One line frequently spoken by Captain james t. Kirk on Star Trek was, “I want answers, mister.” He wasn’t seeking advice, GUESSES, or anecdotes during crises but solid facts. I found out how worthless or even harmful advice can be, as this excerpt from my upcoming How I Was Razed manuscript demonstrates. During the spring of 1978, I was an unskilled labourer looking for work. In hindsight, I should have declined the suggestion from one well-meaning church member.
I was lead astray again, this time through my search for employment. “Why don’t you try a work experience program,” Sister E suggested as she, Sister R, and I ate dinner in her kitchen one Wednesday. “I know some people at Victoria Composite High who could steer you in the right direction. Of course, you’ll only be paid a dollar an hour.” When she saw my frown, she continued, “Don’t worry about that though. The experience will be invaluable for you and you won’t lose your Unemployment Insurance payments.” “Well,” I hesitated, “I suppose it’ll work out. It might be the answer to my prayers.” She stood up and said, “All right then, I’ll write down the room number for you and the name of who you are to contact.” I promptly went to the office the next afternoon and filled in the forms. As I had poor vision, the case worker assigned me to the CNIB warehouse. Back in my room, I dutifully filled in my weekly Unemployment Insurance claim card, ticking the “Yes” box after the question about finding work and “No” for the one about searching daily for employment. I saw no line for explanations so I wrote “WORK EXPERIENCE ONLY” at the bottom. I was promptly cut off from my benefits. When I phoned the commission and complained, a U.I. staff person insisted that I was disqualified. “It’s just a work experience program and I’m only getting a dollar an hour,” I explained. “I’m out of money.” “I’m sorry,” the woman said, “but you must be looking for work daily in order to receive your benefits.”
“How can I look for a job? I need this work experience to help me find a job after the month is over.”
“Call the ombudsman. It’s that person’s job to sort out these things.” She gave me the name and number, I called the ombudsman, and the misunderstanding was sorted out after three weeks.
In the meantime, I ran out of cash. “Why don’t you go to Hope Mission for help,” Sister E suggested. “You can get meals there and everything.” I hated the very idea of begging but I had little choice. The service I attended was enjoyable and the sandwiches I ate filled me but I realized that I couldn’t depend solely on them. What would I do for the other two meals? “You can have some of our Jam which we have in storage against the mark of the beast,” Sister R said. “Would you like some?” I agreed and she brought up several jars from the basement in a paper grocery bag. “These should still be edible,” she said. “We need to clear out the older food to make way for the new.” At home, I noticed the hand-written date 1957 on the lid. I was reluctant to eat twenty-one year-old jam but I realized it was all I had. When I did spread it on some bread that the mission provided, the sugar crystals annoyed me but the jam tasted all right. Sister R also gave me some circa 1957 spinach but I refused to eat it, fearing botulism. Additionally, she gave me a few dollars from Thee Church’s benevolent fund the next week after I pointed out how Sister E’s advice had landed me in my predicament.
This is one of many vignettes of how a cult church mislead me, how I rebelled against God for almost a decade, and how I eventually learned about biblical Christianity. For more information about my two previous memoirs, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), please visit the www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison page.