Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ragamuffin Movie Star

I'm going to be in a movie. Kurt Engfehr, of Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 9/11 fame, is producing the documentary.

How, you may ask, did I find myself on the radar of such an acclaimed film editor/producer's radar? Ha! I know him. Yes. I had another incarnation when I was just plain old Claudia Hawthorne, 20 year old student. We went to Henry Ford Community College. I was there because I'd dropped out of high school and my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Wilson, found out and begged me to go back. He said he'd give me a scholarship to college if I did, only I had a "D" grade point average--1 point something or another and nobody would let me enroll except for the community college, and only on academic probabtion. I had to maintain at least a "C" average or they'd kick me out. I'm happy to report I got a 4.0 grade point average that semester, and most of the others.

Kurt was there because he didn't have a college fund. He had to work to pay for classes, and he could only take two at a time. Both of us were a little older than the average beginning student, but at that time, lots of people went to community college of all ages. We even had a few seniors in the mix.

I'd decided to study film and television production because I've always loved story, and film and television are great storytelling vehicles. So we met as starry-eyed film folks. Oh, we were so innocent back then.

Then reality hit. I went to live with you know who--the abuser--and started having the first two of many babies. I went on to marry Ken and be depressed for many years. Kurt went to Chicago and then to California where he eventually discovered (to his horror) that he was the lowest rung on the ladder to Hollywood fame. He worked at the worst job, at the worst hours, at the worst television network and made almost no money. He was depressed for many years.

Welcome to LIFE!

I found out Kurt was co-producer of Farenheit 9/11 when I watched the movie and noticed his name on the credits. Can't be too many Kurt Engfehrs in the world. I found him earlier this year on Myspace. It was quite an ordeal finding him, but I wanted to congratulate him. I told him about my books. He told me about Eat the Poor. I laughed and said, "I am the poor." And the rest is history.

Kurt came by last Thursday and we filmed. Just he and I in a car, going to the 'hood where I spent my first six years of life. You should see that place now. It was once hailed as a model for low income homes, and now it's a mostly boarded up, cracked out, nightmare. It was a little sad going back. It made me see very clearly how I never really had a chance. And how by God's grace I've beaten every odd that determined I'd fail at everything.

I think the best thing about our ride and time together, beside the lunch we had at Big Fish, was when he asked me how so many Christians (he is NOT feeling right-wing, Republican Christians) hate the poor. And I got to tell him about the lowly Jesus, who came to earth with nothing, had no place to lay his head, and loved the poor enough to say that when we remembered, "the least of these, my brethren", we've remembered Him. Kurt doesn't have faith. I've found faith in the midst of all my suffering. It's not third world poverty, and many third world people, with the basics of life, are very happy. No, I've had good ol' American poverty. But I've also had Christ. He didn't deliver me from the food stamp card that I both bless and feel is the bane of my existence. Or He hasn't delivered me yet, but He's been with me.

At the ACFW conference, during Lisa Samson's Published, not Popular workshop, she said such powerful words of exhortation that tears streamed down my cheeks and I did some real business with God. I told God that I'd write no matter if I never got out of poverty, as long as He took care of me. Though He knows I want to rid myself of that blasted food stamp card.

God told me that it is not the Food Stamps that feed me, but it is He. That's kind of mind blowing to all you welfare reform advocates. Now, keep in mind, I do work. I make money as an author, but the symptoms of both my "disorders" are so servere that I can't work a "job" outside of my home right now. I've felt so guilty about this. My mother raised 8 kids on welfare. I'm second generation welfare--although I don't get money, I do get medical and food stamp benefits. It hurts me to work so hard and still be eligable. But even when I worked a good job (the best I'd ever had)with my family size I still qualified for foodstamps. This is as good as it's gotten for me.

So God says it's He that provides, food stamps or no. It is always He, and will always be He, and to let it be His business where the provision comes from. So I can rest assured that God is with me. And that's what life here is about, meeting God with what ever you have or have not. I don't understand why some suffer. I don't understand why some have and some have not. It's complicated. Far more than some work and some don't. Kurt is exploring these things in his own, razor sharp witty way. But I got to bring a moment of grace and witness to his life.

And God will bring the increase.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Matt. 5:3

Mair

16 comments:

Heather Diane Tipton said...

Hey girl, can't wait to see it!

God is good like that... always providing even when things don't look great... I speak from expereince there.

Love you!

Mirtika said...

I gotta tell you, that comment about christians hating the poor reveals that guys bigotry. The Christians I've known have been the most generous people I've ever met. Opening their homes to abused kids, driving out to feed the homeless weekly, taking Katrina victims into their homes, supporting AIDS relief abroad (and at home), etc.

I grew up poor with parents who had known hunger. I have never been hungry, even if I never had a lot of stuff, I had a roof and clothes and a ma and pa at home, working minimum wage jobs both, cause they were immigrants and didnt' speak English. And yeah, our neighborhood sucked--junkies passed out in front of our door, sometimes gang fight erupting, fires a routine affair in the Bronx back then.

But we had God and we had love, and you can get by with that. Doesn't mean you don't WISh you had more, but you can go to bed feeling pretty good if you had a big bowl of rice and beans and your mother and dad tucked you in, and your brothers and sisters were alive and well.

Then again, I've seen the generosity of godly impoverished people. You may only have one pot of stew, but you shared with the folks worse off.

There's all kinds of poverty.

