When hardship comes good neighbors often reach out to help. And often that means bringing over a casserole. That’s a tangible and practical gesture — people have to eat, after all — but it’s usually also a signal, a somewhat clumsy way of saying and showing that we’re here for you, and we want to help even if we’re not entirely sure what we can do.
But who gets a casserole? That’s the brilliant question that church historian Heather H. Vacek says led to her book Madness: American Protestant Responses to Mental Illness. Vacek recently responded to John Fea’s terrific regular feature “The Author’s Corner,” describing what led her to write this book:
I’m curious about how religious beliefs shape practice, and in particular, how Christians respond — or fail to respond — to suffering. Working as a student chaplain at a state mental hospital a number of years ago, I realized Christian reactions to mental illness seemed more complicated than, for example, reactions to minor surgery or cancer treatment.
Early in my research about the history of Protestants and mental illness, I began to frame this reality with the question, “Who gets a casserole?” Thinking about typical modern congregations, it appeared individuals and families navigating cancer diagnoses were much more likely to receive support in the form of casseroles than those navigating acute or chronic mental illness. If Protestants profess to care for the well-being of bodies, minds, and souls, why did those living with mental illnesses often receive minimal attention? I found myself curious to know if the different reactions to mental and physical illnesses had always been the case, and so I set out to uncover Protestant responses throughout American history.
Vacek’s book looks like a fascinating exploration of that subject. Her research seems to have supported the general sense she gained from her work as a chaplain — confirming that, usually, those suffering from physical ailments get a casserole, while those suffering from mental illness are not regarded as meriting such warm neighborly support.
Her question — “who gets a casserole?” — also offers an insightful approach to a host of other topics beyond the important subject of mental illness. It can help us to better understand the unspoken limits of our neighborly impulses.
Americans — as a whole, and not just the Protestant subset Vacek focuses on — are generally willing to help when confronted with neighbors in new and urgent need. That’s good! But, unfortunately, there are limits on who it is we’re willing to help. Not everybody is perceived as casserole-worthy.
In discussing the stigma associated with mental illness, Vacek suggests two factors that tend to make us perceive others as undeserving of our casserole:
Both rising confidence in humankind’s ability to solve problems and the persistence of theological notions that connected mental maladies to sin deepened stigma and linked mental maladies with weakness and deviance, making Protestants reticent to respond.
Those we regard as sinners reaping the consequences of their sins are not seen as deserving help. But neither are those whose problems threaten our confidence in our ability to solve problems. In other words, we’re likeliest to want to help victims we perceive as unambiguously blameless and whose problems are unambiguously fixable.
The latter point is particularly interesting. That family who lost their home to fire, flood or tornado faces a hardship that we can clearly understand and that we know how to fix. They lost their home, so we can build them a new one. And once we do that, their problem will be fixed and we won’t have to worry about it anymore. But people whose problems are more chronic or enduring, whose problems don’t have such an obvious and final fix, are less likely to get a casserole.
Think, for example, about the way we tend to discuss the poverty of the “underclass” as something too vast and incomprehensible to ever be fixed. (That’s not true, but addressing such poverty would involve more effort and more resources than the relatively simple logistics of rebuilding after a tornado.) So the poor don’t get a casserole.
Or think about how both of these factors come into play when we’re confronted with neighbors in need due to physical or developmental disabilities. On the one hand, we’re willing to help them because they’re perceived as blameless. But when such help is unable to simply and completely fix the problem, we grow stingier, beginning almost to resent their stubborn refusal to be fixed. Thus something like the Americans With Disabilities Act was initially met with a great deal of popular support, but in the years since has become the focus of a backlash.
I’ve long thought about the way that stigmas of supposed sinfulness shape the reprehensible zombie lie of the “undeserving poor” that stunts American life. Poor people who are perceived as anything less than moral exemplars are constantly being condemned as unworthy of a casserole. But now Vacek has me thinking of how that other factor may play a role here — our reticence to respond to problems that aren’t quickly and conclusively fixable.
These things are tied together. Quite often, problems are complicated and intensified due to our refusal to deal with them because of supposed moral stigma. Consider the financial crisis of 2008, which ground the global economy to a halt and threatened to cast us all into a second Great Depression. As the implosion began, there was a clear and obvious solution to contain that crisis — a moratorium on foreclosures, an elimination of debts (in a word, Jubilee). That wasn’t some bleeding-heart liberal idea, but simply the most urgent pragmatic measure to mitigate the unfolding economic disaster. But that didn’t happen. The very idea of it, instead, gave birth to the tea party movement and a resurgent politics of resentment that — like the harm of the Great Recession — continues to this day. Our insistence that those with underwater mortgages weren’t morally deserving of our help made their problem exponentially more difficult to solve, and that difficulty in turn made us even more reluctant to attempt to solve it.
Over the next few years, as she became one of the go-to people in the state when it came to caring for those dying with AIDS, Burks would bury over 40 people in chipped cookie jars in Files Cemetery. Most of them were gay men whose families would not even claim their ashes.
“My daughter would go with me,” Burks said. “She had a little spade, and I had posthole diggers. I’d dig the hole, and she would help me. I’d bury them and we’d have a do-it-yourself funeral. I couldn’t get a priest or a preacher. No one would even say anything over their graves.”
She believes the number was 43, but she isn’t sure. Somewhere in her attic, in a box, among the dozens of yellowed day planners she calls her Books of the Dead, filled with the appointments, setbacks and medications of people 30 years gone, there is a list of names.
