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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Between a Rock and a Hard Place in New America

The signs are everywhere, I mean really. I cannot go from the library to the Ground Works Drop In without seeing at least three it seems. A lot of people are literally out there with signs. It is tough times, I know. I am ready to make a sign that says " I am so mad I made a sign! " I know it's been done before, but I can't help it.

My Girlfriend Andrea lives on the other side of Amherst MA in a nice town, kind of like ours. She is a hard working independent and dedicated Mom. She has her own household to care for with little support from Co-father, and she was curious about my previous postings here. Andrea has been great through my struggle and it smacks dab into what happens when something wild happens and finds one person out of work in The New America that it puts everyone close to them struggling a bit more. Andrea said she did not see where I had explained the whole situation and that I should. I said I thought it was mentioned in the "In a Pickle". But I will try and once again put out the struggle I have been in since late last year and the support that has kept me one step from..a Harder Place.

The story never changes, except I probably should go back a bit more. I was always born with bad hips and did not know this until my surgeon said he could actually hold my right one in his hands on January 5th 2015 at BMH. He said that I just happened to be a very small percentage of Caucasion boys that are born with this thing where when we go through our growing spurts around 12-14, some boys hips go South. I do remember having bad growing pains in 1979-1981 so when at 47 years old I was glad to get that taken care of. I was told I would have the left one done later in my 50's. Either way after 4 months I was back working. Eventually I was working a 37 hour "full time" job plus a 20 hour part time to help recoup some child support.

After some time I landed a good paying job at an employer here in B-boro that employs probably 85 plus people. I had to go through one of those temp to hire places but got hired on and really enjoyed it. Because of the way they run the operation, I worked 43 hours in 4 days. There was always extra days so instead of doing an extra job on straight time, I could pick up shifts here at time and a half.  In late November of last year i was dealing with some discomfort in my right leg, just in the front of the what felt like the femur or the muscle in front of it. I went in for x-rays and an appointment with my ortho surgeon. He told me what I had really feared, that the right hip replacement had not taken and it to go through a revision. He did say I could probably go a few months before it had to be done. This was a real situation I needed to be smart about. Start putting some meoney away after the Holidays and get to where I can put in for my vacation time and a small leave of absence. I did let H.R know and the G.M of the plant. Everyone knew and a plan was pretty much agreed upon. No big deal.

Just over a month later, on December 11th, 2016 I am working an extra shift trying to take care of Christams. I had been working 6 night a week for three weeks straight putting together a good Christmas for the Kids and I was loading a truck, which is not my usual job but being an extra shift you just fill in where you are asked. The product we make is place in trays and another tray is placed interlocking on it until the stack is about 7 feet tall and weighs areound 400#. They do have special dollies to handle manualing loading them. The 42' trailers back up to the dock, a dock plate is opened so we can load the product for shipping.

On this one door, the dock plate sticks up usually around a 4-6". I think the driver is responsible for letting out air in the bags of the trailer or raise the legs to level it, it is almost never done..either way I take the third rack and attempt to load it. When I hit the dock plate it stops me. I pulled back to get some momentum, pushing with my left leg, and get it to the top of the plate when it leans back into me and I struggle to get it over the last little and on the trailer when I feel my left hip buckle out of place. I overcame the situation an finished my shift, thinking that had I stayed in that position another second my good hip would have given in. I went home, showered and hit the sack. I had to be back for my 6th and last night in less than 12c hours.

When I got up I felt a bit more sore than my 49 year old body usually feels, but went in, worked my 10 hours and went home to enjoy my one whole day and night off before starting my normal shift. When I woke up I noticed right off that my left hip was in a lot of pain and was not the same. I called my employer and told them how I had displaced my hip early Sunday morning and I wanted to go and have it looked at. I went in and filled out the report while my Supervisor filled out his. I asked where they had these injuries looked at and went to thier Dr. I checked in and was taken for an x-ray of my left hip. I sat there for 3 hours waiting and hearing from nobody. Watching the clock tick closer to me having to meet my 6 year old off the bus and get to work.