And your friend needs to get to know more Christians. :)

I hope God brings a lovely prosperity to your family. It doesn't fix everything, but it sure makes the days a bit easier if you can provide all the basics and a few luxuries for the people you love. :)

Mir

Joni said...

My dear Mair, you always give me so much to stop and think about.

That man does not know how awesome God is, nor does he see the incredible seeds you planted. I pray that one day he will!

I've been to those neighborhoods. I lived on Grand River at one point. Ministered with hubby on the east side (no, not "East Detroit" or "Gross Isle" or whatever they're calling it now). I mean EAST Detroit. Scary stuff there. But so much hunger for the only One that can fill that God-spaced vacuum. They were just choosing the wrong ways to fill it.

God chooses many ways to provide for us. Never feel ashamed of how HE chooses to do that in your life. It's just another way He shows His love. I hate having my kids on Medicaid. But if I had to choose that or no medical care for them, I'd have to say...you gotta do what you gotta do. And trust that God knows what He's doing!

Just a few rambling thoughts from one of your biggest fans. (Which is saying something, because you have many!) :o)

Joni said...

My dear Mair, you always give me so much to stop and think about.

That man does not know how awesome God is, nor does he see the incredible seeds you planted. I pray that one day he will!

I've been to those neighborhoods. I lived on Grand River at one point. Ministered with hubby on the east side (no, not "East Detroit" or "Gross Isle" or whatever they're calling it now). I mean EAST Detroit. Scary stuff there. But so much hunger for the only One that can fill that God-spaced vacuum. They were just choosing the wrong ways to fill it.

God chooses many ways to provide for us. Never feel ashamed of how HE chooses to do that in your life. It's just another way He shows His love. I hate having my kids on Medicaid. But if I had to choose that or no medical care for them, I'd have to say...you gotta do what you gotta do. And trust that God knows what He's doing!

Just a few rambling thoughts from one of your biggest fans. (Which is saying something, because you have many!) :o)

Kristine said...

I loved reading this, seeing how you shared the gospel in a way that was so natural. This man probably never saw it coming... I also couldn't help but to think of the many layers upon which God builds our lives, connecting us with people. We have a way of making impressions through Him without ever knowing the impact that has been made. I'm glad you shared this experience.I feel blessed by all of it...

Connie said...

Of the many interesting bits in this post...especially the serendipitous way in which you reconnected with an old friend and found yourself both in a film and bearing witness...Mr. Wilson caught my imagination.

Where is this extraordinary teacher now? I he's not alive, surely he'll pop up in a book or short story soon.

Bek said...

ooooh, i'll have to be on the lookout to see this documentary....know anything about a release date? theaters? or straight to dvd?....... i like following your raw journey/questions, esp. these concerning the poor....still wondering about some of these complicated things, myself....i know that God stands up for the poor bigtime and that He really has more than enough and doesn't like or want poverty....lack isn't from HIM...but we're often in for a good fight as we stand up call forth the things that are ours in HIS kingdom.....like money and healing and deliverance....

Paula said...

Hey Girl,
You got me to remembering some of those promises I made to the Lord. He once asked me if He never changed my circumstances and gave me what I asked Him for if I still wanted Him. Of course I discovered I did want Him, not just my prayers answered with a big fat yes.

One of the many things I was asking for at the time was relief from the huge financial stress I was under. I've had ups and downs with that--moments of hardship and moments of breathing room, but it hasn't ever eased up all the way--but as you said, HE is my provider and I will trust Him in the good and the bad. That's one of the things He showed me several years ago, that He is the ultimate Provider, not jobs, publishers,loans, husbands, or anything else. The buck stops with God so when things are hard, I take it up with Him and ask for the grace to trust Him.

Thanks for reminding me of that tonight. I get hungry for change and forget that commitment I made long ago to trust Him and seek HIM, not just His presents.

I do love Him. And you.

I'm excited about this opportunity for you, Mair. God is doing stuff, girl. Lots of stuff.

Candy said...

How exciting! And by that I mean that you got to plant a seed. The documentary is exciting too but the ramifications of that seed planting will be amazing to watch. I don't believe God plants a seed to watch it die. Way to go girl!

l said...

i love you

Cathy West said...

Wow. Eavh time you share part of your story, I sit back in awe at where you've been and where God is taking you.

Robin Caroll said...

Thought-provoking post, girl! Now I'm going to have to see it!

Deborah said...

What incredible fodder for fiction your life story has been. Praise God that He has brought you to a place where you can use your formidable talents to bring all of your past experience to life so that the godly consolations and comfort you found during your sufferings can become magnified to comfort others.

Bless you, Mair.

CHickey said...

Having done foster care for nine years, I've seen, thank God, haven't lived, in the circumstances of the poor. I definitely don't hate them, nor do most of the Christians I know, although there are some who say a person can rise from those circumstances if they just try. These type of people are reluctant to help the misfortunate.

My taste of poverty was while raising my daughter alone for four years. God willing, I'll never have to go back to that. The things I did to survive are not things I'm proud of.

I love your soul-searching blogs.

Photini said...

Awesome, Claudia. I also like Mirtika's thoughts. This will sound crazy, but I *miss* being American Poor. Do you know how much "government cheese" my sister and I ate growing up?!? We had integrity back then. But *my* kids are SPOILED BRATS. We just took in two fost-adopt babies, and they are SO GRATEFUL for the littlest things! Meanwhile, Birth Children #1 and #2 "want an Oompa Loompa-- NOW!" Lord, have mercy!

Larry Linkler said...

I love your site. It is inspirational!