but did not realize or deal with it.

Additionally, at St. Joseph’s Church following the mass, I was also able to meet and speak with certain other members of the Greiner Family, including his sons and their wives and/or significant partners.  It was wonderful to have the feeling that the qualities of both care and compassion so evident in Carol and Bill had also been transferred to their admirable offspring.  In speaking with their adult children, one immediately knew that they did a fine job at parenting.

Me with Greiners at UB Christmas Concert, Amherst, New York, December 1992

Me with Greiners at UB Christmas Concert, Amherst, New York, December 1992

As Bill’s Inauguration Week progressed, I attended what I recall as being a symphonic concert on campus to celebrate his achievement; it was beautiful.  And, I also attended Bill’s Inauguration as the 13th President of UB, an event for which I remember arriving very early because I wanted my choice selection of seat, as well as to scope out the best locations to take pictures to add tangibility to my fond memories.  Again, I had opportunities to see and speak with members of the Greiner Family.

Following the actual Inauguration was a reception that was held in the new Student Union building, one of many major projects that Bill influenced and completed at UB.  By this time, I really felt a connection with the Greiner’s and their family.  I had seen and interacted with them at several events, and believed that I could trust being more openly, emotionally vulnerable with them.  I had particularly wanted to share about the crime that I had experienced only a few days prior to the Inauguration.  I tried to do so at the reception, separately, with Carol, and with Terry, one of the Greiners’ sons, but I could not bring myself to do it.  I had psyched myself up for it, but talked myself out of doing it, and have always regretted it; it was just too painful and traumatic.

As someone who was active in numerous UB clubs and groups, including ethnic/language-related groups and student government, I received invitations to attend the Student Association’s Christmas parties for two consecutive years, in 1991 and 1992.  On both of those occasions, I saw Bill and Carol, but spoke with them only at the second such event.  By then, three more months had passed, and I had mentally-buried and not dealt with the crime that I had experienced.  It was also at this event that I asked Bill if he would write a recommendation for me.  He asked me to see that he received my resume, said that he would write a recommendation for me, and he did.  I still have and cherish it.

Prior to finishing the last of my classes as an undergraduate student at UB in December 1992, I again saw and spoke with Carol and Bill at a Christmas Concert, held in the Ellicott Complex, my group of dormitory buildings on the Amherst Campus.  Following the Christmas Concert, Carol was very warm toward me, much as always, and spoke with me about alot in a short time.  She made me feel important, valued, and accepted; she showed to me much warmth, understanding, and compassion, like one would receive from a good mother, and much as I do with my own son.

I felt such a connection with Carol during our conversation, and remember wishing that it could last forever.  I needed the warmth and compassion of someone; and I privately thanked God for her, and for her to have treated me as kindly and lovingly as she did.  Interestingly, Bill was somewhat of a sour puss that evening and I could tell that he did not want to talk, though I did not allow that to dampen my happy holiday spirits.  I remember wondering how anyone could seem so grouchy after such a wonderful and festive holiday concert.  It was a different side of him that I had not yet experienced and had not expected, but accepted on that occasion.

The last time that I interacted with the Greiner’s was when I returned to UB for my graduation in May 1993.  I had completed my coursework for my two baccalaureate degrees in December, moved to and was working in Manhattan, and came back to participate in the graduation ceremonies.  I’m glad that I did, and I have many wonderful memories of celebrating my accomplishment with many of my student colleagues as well as my family.  Seeing the Greiners again at this event showed me how much I had grown in a few months of having finished my studies, though it also left me with a longing and nostalgia for maintaining a connection with them.  It was difficult and painful to let go.

The final time that I saw the Greiners was at SUNY Day in Albany in 1999.  SUNY Day is a day that is arranged for student delegates of State University of New York system to go Albany, New York – the state capitol – to meet and speak with state government representatives, receive tours of their offices, and hear lectures.  At the time, I was taking undergraduate courses at Buffalo State College to complete my social studies teacher certification, and I was a student government representative to the event.