Burks said she always made a last effort to reach out to families before she put the urns in the ground. “I tried every time,” she said. “They hung up on me. They cussed me out. They prayed like I was a demon on the phone and they had to get me off — prayed while they were on the phone. Just crazy. Just ridiculous.”
She learned to say the funerals herself, after being rebuffed by preachers and priests too many times. Even so, she said she never doubted what she was doing. “It never made me question my faith at all,” she said. “I knew that what I was doing was right, and I knew that I was doing what God asked me. It wasn’t a voice from the sky. I knew deep in my soul.”
Subject Line: [Bulk] Personal Assistant Needed (part time job)
Addressed to me: No
( Scam body under fold )
This is a scam.
Firstly: "Brook Construction Company" doesn't appear to exist - there's quite a few entries in Google for "Brooks Construction Company" in the USA (all in Indiana, according to the map on Google), and one entry for Brook Construction (no "company") in Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador regions).
Secondly: The role of PA is not usually a "work from home" role - or at least, not "work from your own home". "Work from the boss's home", yeah, sure I can see that happening, but it's more likely to be an in-office role. Which means even if this were legit, and even if this were a genuine offer, you'd need to know where the company is based in order to take on the job. (At the very least, you'd need to know the time zone the company is based in - if this were genuinely a US company, as someone in zone GMT+8, I'd need to be working some very unusual hours indeed in order to hold down the job).
Thirdly: If this were a legitimate job offer, it would be on a legitimate job search website. It would not be sent out as a bulk email to random people on a spam mailing list. As always, in situations where economies have contracted and unemployment is high, the power is on the side of the employer - candidates go looking for them, they don't come looking for you unless you have some VERY specialised skill sets, or unless they know you personally and are aware you'd be a good fit.
Legitimate offers of employment generally come from people who have interviewed you - legitimate employers want to make sure you'd be a good fit in their corporate culture, and for a job such as Personal Assistant, there's the need to ensure you're not going to be a poor fit with that particular boss, too.
Fourthly: For a job opportunity, there's remarkably little information about what you're going to be required to do, and how many hours a week you're going to be required to do it. The weekly salary of $350 translates to $8.75 per hour for a standard 40 hour work week (which is, I think, slightly above US minimum wage, but well below the minimum wage here in Australia). So you'd need to know how many hours per week you're expected to work for that $350.
They also don't ask for any skills, and don't ask you to send in a resume. Why, it's almost as though they aren't interested in your skills at all. Which means there must be something else they're after.
Finally: The email addresses don't match up to the offer. The email address this is apparently from is the domain for a psychologist in Germany (and I suspect she's more than a little annoyed about having her email hijacked by spammers). The reply-to address is an AOL throw-away address. If you're dealing with a company large enough for the CEO to need a personal assistant (and let's be honest - the CEO's personal assistant would be a full-time role, not a part-time one) then you'd also expect to be dealing with a company large enough to handle having its own web presence, internal email, and domain.
Don't respond, don't apply, and don't expect to be seeing that $350 per week, either.
(I find with these sorts of things it helps to think of any monetary amounts as the scammer's minimum goal).
( ficbit for Maria/Steve internet friends )
Also: alphaflyer? Why did you give me Time Travel? Why? WHY? *sobs at the epic bunny that is eating all her clover*
* Golden, Colorado, which was on my mental map only because every Coors tv ad I used to hear mentions it, has a Nepalese restaurant called Sherpa House and Cultural Center. No gift shop, which disappointed Reason, but good dal and chana masala, which we needed much more.
* There is a cute yet earnest natural history museum in Morrison, a bit south of Golden. It marks where the first Tyrannosaurus rex remains were found in North America, if the sign's right, and houses fossil replicas, a live monitor lizard, a bull python, two turtles, and possibly two other snakes that may've been hiding. Animals whose direct ancestors were dinosaur contemporaries, see. There's also a place to help drill rock away from fossils and, if you are smaller, a sand box in which you can brush sand away from (deliberately seeded) shell bits and concrete replicas. Reason opted for the latter, then carefully covered everything up again so that the next little kids could have fun discovering them---her idea.
* And now Sirens, or rather, dinner then child's bath then Sirens, once I figure out where child and spouse went to read so that I could nap.
He scratched my hand pretty bad last night, is probably what it is. (He didn't like the noise I was making on the keyboard while engaging with Mettaton, and he attempted to put a stop to it.)
⌈ Secret Post #3200 ⌋
Warning: Some secrets are NOT worksafe and may contain SPOILERS.
( More! )
Secrets Left to Post: 01 pages, 009 secrets from Secret Submission Post #457.
Secrets Not Posted: [ 0 - broken links ], [ 1 - not!secrets ], [ 0 - not!fandom ], [ 0 - too big ], [ 0 - repeat ].
Current Secret Submissions Post: here.
Suggestions, comments, and concerns should go here.
Boss: Okay, you see this field we're at now. *hands me spray bottle of herbicide*
Me: *looks out at field abso-fucking-lutely full of invasive plants.* OH NO.
Boss: Nope, no, that's not the soul killing part.
Me: *questioning look*
Boss: We gotta walk by all of this without killing any off it. We gotta go to a different area to kill things. We can't stop and take ANY of this out.
Boss: It's ok to cry a bit.
Me, in 1985. Lordy begordy. LOL.
[Please share your own throwback pix in comments. Just make sure the pix are just of you and/or you have consent to post from other living people in the pic. And please note that they don't have to be pictures from childhood, especially since childhood pix might be difficult for people who come from abusive backgrounds or have transitioned or lots of other reasons. It can be a picture from last week, if that's what works for you. And of course no one should feel obliged to share a picture at all! Only if it's fun!]