Finally I had no choice but to go and let them know I really had to go and meet my daughter and get to work. I had been limping around not thinking this was a big deal. I told them I would come in the next day for the report and signed myself out. I met Maggie at the bus stop, went to work and two hours into my shift my Supervisor came and told me I had a call in the office. Puzzled I walked to the office and took the call. It was thier Dr. telling me I had fractured my left hip, that I was not to be weight bearing and i sure could not be at work, especially since I did it there!. I left, went to the Dr and picked up crutches, my x-rays and two notes saying I needed surgery and was out until I could be cleared. It was rather devaststing.

I had a plan.. I was going to pull off the Holidays ans fix my right hip and now I am told I need to leave work. I did all that was needed from me. I did the phone interview with the adjuster a week before Christmas, all was set, this was work related. Wrong. On January 3rd 2017 I get the denial of all Workers Comp benefits. I was floored! I had no idea what this all meant. A week later I am trying to explain to my landlord what I plan on doing. I have never been behind like this. My cell phone is shut off after having the same number for over 6 years because I always pay my cell phone. I am entering uncomfotable times with not knowing what to do. I went to work with the assurance, in the back of my mind, should I get injured on the job I am covered. But now I have an insurance company who in their expensive ad's say they are "On my side" is not going to cover this without a legal fight I cannot afford.

The extra monkey wrench was the fact that there was going to be no repair of the left hip until the right one was re-done. It would have to wait. The lawyers for the big insurance company are fighting to not pay a dime to this. It has been the support of friends, family, a couple community orginizations and some strangers. I cannot believe I am only $580 behind in rent and the lights are still on since I have not been able to make a paycheck in 5 months. I am getting closer to back to work, and boy have my eyes been open to the fact of life when you are a life long working individual between a rock and a hard place in this New America. I am still asking for some support to get me through this. I am scared to lose it all.

So, you may still donate to my home fund through the Drop In or mail a contribution to me: Joel Porter 60 South Main B-boro.          Or, if you see me flying my sign downtown that says "I am so mad I made this sign" just know that all help goes directly to keep me in my home with lights on. Thank you for any and all consideration, support and Good Thoughts. I will respond the best I can to all. Joel Porter.


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Hi Joel, We have never met,

Hi Joel,

We have never met, but I have seen your posts here, and have been meaning to respond and donate. I just set up an account, so that I could respond to you. I think that it is enormously challenging to ask for help and advocate on one's own behalf. I have admired your courage in asking for help so forthrightly and persistently. You have been a role model and inspiration to me.

I do care giving for work, and live a very simple life on a low income. Those of us who live on a low income are more vulnerable and more exposed to the stress of living in this country at this time. We live with the awareness that we are only a few unexpected circumstances away from becoming homeless ourselves.

It has gradually become my life's practice, to take compassionate action on a daily basis with whatever and whoever shows up in my life. As part of that practice, I try and give money to the people holding signs. But more importantly, I try to make eye contact, speak to them, and have a brief meaningful interaction. Most of the people asking for money, touch my heart with their gratitude.

I would encourage you to stand out there with a sign that summarizes your story. You could hand out copies of your ibratt posts. Better to be out there now, then ending up there later.

I think that it takes enormous courage to do what you are doing. One has to place oneself in a vulnerable position and expose the intimate details of one's life and predicament. (I appreciated how you shared your mistakes in one of your comments on another post.) One has to be able to face judgement and rejection from others, as well as feelings of inadequacy and shame from within oneself. And then one has to do it persistently again and again.

It would be great if someone with the means just paid all your rent and bills until you got back to work. It's interesting how help mostly comes through lots of people donating a little bit. I will drop some money off for you. And it would be nice to meet you in person, if you are home. Please keep giving updates. I wish you success. I saw that there is going to be a monthly column on compassion in the newspaper. Your story would be a good one for that column. Thanks again for modeling the path for me. I have some things that I am contemplating doing, that would entail my asking for help from others, too.

(my name is pronounced Ah-ren-na with a soft 'e')


Thanks Arena..truly.

