Sometimes I'm painfully aware that it's the poor who are the saints among us.

Yvette has been out of prison five years. While she was locked up, her child support bill mounted to something like $40,000. Of course, Yvette couldn't find a job. A judge threw her in jail briefly, but the prosecutor didn't press new felony charges. Thank heavens for a bit of common sense prosecutorial discretion.

As best I can tell, Yvette has a borderline personality disorder. This means she doesn't really relate to other people; she sees us mostly as cardboard figures. She doesn't understand that what she says should be grounded in fact and not what comes to her mind at the moment. I'm pretty sure it seems true to her. Equally, she is forever taken in by the stories of others.

I bet she has had 30 jobs in the five years I've known her. She's gotten fired for transportation failure and she's misunderstood or disbelieved the bad intentions of some employers; but mostly she's been laid off, or they have been temp jobs she begins with high hopes of permanence. And always there's the lien on her salary for child support.

So she lives in a chaos that is partly of her own making. For example, a man rented her an apartment for a $300 deposit and $400 a month. He ran off with the money, and the owner (who was his sister) evicted Yvette the second day, leaving Yvette homeless and trying to move her belongings while keeping her job.

Then last month she was served papers changing a child support hearing date. But the papers were delivered to the boarding house where she had lived before she was conned by the faux apartment manager and evicted by the owner. The boarding house desk clerk accepted the legal papers -- no signature, no statement that she'd moved out.

So she missed the court date and had a warrant out for her arrest. An arrest would mean she'd lose her current job and apartment. But she needed $250 to pay the bondsman to stay out of jail until her next court date (for which she is going to miss a day's work).

I gave her the last $20 and drove her to the courthouse. I was mad on her behalf. It's the sort of stuff that happens to the poor. That's $250 she won't see again because of other people's careless disregard. But no, she said, she wasn't going to burden herself with bad thoughts against those people. They had to live with themselves. She wasn't going to carry their poor behavior in her mind.

Where did she get that $230? A brother gave her $100. A sister gave her $50. I'm not sure about the rest; I didn't press for details. I wouldn't have known if they were true anyway.

My point is that Yvette does the best she can to carry back-breaking burdens. She maintains a generous spirit. I, who have received many gifts, don't do as well.

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