It was at SUNY Day that I met former Assembly Member Sam Hoyt from Buffalo; he invited me to intern in his Buffalo office, and I later did, having an outstanding experience.  It was also on this occasion that I only saw Bill and Carol from a distance in a conference room as I was already seating in the back with my group when they entered with several UB student athletes.  It was good to see them again, if only from a distance, and to know that ‘Team Greiner’ was still hard at work for UB.

I lost touch with the Greiners many years ago.  They were people with whom I had hoped to maintain a connection, and to share about the traumatic crime that I had experienced.  There was one occasion more than four years after I was victimized that I got the courage to go to the Greiners’ home.  At the time, I worked just down the street from them at Key Bank.

This time, I had resolved that I would tell them about it, and had hoped and prayed that they would welcome me, but they were not at home.  They had the power and influence to make change at UB to help other students who were survivors of traumatic crimes that occurred on campus, as well as to help see that such crimes were prevented and students were educated about them.  I never got the chance to share my ideas with them.

Around that time, and due to being unable to speak with the Greiners about my concerns, I decided to take my concerns to their son, Terry, at his office in Buffalo.  I am an individual who likes to get things accomplished, and to do so personally, and therefore, my aim was to personally-share information with him about what I experienced and request that there could be some way that improvements related to it could be made for other students at UB who had the same or similar experiences.  It took so much courage and initiative for me to go to Terry’s office, but he turned me away, did not speak with me, and did not accept me into his office.  I was devastated, and felt re-victimized all over again.

I do, however, fondly remember the many events and interactions that I shared with Carol and Bill; and I prefer to remember those.  At the time of my writing of this article, it will have been nearly four years since Bill’s death.  When I read the news about his passing in the UB alumni magazine, it was unexpected and saddening.  To Carol, I mailed a sympathy card, expressing my condolences.  I am sure that such a great man is missed by those who knew him, especially his family, who took priority in his life, much as family should.

So, I would like to think – at this time of the holidays – that Bill is looking down over us and helping us to spread holiday cheer to each other.  I would like to think and remember that he would have been right in the mix of all that, and would not have missed it for anything.  Thanks, ‘Team Greiner,’ for all you have done for me, and for all of your unfathomable support to UB.  You are UB’s unsurpassed champions! 🙂

References:

“Bill Greiner.”  Wikipedia, 2013.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Greiner

DellaContrada, J. (2009).  William R. Greiner Dies.  Buffalo, NY: UB – University at Buffalo: News Releases.

State University of New York at Buffalo Graduation, May 1993.  Buffalo, NY.

Special Note:

This article was also published by both the UB Alumni Association on LinkedIn (December 2013).  Mountain View, CA: LinkedIn; and by the State University of New York at Buffalo business group on LinkedIn (December 2013).  Mountain View, CA: LinkedIn.

“Children Need Advocacy and Support, not Ignorance and Punishment” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Not a day goes by that I am amazed and disappointed by the lack of insight and support that many people have regarding children.  Even in regard to people who one might believe are trained in child development and education may be completely oblivious to realizing that their words and behaviors are unsupportive of, and in many cases, detrimental toward children.  What children in our world need – especially those who may have special considerations, including disabilities – is advocacy, understanding, and support rather than ignorance, misunderstanding, and punishment.

When people in child development, education, and other fields are rigid and unbelieving about the needs of children – and who, in fact, do not have an understanding of children that is in the child’s best interests – children suffer in many ways and can be placed at great risk in many cases.  In medical and healthcare fields, individuals are supposed to do their best to ‘do no harm’ and adhere to the Hippocratic Oath.  While the medical field, however, often practices from a perspective of illness, the counseling field strives to recognize people from a view of wellness.  An illness or disease is not the person; but rather, it is the person who must be supported in a view of wellness in order to improve or recover from illness.