Hi Arena, and thank you for that amazing response. I really do not know how respond myself. This has truly been one of the greatest challenges I have faced in a long time, and I have spent probably too much time going over it in my mind and where I messed up. But the more I look into things going on all over and the real struggles the majority of well meaning and hard working people, I realize I am not alone in how much things have changed for the worse. I have been working the better part of 30 years for myself and my family and I know for a fact that we, the struggling working class in America, are worse off today than we were back in say 1988. The one thing that really bothers me is that the insurance company my employer uses to cover workplace injuries makes it a practice of denying legit injuries. If they would have done what my employer expects of them, which is to make sure an employee who injures himself on the job is covered so that the only thing they need to worry about is healing as quickly as possible and get back to work without the added stress of staying in their home with the lights on. When I did receive the denial letter on January 3rd, it was like a whole other injury but this one brought on by anxiety and depression. Instead of covering the medical expenses and giving me a weekly comp check, the taxpayers of VT have picked up the tab. Not only the complete hip replacement and hospitalization but the food stamps and everything else.
When you mention that I have been brought to a place where I need to ask not only family and friends but also complete strangers for a hand up while I limp my way forward and eventually back to work, that has been one of the hardest things to do. I was just not brought up that way, and it is only my own pride that is bruised. But the response has been wonderful. Sure, I am still about a month behind in rent and some things are off for now, it is incredible that seeing my last paycheck was on 12/22/2016 I am not on the streets. Today's check in is that my physical therapy is going well, my Dr says I should be cleared to go back to my job in July sometime and I am waiting for a hearing on my case sometime next month.
I do plan on hitting the streets with a sign directing people to my pleas here on ibrattleboro. My only hesitation has been the other people doing the same thing with their signs around town. I do not wish to start arguments, a lot of the people flying signs are the same ones from last year. Due to perhaps substance abuse and other issues they have not tried to change their own situation and it is frustrating to watch them. I have seen them work in pairs, once enough money is collected they go to the out of state drug dealers and get enough dope to feel better, then when they need more they are back out there. I do not wish to pass judgment nor trade positions, but you are right I do need to get out there and make things happen for me. My e-mail should be found if you look and I indeed would like to talk with as many people who would like to. After I am back to work I do not want to slip back into a state of comfort so much as to forget what it took for me to survive this without the tremendous outreach from "The Salt of the Earth". Thank you Arena, and I will post an update later. Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend. Joel.


thank you

Thank you Joel. Your writing the details of your story and repeatedly asking for help, are lessons that I need to learn. Even more than just asking for help, there are lessons in how to care take of and be proactive for oneself, and how to do that kindly, humbly, and graciously. It seems like humility and vulnerability are undervalued in our culture.

I agree that things have not changed for the better, and things are much worse for working class people than they were 30 years ago.

I'm glad to hear that there will be a hearing on your case. I hope that you are successful and that you will receive compensation, even if it is delayed.

I was away at a family gathering that was hard for me, as I feel disconnected from the lifestyle of most of my family members and the tourists surrounding me. The help at the place we were staying were all black migrant workers. They were all exceptionally nice people. I felt more akin to them, and the contrast between them and the American tourists was disconcerting.

I will stop by soon and look forward to connecting further.


Still asking for some community support

Hello folks, I am checking in to let everyone know that I am hoping to return to my job next month. I am still in physical therapy, that is going well. I go back to see my orthopedic surgeon on the 20th. My left hip, which was the one I fractured in December at work and was replaced last month is getting stronger. My right hip which was replaced in 2015 but I had to have revised in February before the left could be done is feeling great. I am currently 3 weeks behind in rent, totaling $480 and tomorrow it will add another $160. Right now I have come up with $100 to give my landlord tomorrow and I am hoping to at least come up with another $60 today to have at least the full week rent to give my landlord, keeping me at the three weeks behind. I am literally limping ahead to the finish line! It is only through the support of friends, family and the kindness of people in our community that I have not lost my place due to this injury. I will work off or repay anyone who wishes to come forward and help. Of course I am limited to what I can do now, but you can count on me to make good on promises in the near future.
It is not easy for me to come right out and ask for help like this. I am taking donations mailed to me at The Drop In Center 60 South Main St, I have been reluctant to put my address on here or my phone number but if you wish to send me a private message through this site I would be more than happy to share that with you. I cannot begin to tell you how much anxiety and fear this has been on me nor the absolute gratitude for all the support I have received. Please consider helping me to get to the end of this struggle, all kindness will posted. I received some donations in the mail and I have sent out personal thank you letters with my phone number and e-mail address and have been in contact with some of you.
Once again- Thank You for any and all consideration to this very personal plea. I look forward to meeting people and to repay any way I can once I am cleared to get back to work. Joel A. Porter Sr.


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