Educators, child care specialists, and others – including parents – need to have a wider view of what is best for children.  In cases of highly contentious and adversarial divorces, for example, psychological evaluations and/or assessments of the parties involved, may be ordered by a judge.  In such cases, by today’s standards, these reports, typically made by an unbiased psychologist, provide judges and attorneys with a more clear perspective of family relationships and parenting.  Thus, people in the legal field recognize that they may not have the training needed to make such unbiased evaluations.  They rely on psychologists to ethically and professionally perform them so that the best interests of the child are maintained.

Unfortunately, and to the detriment of children, not everyone recognizes that they do not have the insight or training needed to work in and make decisions that are in the best interests of children.  From my knowledge and experiences regarding many schools, particularly those in the South, individuals in education are quick to punish, including for minor issues, and may not realize that they do not have the insight necessary to best support children and do what is best for children.  Exercise as punishment (such as being made to walk or run laps outside, including in high temperatures) and lengthy detentions (including 30-60 minute lunch/recess detentions), particularly for insignificant issues, and issued toward children, do not resolve, but compound issues, making children potentially distrustful, disrespecting of, and hopeless about school officials.  (I know of at least four schools in my immediate area where these are practices.) 

These situations are compounded and worsened regarding children who have special needs.  Sometimes, it appears to be the children and/or parents who are blamed in situations in which school officials promise support and accommodation to such children, however they may just be going through the motions and not adequately or effectively be meeting such needs.  And, punishments toward children have been shown in research to be ineffective; truly, they may only serve to increase distrust and resentment in children toward adults who are supposed to have their best interests in mind, but who, in fact, do not.

In some situations, an array of psychological evaluations and assessments may be provided to educators that address children’s special needs – and parents may inform school teachers and leaders about what is best for their child – however, for whatever reasons, school teachers and officials may simply be ignorant about such needs, may not follow the suggestions of professional evaluations or parent recommendations, and may completely misjudge the situations.  Doing this places some children with special needs in greater danger and at higher risk for worse outcomes and situations at school.  Through the school officials’ own lack of insight – and in some cases – lack of compassion and motivation to learn, grow, and develop – children are, in fact, harmed by their ignorance and lack of support, and in some cases, are blamed and punished due to it – the pitfall of blaming the victim.

When children with special needs are not sufficiently, nor positively accommodated in schools, great risk and danger may be imposed upon them due to others’ ignorance.  To some people, what is clear and obvious in certain situations goes completely unrecognized – and therefore, not at all addressed – in others.  What is worse in these situations is when people who are ignorant about these situations categorically deny that they have occurred and escalate already tense situations that may involve high emotions.  Such lack of insight and understanding reflects not only their ignorance, but their rigidity, inflexibility, and absolute refusal toward even having an interest at gaining any increased understanding about the issues or situations.  

Even those most highly-trained in supporting children may sometimes miss critical pieces of information, however this should be an indication to others that as much training and information is needed to enlighten themselves to children’s needs and what is in children’s best interests.  Additionally, because there is often the tendency in people to desire to perceive issues and situations in an optimistic manner, there should be an awareness of this so that critical issues about others are not missed and do not turn potentially tragic. 

In short, particularly when it comes to educating children, it is not acceptable to be clueless about and not practice what is in their best interests.  And, situations that are detrimental and potentially tragic to children that occur out of the ignorance of educators and school officials should not be escalated – but diffused – in the best interests of children. 

In my book, perhaps schools in which ignorance and a lack of support prevails toward children may be performing okay with some students, but they may also be harming those students who are most at risk.  Such characteristics, policies, and/or the lack of policies of schools become dangerous to children when people in education do not even realize that what is occurring is creating a potentially harmful or tragic situation for children.  Parents must be acutely aware of and insightful about such circumstances in order to advocate for and protect their children as much as possible, particularly in schools where everyone may not be on the same page about what is best for children.